Lawyers working on the case of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistle-blower, are ramping up pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration for a presidential pardon, New York Magazine reported on Sunday.
In working to mobilize a clemency appeal to Obama, Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the magazine: “We’re going to make a very strong case between now and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists. It’s not for when somebody didn’t break the law. It’s for when they did and there are extraordinary reasons for not enforcing the law against the person.”
Snowden says that while he has been granted asylum in Russia, he does not expect — nor want — to die there. He said he is optimistic he will find a way out, perhaps through a Scandinavian country offering him asylum, or through clemency or a plea bargain with the U.S. Justice Department.
Wizner has been working closely with Plato Cacheris, a well-connected Washington defense attorney, but there have been no signs so far that the Justice Department will offer terms Snowden would be willing to accept to come back to the United States.
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With Obama's time in office coming to an end, time for a presidential pardon is running out, with both major U.S. presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, even less likely to offer him reprieve. Clinton has cast him as a criminal while Trump has called him a traitor deserving execution.
While Obama may be Snowden’s best hope for clemency, he doubts it will happen.
“There is an element of absurdity to it,” Snowden told New York Magazine. “More and more, we see the criticisms leveled toward this effort are really more about indignation than they are about concern for real harm. They want to throw somebody in prison for the rest of his life for what even people around the White House now are recognizing our country needed to talk about.”
The interview with Snowden appeared in an article that also discussed his use of a “Snowbot," a robot that consists of a flatscreen monitor and camera atop a moving base, which he uses to "attend" events in the U.S.
At a recent event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Snowden used the Snowbot to tell his audience: “In an extraordinary and unpredictable way, my own circumstances show there is a model that ensures that even if we’re left without a state, we aren’t left without a voice.”