When Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA’s mass surveillance tactics in 2013, he sparked a global debate about the role of government in domestic spying. Although his revelations were important in furthering transparency for American citizens, there have been no definitive answers as to what the country should do next. Snowden has his supporters at home, but he’s still living in exile in Russia. John Kerry and other politicians have called for Snowden to come home and face trial, but he insists that whatever legal process he faces would not be fair.
According to a new Morning Consult poll, the majority of Americans believe that Snowden should indeed return home to stand trial for his actions. The results of the poll show that 53 percent of respondents support the federal government prosecuting Snowden, compared to 26 percent who oppose a trial. Republicans were more likely to support a trial, at 64 percent. Democrats were almost as likely to call for a trial, with 56 percent support.
A third of respondents, however, claimed they would support a pardon for Snowden. Responses to that question were more strictly split across party lines. 57 percent of Republicans oppose a pardon, while just 38 percent of Democratic Party voters would oppose that course of action.
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The issue of government surveillance has already made its way into the 2016 presidential debates. In Fox News’s first televised debate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for increased surveillance in order to combat terrorism. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul argued with Christie, standing by his opinion that the Patriot Act is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Paul is also notable for his filibuster this year that forced certain provisions of that act to expire. Despite those actions, the USA Freedom Act has largely allowed the U.S. government to continue its controversial spying program. Snowden is wanted for treason, yet his leaks have led to constructive debate about surveillance in Washington.
Snowden has always said that one of his biggest fears in leaking the NSA documents was that he’d be risking his life and the American public wouldn’t care. After years of public debate and protest surrounding spying tactics and policies, it’s safe to say that Snowden’s actions have had an impact on American government and politics. And despite Snowden’s decision to hide in Russia, he still claims to be a patriot fighting to make his country better. Earlier this year, Politico reported that Snowden’s lawyer claimed the former NSA contractor is ready to return to the U.S. “on the condition that he is given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial.” This Morning Consult poll shows that the majority of Americans want to see that trial happen, although the outcome of the legal proceedings would likely be debated as much as Snowden’s initial leaks themselves.
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