American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other major human rights groups will officially launch a campaign on 14 September, requesting US President Barack Obama to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for revealing classified information about the US spy agency's surveillance programs.
The campaign will be launched just two days before Snowden's biopic is released in theatres, in the hopes that the Oliver Stone-directed movie, which portrays the whistleblower in a more sympathetic perspective, may help boost Snowden's image, Motherboard reported.
"I think Oliver will do more for Snowden in two hours than his lawyers have been able to do in three years," said Ben Wizner, Snowden's lawyer, who also serves as the director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. "We are going to be doing both a mass signature campaign around the world and trying to get prominent individuals and organizations to join our call to President Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office," he added.
Once the campaign kicks off, human rights groups will begin requesting the public for signatures to support Snowden on www.pardonsnowden.org.
The site is currently password protected, but shows the involvement of both ACLU and Amnesty International in the campaign. Additionally, social media accounts for the campaign are also up on Twitter and Facebook.
At the movie's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on 9 September, Stone said that while he "hopes" Obama would pardon Snowden, he was unsure of the likelihood of the whistleblower receiving a pardon, especially given the Obama administration's expansion of mass surveillance programs after Snowden documents first revealed US government surveillance activities.
Snowden was charged by the US government in 2013 under the Espionage Act, a law from 1917 that fails to differentiate in any way, between a spy handing over information to foreign governments and whistleblowers providing records to journalists about illegal and/or questionable government activities.
According to Wizner, given the various reforms sanctioned by Congress after Snowden-provided documents were leaked, it would be highly challenging winning a case. "Unless the government is willing to consider charging him with something appropriate, there's not going to be a trial if we have anything to say about it. That doesn't mean there couldn't be some other kind of agreement," Wizner said. "We think the proper response to Edward Snowden shouldn't be what the punishment should be, it should be how to thank him. And until that's the case, he is living safely where he is."