Edward Snowden thinks President Obama should pardon him before leaving office at the end of the year.
The NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the press, and was subsequently charged by the U.S. government with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, made his latest plea from Moscow via a lengthy interview with The Guardian. Snowden, who fled the United States in 2013, argued that he was performing a moral duty in leaking the documents, which revealed just how pervasive government surveillance on citizens was in both the U.S. and abroad.
“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists – for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” Snowden said.
“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed,” Snowden said. “The Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”
The campaign to have Snowden pardoned has been gaining steam in recent months. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in May called his actions a “public service,” though Holder also said Snowden needed to suffer some sort of punishment.
The film and Snowden’s renewed pleas for clemency come at a crucial point in American politics, as the country prepares to choose between a candidate accused of inappropriate levels of secrecy, and one who is accused of exhibiting fascist tendencies.
“Unfortunately, many candidates in the political mainstream today, even pundits and commentators who aren’t running for office, believe we have to be able to do anything, no matter what, as long as there is some benefit to be had in doing so,” Snowden said. “But that is the logic of a police state.”
As for whether he’ll ever set foot on American soil again, Snowden seemed sanguine about his prospects. “In the fullness of time, I think I will end up back home,” he said.