Three human rights groups have launched a campaign to urge President Obama to pardon notorious NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The “Pardon Snowden” petition comes in the midst of publicity surrounding Oliver Stone‘s biopic about the former intelligence contractor who leaked secret documents in 2013 and is living in Russia as a fugitive after being charged by the U.S. government with violating the Espionage Act of 1917.
The campaign, organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, includes a petition that has been signed by technologists, law professors and celebrities, The New York Times first reported. Among the famous supporters listed on the site are Steve Wozniak, Daniel Radcliffe, Danny Glover, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Susan Sarandon and Melvin Goodman.
“Edward Snowden is a young American who became aware of a mass surveillance system that had been growing secretly for years without democratic consent. At great personal risk, he blew the whistle,” the campaign’s website states.
“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,” it continues.
“Snowden should be hailed as a hero. 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. Urge President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, and let him come home with dignity.”
In Open Road Films’ “Snowden,” which hits theaters Friday, the title character is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with his long-suffering girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, portrayed by Shailene Woodley.
On Tuesday, Snowden made his own personal plea for a pardon from Moscow via a lengthy interview with The Guardian.
“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,” he 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.