On Sunday night, talks of pardoning whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden once again erupted on social media. With Donald Trump’s time in office officially ending in just over a month, politicians and organizations — from the ACLU to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz — are making an impassioned call for Snowden’s pardon before Trump leaves the White House.
The demand to allow Snowden back into the United States, seven years after he first fled the country for Russia and two months after he became a permanent resident there, comes as Trump reportedly plans a pardoning spree before his term ends. Pardons for his older children — Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric — have been discussed, as well as one for his train wreck lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. More ousted public figures have also pleaded to take part in Trump’s questionable show of power, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — who Snowden himself begged to have pardoned on Twitter — and Tiger King star Joe Exotic, who is now calling trump a "hero."
But the rally behind getting Snowden pardoned is something entirely different, with a larger discussion on what constitutes an offensive crime from a government whistleblower. Advocates for Snowden’s pardon have spoken out on the importance of his reveal, stating that he brought to light illegal activity carried out by the U.S. government and a lie former National Intelligence Director James Clapper had to walk back and eventually apologize for.
Snowden was first thrust into the spotlight in 2013 when the former NSA employee revealed that the U.S. was actively collecting data from millions of Americans. He handed over this information to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman, who were in Hong Kong at the time, and flew to Russia, where he had first been granted asylum; he became a permanent resident back in October, after seven years of living there. Snowden’s findings showed that Americans were under surveillance by the NSA through their phone records, emails, and their Internet browsing history, information he told The New York Times in 2013 that he had not handed over to Russia and China.
Many unlikely politicians and advocacy groups alike took to Twitter to voice their support for the whistleblower’s pardon and eventual return to the U.S. Sen. Rand Paul tweeted that “James Clapper brazenly lied to Congress denying that the Deep State was spying on all Americans. @Snowdensimply revealed Clapper’s lies and exposed unconstitutional spying. He deserves a pardon from @realDonaldTrump!” The ACLU echoed Paul’s stance (yes, ironic), tweeting “Pardon Snowden. Edward Snowden blew the whistle on illegal government activity kept secret for years. Our democracy is better off because of him.”
In response to Congresswoman Liz Cheney calling Snowden a traitor, Rep. Matt Gaetz stated that “The Cheney ideology supporting forever wars puts more troops at risk than @snowden ever did.” And then, for whatever its worth now, Greenwald also reminded Twitter of how much support Snowden’s hypothetical pardon has received in the past, saying: “If Trump follows through on a pardon of @Snowden, it'd be a huge victory against CIA/FBI/NSA abuses. Everyone from @RandPaul, @MattGaetz & @TulsiGabbard to @ACLU, @BernieSanders & @NYTimes have advocated this. The only ones angry would be Brennan, Clapper, Comey & Susan Rice.”
If you are also looking at this list of names and thinking: we never thought this group would agree on anything ever, you are absolutely right. If you are also thinking: we never thought we'd agree with Matt Gaetz or Tulsi Gabbard on anything ever, you are probably, also, absolutely right.
Trump has yet to respond to calls for Snowden’s pardon and it is unknown if he will act on the suggestion. He called the whistleblower “a spy who should be executed” back in a 2013 tweet, but like many of his opinions, may walk it back before his term ends.