Former Obama official agrees with call for Snowden clemency

A former top official in President Obama’s State Department tweeted Thursday that she believed Edward Snowden, the intelligence contractor who leaked information about the National Security Agency’s top-secret surveillance programs, should be offered clemency.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former State Department director of policy planning, said she agreed with an editorial in The New York Times that argued Snowden was “clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public and let the resulting furor do the work his superiors would not.”

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“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight,” the editorial read. “He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”

In her role at the State Department, Slaughter oversaw the Policy Planning Staff, which serves as an internal think tank offering independent policy analysis to the secretary of State. Slaughter, who served under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was the first woman to hold the position.

Last month, Richard Ledgett, who heads an NSA task force handling unauthorized disclosures, suggested in a "60 Minutes" interview that the U.S. should consider a deal offering Snowden amnesty in exchange for returning additional documents outlining the government's top-secret surveillance programs.

“My personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,” Ledgett said. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”

But White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed that suggestion, saying the administration's position on Snowden's need to return home to face justice had not changed "at all."

"Mr. Snowden has been accused of leaking classified information and he faces felony charges here in the United States," Carney said.

Carney added that Ledgett was merely expressing "his personal opinion."

"These decisions are made by the Department of Justice, and I would refer you there for more," Carney said. "But there's been no change in our position."

President Obama is spending his winter vacation reviewing a report commissioned by the White House that recommends dozens of steps the administration could take to increase transparency or impose limits on the nation’s intelligence programs.

Among the recommendations are ending the NSA’s collection of Americans’ phone records, additional scrutiny when the decision is made to surveil foreign leaders and new safeguards requiring the administration to obtain judicial approval before reviewing citizen’s financial or phone records.

Obama is expected to announce which of the recommendations he will undertake in a speech later this month.