Snowden and supporters hope for presidential pardon
September 13, 2016
Edward Snowden and his supporters have called on President Barack Obama to pardon the former National Security Agency contractor. The initiative comes ahead of the release of a new movie on the whistleblower's life.
Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden said in comments published in Britain's "Guardian" newspaper that he had found it morally "necessary" to shine a light on mass surveillance programs in the United States and beyond.
"If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off," he told the "Guardian" in a video-link interview from Moscow. The 33-year-old insisted that he continued to enjoy widespread support, saying that the "public by and large cares more about these issues far more than I anticipated."
Snowden has spent three years in exile in Russia after releasing the largest data leaks in US history, detailing practices of mass surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). His residency permit in Russia is due to run out next year.
Snowden had leaked classified details of the US government's warrantless surveillance program in 2013. He faces charges in the US that could land him in prison for up to 30 years. Snowden pointed out that he was prepared to spend time in jail in the US, adding he was "willing to make a lot of sacrifices for my country".
White House reaction
The White House meanwhile said that Obama continues to press Snowden to return to the United States to face charges for leaking classified information. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Snowden's leaks had "damaged the United States," while also endangering national security and putting American lives at risk.
Earnest added that Snowden would be "treated fairly and consistent with the law" if he chose to return to the US. Last year, the White House rejected a petition signed by over 150,000 people urging Snowden to receive a pardon. Snowden has also received support from various governments, including a vote by the European Parliament in his favor.
A new movie directed by Oliver Stone about the former NSA contractor is due to come out later in the week. Stone also joined the ranks of those calling for Obama to pardon Snowden before the end of his presidential term in January 2017.