1 million signatures collected in support of Snowden pardon

1 million signatures collected in support of Snowden pardon
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A group hoping to secure a presidential pardon for National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden delivered a petition with more than 1 million signatures to President Obama on Friday.

"Pardoning Snowden would show the world the U.S. cares [about] human rights at a time of great concern,” said Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney working on behalf of Snowden, about the Pardon Snowden Campaign petition.

Snowden, then an NSA contractor, leaked a substantial amount of classified files in 2013 detailing the United States' bulk surveillance apparatus, leading to public outrage including from lawmakers like Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress should take action to stop unfair taxation of the digital economy Trump officials take bold steps on Medicaid GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims MORE (D-Ore.).

The leak also spurred the growth of encrypted communications apps and led to Snowden being charged with espionage.

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Snowden’s actions remain controversial.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) swiped at Snowden during his hearing Thursday to become the next director of the CIA in the Trump administration.

“We owe it to the brave Americans of the intelligence community not to shirk our responsibility when unauthorized disclosures to the media expose controversial intelligence activities, or when Edward Snowden from the comfort of his Moscow safe house misleads the America people about intelligence activities,” he said. Snowden has been in exile in Moscow since disclosing documents. 

In the past, Pompeo has called for Snowden’s execution. 

The posture of Pompeo and other Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE insiders raises questions as to whether the president-elect would be a reasonable target for a similar pardon campaign.

Wizner said a backup plan if Obama were to decline the petition might be finding a new home for Snowden in Europe. But he also said that the positive results of the disclosures should be indisputable, even to the Obama administration. 

“Remember, Snowden said systems we were building could be handed to a tyrant," he said.

"Luckily we listened, and passed significant surveillance reform – something administration officials have agreed was the right thing to do,” Wizner added.

Obama has argued that he cannot pardon Snowden until he is convicted of a crime, something Wizner describes as a dodge. 

“The pardon power is absolute. Remember, Nixon was never convicted of anything, but pardoned by Ford,” he said. 

Similar campaigns have been launched for fellow leaker Chelsea Manning, also represented by the ACLU.