Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee that leaked classified documents regarding the United States surveillance system, is now making the case that he deserves a presidential pardon.
In an interview with The Guardian, Snowden claims that his actions were not only morally acceptable, but also led to significant change in the government that left U.S. citizens better off. He is currently in exile in Russia and could face at least 30 years in jail for violating the Espionage Act if he was to return to America.
"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," Snowden told The Guardian. "The [U.S.] 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."
Snowden's leak indeed led to legislative change, according to CNN, limiting the NSA's ability to collect private data on millions of innocent Americans. While he understands that his actions were illegal, he maintains the position that he should be considered as an exception to the law.
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"Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that 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, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things," he told The Guardian.
Advocacy groups like Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union are pushing hard to secure a pardon for Snowden before Obama leaves office in January, CNN reports. Additionally, the Oliver Stone film "Snowden," set to release Sept. 16, hopes to sway average citizens' opinions on the notorious whistleblower and generate more support for a presidential pardon.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been on the record saying that Snowden performed a "public service" by leaking the classified information and sparked important discussions regarding U.S. surveillance.
However, it doesn't appear as if President Barack Obama will be swayed any time soon. "Mr. Snowden has been charged with serious crimes, and it's the policy of the administration that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face those charges," said presidential spokesman Josh Earnest, according to CNN.