A Snowden pardon is unlikely no matter who the president of the United States is. The allegations against the whistleblower are grave. For some, Edward Snowden may be a hero. But for any government, what he has done is unpardonable. U.S. President Barack Obama has already said that he cannot be lenient about Snowden. The fact is that it is unlikely for Donald Trump to grant clemency to him.
Edward Snowden is a textbook character for either a traitor or a hero, depending on the perspective. He leaked critical secrets about the U.S. government and took refuge in a rival country, Russia. Vladimir Putin is not known to be the best friend Washington has. In fact, the U.S. government has a consistently hostile relationship with Kremlin. Snowden’s decision to take shelter in Russia makes him a bigger villain in the eyes of the U.S. government.
Apparently, thousands of people want Snowden pardoned, but the man himself does not seem interested. More than a million people have signed a petition to Obama asking for Snowden’s pardon. These people believe it was an “act of conscience’ for Snowden to release all the classified information, no matter how much risk it involved for America and its citizens. Snowden’s supporters appreciate him exposing the NSA surveillance program to allegedly spy on every American citizen.
Despite the mass appeal, Snowden is apparently not interested in a pardon. According to the White House, the whistleblower did not submit the necessary documents required for Obama to consider his appeal. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest clarified on Tuesday that Snowden had not filed any paperwork to request clemency from the Obama administration. This puts a question mark on his intentions.
The Snowden pardon may not matter at all for the whistleblower if he manages to get a Russian passport. Meanwhile, Putin has allowed Snowden to stay in Russia for three more years, and there are reports that the U.S. citizen may apply for a Russian passport. If he stays for one more year in Russia, he is eligible to apply for the Russian citizenship, as his Russian lawyer claimed on Wednesday.
Snowden’s residency permit is now extended until 2020. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said the residency permit had been extended because of Snowden’s clean record. “Now he has already been living on Russian territory for nearly four years, he does not violate the law, there are no complaints about him,” Kucherena said, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.
“In effect, he now has all grounds to receive citizenship in the future, over the course of a certain period, since under the law we have a period of residence on Russia soil of not less than 5 years (to receive Russian citizenship)”
The Snowden pardon does look more unlikely when such reports appear. In 2013, the Justice Department lodged an official criminal complaint against the whistleblower. Snowden’s U.S. passport was invalidated by the State Department except for his return to the country, according to Newsweek. In 2014, Obama had his own team look into Snowden’s case, followed by a classified report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Snowden’s supporters who demanded his clemency include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and former CIA officer Barry Eisler. The supporters include many eminent Hollywood personalities, including Susan Sarandon, Laura Poitras, and Martin Sheen. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is also among the supporters who demand mercy for Snowden.
While many people are rooting for the Snowden pardon, the man himself may not be that interested in appealing to the U.S government. He must be aware that it is almost impossible for the White House to grant him clemency. Appealing for a Russian passport may be what he has in mind instead. It will be more difficult for Washington to get hold of Snowden if he does become a Russian citizen. It seems like Edward Snowden may go for the easier option to save himself.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]