The Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the ranking Republican member sent a bipartisan letter calling on President Donald Trump to reject the idea of granting a pardon for Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified surveillance information in 2013.
Trump floated the idea of pardoning Snowden in comments over the weekend. In a letter written by House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and emailed to American Military News, the two representatives denounced the idea of a pardon and said Snowden did “enormous harm” to U.S. national security.
“Edward Snowden did enormous harm to our national security and he must stand trial for his actions. President Trump and Secretary Esper have both decried harmful leaks from the Department of Defense and elsewhere in the federal government,” the letter from Smith and Thornberry read. “To pardon Snowden now would completely undermine this Administration’s position and mock our national security workforce who take immense caution in their work to keep us safe.”
The letter did make note of Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s concerns about leaking. Trump has in the past described White House leakers as “traitors.”
Despite past complaints about leaking, Trump said during a Saturday press conference that he was considering Snowden’s case. Trump said, “I’m going to take a look at that very strongly.”
Smith and Thornberry’s letter continued to criticize the pardon talk, saying, “It would be a serious mistake to pardon anyone who is charged under the Espionage Act, who admits to leaking sensitive information, and who has spent years since then as a guest of the Putin regime. Not only would it mean that Snowden cannot be held accountable for his crimes, but it would send a dangerous message to others who are contemplating espionage and the adversaries who would support them.”
After his 2013 NSA leaks, Snowden did flee to Russia and has been living in exile in Moscow ever since.
Then-President Barrack Obama also mentioned the idea of a pardon for Snowden in 2016, but said he wouldn’t consider the pardon until Snowden turned himself over.
Snowden appeared to welcome the idea of a pardon and also referenced Obama-era support for such a pardon.
Snowden tweeted, “The last time we heard a White House considering a pardon was 2016, when the very same Attorney General who once charged me conceded that, on balance, my work in exposing the NSA’s unconstitutional system of mass surveillance had been ‘a public service.'”
The last time we heard a White House considering a pardon was 2016, when the very same Attorney General who once charged me conceded that, on balance, my work in exposing the NSA’s unconstitutional system of mass surveillance had been “a public service.” https://t.co/fAseViVwAx
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 14, 2020
Trump also appeared to reference both bipartisan support and opposition for a Snowden pardon during his Saturday remarks.
“It seems to be a split decision,” Trump said. “Many people think he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things.”