More Than 1 Million People Urge President Obama To Pardon Edward Snowden

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The Pardon Snowden campaign this morning delivered more than 1 million signatures to President Barack Obama, asking him to pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden before he leaves office on January 20. The signatures — 1,101,252 in total — were collected by the campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Demand Progress and Credo Action.

Among the signatories to the campaign are George Soros, the founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations; Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak; Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey; Timothy Edgar, the former director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security Staff; Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg; actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Danny Glover and Mark Ruffalo; and writers Cheryl Strayed, Joyce Carol Oates and Teju Cole.

To mark the delivery, Wozniak said:

When the internet first came along, we thought it was going to be a beacon for freedom, sharing, and learning. Edward Snowden showed us that the internet was actually being used by governments and companies to monitor us and invade our privacy. He gave up his whole life to stand up against secret spying and for the Constitution. That's why he's a hero, and it's why he deserves a pardon.

The campaign has made the case that Snowden’s disclosures sparked a critical global debate about government surveillance, increased oversight by all three branches of government, and inspired significant bipartisan reforms supported by Congress and the executive branch.

Snowden took extraordinary care to disclose information responsibly.  He gave documents only to a to small number of established journalists, on the condition they would allow the U.S. government to make a case against publication.

Ellsberg, whose disclosure of the Pentagon Papers famously proved the U.S. government lied to the American public about Vietnam, also appealed to President Obama to act:

There is no one in this world with whom I identify more closely than with Edward Snowden. He saw dangerous, illegal, and unconstitutional policies that fundamentally threatened our democracy, and instead of turning away, he sacrificed everything to stop them. I hope government employees who see wrongdoing will follow his example in fulfilling their oath to defend the Constitution. President Obama should recognize his bravery and allow him to come home.

The petition signatures were delivered to the White House with a letter from ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth, and Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty.

“You said yourself in 2014 that the debate spurred by Snowden ‘will make us stronger,'” the letter to President Obama reads. “You were proven right. We are confident that Edward Snowden will be remembered as a human rights hero and one of history’s most important whistleblowers. A presidential pardon for Snowden would be a brave affirmation of citizens’ right to hold governments to account when power is abused.”

Read the full letter here.

President Obama has commuted the prison sentences of a total of 1,176 people, and granted pardons to 78 people.

In November of last year, more than a dozen former staffers of the Senate Church Committee, which oversaw a bipartisan investigation into the U.S. government’s intelligence activities in the 1970s, asked President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch to show leniency to Snowden.

Arguing that Snowden’s actions benefited democracy, they cited as precedent the government’s leniency toward former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and ex-CIA directors John Deutch and David Petraeus, all of whom disclosed classified information.

“In all these cases, recognition of the public service the individuals had provided weighed against strict enforcement of the law, to come to a fair and just result,” their letter read. “[T]he crucial point is that only in Snowden’s case was the motivation behind his illegal activity to benefit America. The three others involved efforts to gain glory or avoid criticism, or simple convenience and simple disregard for the law that put our security at risk. Yet the perpetrators were treated leniently.”

Edward Snowden performed a historic service to our country. His integrity and commitment to our democracy have never wavered, and persistent attempts by his detractors to smear him have proven baseless. Especially in these troubled times, we should be recognizing the critical role of whistleblowers who take enormous risks to expose wrongdoing. It is likely we’ll be needing more of them soon.

posted January 13, 2017

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