Snowden's PR campaign for an Obama pardon is in full swing
Edward Snowden touched off an enormous public relations campaign on Tuesday calling for Barack Obama to grant him a presidential pardon. In an interview with Ewen MacAskill — one of The Guardian reporters who secretly met Snowden in Hong Kong three years ago in an unprecedented leak of state secrets — Snowden argued that the pardon power exists precisely for people like him. There are "things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically," he said, "these were vital things."
Snowden's comments come on the eve of a "Pardon Snowden" operation by The American Civil Liberties Union, Human Right Watch, Amnesty International, and other human rights groups, as first reported by VICE's Motherboard. On Wednesday, Oliver Stone's new film "Snowden" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt will also be shown in 700 theaters around the country with plans for a webinar discussion between Snowden and Stone following.
This past weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival, Stone publicly called for President Obama to pardon Snowden adding that he hopes "Mr. Obama has a stroke of lightning" and realizes he has created "the most extensive invasive surveillance state that ever existed."
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have said Snowden should be punished. Trump tweeted in 2013 that Snowden is a "spy who should be executed" and Clinton said Snowden shouldn't be allowed to return to the US "without facing the music."
Snowden and his allies are hoping that President Obama will reconsider a pardon during his final months in office while free of the normal political restraints such as the internal backlash from the intelligence community. Last year, in a response to an online petition for a presidential pardon, the Obama administration said that Snowden's actions "had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it."
But there appears to be differences of opinion within the administration. Former Attorney General Eric Holder said in May that "I think that [Snowden] actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made." Snowden may have a chance at the presidential pardon he so desires.