“Pardon Snowden” campaign calls on Obama to forgive NSA whistleblower

by: Obert Madondo |  | Published September 15, 2016, by The Canadian Progressive

Pardon Snowden advocates hope to convince US President Barack Obama to pardon National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden before he leaves office in January. Photo: Mike Herbst / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Pardon Snowden advocates hope to convince US President Barack Obama to pardon National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden before he leaves office in January. Photo: Mike Herbst / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sen. Bernie Sanders and over 100 human rights activists, legal scholars, business leaders, artists and former national security officials this week launched a formal campaign urging President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden before he leaves office in January.

The Pardon Snowden campaign received a major boost with the release of Snowden, Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone’s highly-anticipated biopic (and fact-based espionage thriller) of the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower. The film, anchored Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role, premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival last week. It hits theatres on Friday, September 16, 2016.

Watch the Snowden trailer:

Snowden fled to Russia in 2013 after leaking a treasurer-trove of classified documents exposing the NSA’s indiscriminate and warrantless surveillance of US citizens. He faces up to 30 years in prison after the government charged him under the Espionage Act.

Pardon Snowden advocates argue that, if Snowden were to be tried under the World War One-era law, the courts would not accept the argument that his actions benefited the American public. For example, Snowden’s disclosures led to the USA Freedom Act, a congressional surveillance reform bill that passed in the House by a vote of 338 to 88, and in the Senate by a vote of 67 to 32. Following a 2013 lawsuit challenging the legality of the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records, in 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the call-records program violated Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Pardon Snowden advocates also argue the the former NSA contractor’s whistleblowing act “enriched democratic debate worldwide.”

Writing in the Guardian (UK) on Wednesday, Sanders argued:

“The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has allowed Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights. Now we must learn from the troubling revelations Mr Snowden brought to light. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must be given the tools they need to protect us, but that can be done in a way that does not sacrifice our rights.”

RELATED: Edward Snowden says Obama administration using citizenship as a weapon

Other prominent individuals supporting the Pardon Snowden call include actor Susan Sarandon, writer Eve Ensler, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

According to Ellsberg, the co-founder of the journalism advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation: “Ed Snowden should be freed of the legal burden hanging over him. The NSA and US government have revealed no evidence that the information Ed Snowden released has caused any harm.”

Prominent human rights groups and movements supporting the Pardon Snowden campaign include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Black Lives Matter.

“Thanks to Edward Snowden’s act of conscience, we’ve made historic strides in our fight for surveillance reform and improved cybersecurity,” wrote ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a blog post.

On Wednesday Snowden addressed a New York press conference from Moscow via video link. He said:

“Today, whistleblowing is democracy’s safeguard of last resort — the one upon which we all rely when all other checks and balances fail and the public has no idea what’s going on behind closed doors.”

The Pardon Snowden campaign urges Snowden’s supporters around the world to write to Obama and “make the case that Snowden’s act of whistleblowing benefited the United States and enriched democratic debate worldwide”.

Please add your voice to this most urgent call at pardonsnowden.org.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.