Obama won't pardon Snowden

Edward Snowden picture

Despite Edward Snowden and his lawyers presenting a case for Barack Obama to free Edward Snowden of his charges for espionage, the House Select Committee has issued a letter to the President saying he should not be pardoned.

13 Republicans and nine Democrats argued that the crimes Snowden had committed were inexcusable and he should not be let off.

The announcement was made as Obama continues his tour of Europe. He was asked by German newspaper Der Spiegel whether the whistleblower would be pardoned.

"I can't pardon somebody who hasn't gone before a court and presented themselves, so that's not something that I would comment on at this point," President Obama said.

"I think that Mr Snowden raised some legitimate concerns. How he did it was something that did not follow the procedures and practices of our intelligence community. If everybody took the approach that I make my own decisions about these issues, then it would be very hard to have an organized government or any kind of national security system."

He went on to say that if Snowden were to appear in court, or his lawyers were to represent him in court, more of a consideration would be made to his plea.

"Until that time, what I've tried to suggest -- both to the American people, but also to the world -- is that we do have to balance this issue of privacy and security," Obama concluded.

However, Noa Yachot, who leads the Pardon Snowden campaign objected to the President's refusal, explaining that he has the powers to pardon anyone he likes, rather than bowing to the arguments of the House Select Committee.

He referred to the case of Richard Nixon who was not even indicted before he was pardoned by Gerald Ford for offences against the United States.

"Nor had the thousands of men [been indicted] who had evaded the Vietnam War draft, who were pardoned unconditionally by Jimmy Carter on his first day in office."

14/09/2016: Snowden supporters beg Obama for pardon

US President Barack Obama is being pressured to pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden at the end of his term in office.

American politicians often issue pardons as they prepare to exit office, and Snowden supporters Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are hoping to include the NSA whistleblower on that list.

The campaigners are running a petition to show support for the idea on a Pardon Snowden website, with the aim of letting him return home to the US from Russia, where he's lived for three years in fear of criminal action against him for leaking details of the NSA's mass surveillance.

"Thanks to his act of conscience, America's surveillance programs have been subjected to democratic scrutiny, the NSA's surveillance powers were reined in for the first time in decades, and technology companies around the world are newly invigorated to protect their customers and strengthen our communications infrastructure," the site states.

"Snowden should be hailed as a hero," the site continues. "Instead, he is exiled in Moscow and faces decades in prison under World War One-era charges that treat him like a spy. Ed stood up for us, and it's time for us to stand up for him."

It doesn't look likely the US administration will respond favourably, as a previous petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures was duly ignored by the government.

This week, White House spokesman John Earnest suggested at a press conference Q&A that Obama hasn't changed his mind on refusing a pardon.

"The President has been asked this several times over the last couple of years, and I think the President has been pretty consistent in answering this question," Earnest replied in response to a question about a pardon. "The first is that Mr Snowden has been charged with serious crimes, and it's the policy of the administration that Mr Snowden should return to the United States and face those charges. He, of course, will be afforded due process, and there are mechanisms in our criminal justice system to ensure that he's treated fairly and consistent with the law. And that's what the President believes.

Earnest pointed out that pardons apply to someone convicted of a crime, while Snowden has been merely charged with them.

"And it's the view of the administration and certainly the view of the President that he should return to the United States and face those charges, even as he enjoys the protection of due process and other rights that are afforded to American citizens who are charged with serious crimes," the spokesman continued.

The debate around Snowden has been reignited by a film about the whistleblower by Oliver Stone, but expect the pardon question to continue until Obama leaves office.