Should Obama Pardon Edward Snowden Before He Leaves Office?

By Chidera O. Nwosu

A Tale of Two Cities (1859), a novel fashioned by Charles Dickens, encapsulates the motif of duality (as Dickens puts it best “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”) in veneration of French Aristocracy.

The essential matter of this tale could also be likened to modern times of Edward Snowden – a man belligerently hailed as both snitch and martyr here in the United States for releasing gen on governmental surveillance.

It is this duality that pegs the eminent question: should President Obama pardon Edward Snowden before he leaves office?


Snowden infamously known as the man who disclosed classified information of governmental surveillance abetted by the National Security Agency (NSA), is also a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and contractor to the United States government and has an uncanny proficiency in computers.

Snowden utilized his dexterity in computers to duplicate and later leak classified governmental information without sanction.

Nonetheless, on May 20, 2013, Snowden took a leave of absence to Hong Kong to complete a duty he obstinately believes was for the good of the public.

In completing this duty, he willfully released thousands of NSA documents to journalists, which inevitably lead to the material being published by a sundry of newspaper stands on an international platitude.

It was June 21,2013 when the U.S Department of Justice criminally charged Snowden of theft of government property, illegal communication of national defense information, violation of the Espionage Act and deliberate communication of classified intel.


Snowden persistently seeks asylum after his treacherous disclosure of sensitive information relating to the inner-workings of American intelligence gathering.

According to wikileaks, Snowden had initially applied to 21 countries for asylum. Currently, he lives in Russia after the United States annulled his passport – and has been living there for the past 3 years.

Many in the United States have called for the return of Snowden to face pending criminal indictment.

Snowden finds that it is only necessary for President Obama to employ his presidential pardon in wake of his immediate crisis – since his 3 years asylum is almost up.

Amnesty international has called on the US government to drop the charges against Snowden, or to guarantee him a public interest defense in the event of his case going to trial.

This was further validated by Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty international who stated the following: “It is ironic that it is Snowden who is being treated like a spy when his act of courage drew attention to the fact that the US and UK governments were illegally spying on millions of people without their consent”.

And I have to agree, privacy is a primary constituent of Human Rights which paradoxically was violated by governments who pride themselves in being vanguards of Human Rights policies.

Shetty ends her statement by saying “It will be a deep stain on President Obama’s legacy if he leaves office with Snowden still in exile in Russia, separated from his family and treated like an enemy of the state”.

Also in agreement is Edward Snowden’s attorney Ben Wizner, whom believes that the function of presidential pardons may be applied in this case and as a society we should be extending our gratitude to Snowden for such whistle-blowing gallantry.

Currently, Snowden is left at the brinks of President Obama’s clemency.


Once more, I state the following: Dickens puts it best “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

It is fair to say that Snowden cultivated societal awareness of governmental surveillance but in doing so engendered ruin not only in the Obama’s administration but in the overall national interest.

Edward Snowden risked national security as he retreated to other countries cowering away from criminal charges for 3 years.

On the same token other whistleblowers have faced the music – so to speak.

For example, Thomas Andrews Drake – a former senior executive of the U.S. NSA was also a proclaimed whistleblower who was charged with ten violations of the Espionage Act.

Thomas Tamm, a public defender from Maryland, was threatened to be barred from practicing law simply because he disclosed information about NSA surveillance.

What makes Edward Snowden any different than prior whistleblowers?

American law necessitates Snowden’s return as it is only fair he receives consequences for his actions.

Furthermore, although Snowden exposed the United States for defilements against human rights, he poignantly bolstered other corrupt regimes who molest the paradigm of human rights such as Russia.

It is this duality of Edward Snowden that makes the question quite difficult to answer.

Will Obama bury the Snowden issue until his release from Presidency?

Truly, the answer lies with President Obama and his individual verdict for Edward Snowden.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: AK Rockefeller/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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