Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who has been living in exile in Russia since 2013, made his case Sept. 13 for a presidential pardon (video below).
Ewen MacAskill, a reporter with The Guardian, asked Snowden during a teleconference interview what his case was for a presidential pardon.
Snowden, who has been charged with two counts of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act, said that he was grateful for the wellspring of support that he has received from the public, and asked what kind of society people want to live in.
Snowden noted that President Barack Obama's administration has brought more charges against whistleblowers than previous administrations combined, and said the public should have its say.
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MacAskill mentioned that former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that Snowden performed a public service by bringing the NSA surveillance into the public debate, even though it was Holder who originally charged him.
If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off. Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but this is perhaps why the pardon power exists, for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page, but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, and when we look at the results, it seems obvious that these were necessary things, these were vital things.
MacAskill asked Snowden about his past statements about being willing to do jail time, and if that was admitting that he did something wrong.
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Snowden said, "I'm willing to make a lot of sacrifices for my country, that should be clear at this point since I've had to live in exile for the past three years."
Snowden clarified that volunteering to give up more is not an admission of guilt, but rather a sign that he is willing to pay the costs "to do the right thing."
Snowden said that he was not willing to serve as a deterrent to other whistleblowers and help shut the public out.
Snowden added that the current presidential race has been unprecedented in terms of authoritarian policies, and that there has not been much talk about the U.S. Constitution or the rights of the public.
In another part of the interview, Snowden said:
I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Oliver Stone, and Snowden were scheduled to take part in a live question and answer session via video on Sept. 14 in 700 movie theaters following the premiere of Stone's new film about the whistleblower, "Snowden," reports Variety.