President Barack Obama is being urged to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowen. Former members of the Church Committee wrote strong arguments in a letter addressed to Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. They have been called upon to allow the former National Security Agency contractor to be treated leniently and return to his home. The letter argues that Snowden’s revelations have inspired a very important discussion regarding the legality and dangers associated with spying on American citizens without a proper warrant. Snowden’s activity has already resulted in bipartisan surveillance reform.
Snowden supplied journalists with evidence that our government has been collecting information from millions of domestic phone calls for many years now. The Patriot Act has since been amended to prohibit the practice. Snowden definitely broke the law, but his actions were not for personal benefit. The letter urges Obama and Lynch to negotiate a fair settlement of the criminal charges brought against Snowden because his disclosures have benefited the public.
Snowden has also revealed the NSA’s interception of international electronic communications by using fiber cables. The US has been eavesdropping on its allies by accessing information through companies like Google and Yahoo.
The letter says “Untold millions of Americans’ communications are swept up in these programs, where they are available for perusal by the FBI and CIA through what has become known as the ‘backdoor’ search loophole.” The letter also reminds Obama that he acknowledged that stronger controls were necessary. Obama has implemented reforms to afford privacy protection to foreigners from surveillance, as long as it doesn’t threaten our national security.
The Church Committee has revealed six previous US leaders who have abused their powers. They pointed out that Obama has already absolved the liability for officials who implemented torture under George W Bush. The committee has requested that claims made by the NSA, CIA and Defense Department suggesting that the Snowden leaks have resulted in harm should be re-checked and weighed against the benefits that it has brought.
The Church Committee is formally known as the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. It was set up in 1975, after Watergate, to investigate the impact US intelligence agencies has on Americans’ rights. It remains to be seen whether or not Obama will pardon Edward Snowden. Obama has stated that he can’t issue a pardon for Snowden unless he goes to court.