Edward Snowden is in the news again. With the release of the movie Snowden there’s an increased interest in the former NSA contractor who leaked classified information indicating massive illegal surveillance of American citizens by the US government. Courts have ruled the surveillance by the NSA to be unconstitutional.
Since 2013 Snowden has been at an undisclosed location in Moscow, where he was granted a one year asylum that was later increased to three years.
Because presidents traditionally grant a number of pardons at the end of their terms and President Obama is nearing the end of his tenure in the White House, there’s a growing movement for President Obama to grant a pardon to Snowden. The ACLU and Amnesty International have been leading the charge.
The White House already issued a formal response to an online petition that was started shortly after Snowden was charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act and stealing government property. Lisa Monaco, a Homeland Security adviser to Obama wrote:
“If he [Snowden] felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”
Not much wiggle room there. You can read the full response to the petition here. The ACLU has started a new petition that you can find here but so far the Obama White House does not look to be backing off from their 2013 position.
Does a new president offer much hope for a Snowden pardon?
Not from Hillary, who has said that Snowden shouldn’t be brought home without “facing the music.”
Donald Trump’s feelings on Snowden? In typical fashion, The Donald doesn’t mince words. “I think he’s a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?”
But what about Gary Johnson? The Libertarian presidential candidate is surging in polls and now according to an NBC poll he’s the leading candidate among independent voters. NBC found that Johnson leads among Independents with 31% of the vote with Clinton and Trump tied for second with 24%.
With the two major party candidates who get all the attention in agreement on a Snowden pardon, do we get anything different from Gary Johnson?
I think the answer is yes.
In an interview earlier this year, Johnson said he would “certainly look into pardoning [Snowden],” adding, “This is someone who has divulged information that we would not know about currently — and that’s the United States government spying on all of us as U.S. citizens.”
Johnson called former Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments that Snowden had performed a public service “pretty darn accurate” and added, “I don’t want to see him [Snowden] in prison.” Johnson’s sympathy for Snowden is in line with his philosophical views which emphasize individual liberty and personal privacy.
Snowden exposed a massively complex and very illegal surveillance program. Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are in agreement on how to handle Snowden. Gary Johnson’s statements imply that he disagrees.
Clark Vandeventer is the author of Backdoor to the White House: The 2016 Election and the Crazy Story that Might Come True. You can learn more and read the first three chapters of the book for free here. You can also get it on Amazon.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has chosen not to include Gary Johnson in the first presidential debate. Please contact the CPD and ask them to include Gary Johnson in the presidential debates. You can call and leave a voicemail at 202-872-1020 or tweet to them @debates and tag #LetGaryDebate.