Whistleblower and former NSA agent Edward Snowden is seeking a presidential pardon. A campaign supporting the former CIA agent's plea for pardon was launched on 14 September and has now gathered support from various prominent public figures, including Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon and more.
However, there were a few who were unsympathetic to Snowden's pardon plea. Former director of the NSA, Michael Hayden said the whistle-blower should have to contend with "the full force of the law" if he were to return home to the US. Former NSA official Stewart Baker also argued that Snowden's leaks resulted in harming the country's national interests.
Below are comments from various prominent public figures, both in support of and against Snowden being granted a pardon from President Barack Obama.
Bernie Sanders — US senator and Democratic presidential runner-up
The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has allowed Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights.
While Mr Snowden played an important role in educating the American people, there is no debate that he also violated an oath and committed a crime. In my view, the interests of justice would be best served if our government granted him some form of clemency or a plea agreement that would spare him a long prison sentence or permanent exile.
Noam Chomsky — Professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
President Obama should provide Edward Snowden with a form of clemency that would permit him to return home to the United States — and still more appropriately in my view, remove all threats of criminal investigation as well.
Snowden should, in my opinion, be welcomed home with honours for his service to his country, and for his courage and integrity in the manner in which he performed this service. Apart from exceptional circumstances, citizens have every right to know what their government is doing, in particular what it is doing to them — in the present case, as Snowden revealed to us, keeping citizens under extensive and deeply intrusive surveillance.
He should certainly not be punished in any way for the services that he has performed in the interests of democracy and civil rights. At the very least, he should be granted the full freedom to return home without fear of prosecution, and, I very much hope, to be welcomed with the respect that he richly deserves.
Susan Sarandon — Oscar-winning actor
Ed Snowden did this country a great service. Here was a man who had a well-paying job and a good life in Hawaii yet tore it all up so that he could reveal to all of us what the NSA was doing to us in the name of national security. He did so for no personal gain, and at massive personal cost, because he cared about a basic principle: that governments should not lie to their people.
I don't think a person like that should be exiled from their country. I don't think a person like that deserves to be locked away for decades like Chelsea Manning. I think President Obama should do the right thing: pardon Ed and let him come home to his family and his people.
Daniel Ellsberg — Former US military analyst (released the 1971 Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war)
Ed Snowden should be freed of the legal burden hanging over him. They should remove the indictment, pardon him if that's the way to do it, so that he is no longer facing prison.
Were the government to have any evidence that Snowden revealed information that should have been protected, I think he should be judged by a jury. I was the first person to be tried for a leak under the Espionage Act, and I certainly didn't object to my case being weighed by a jury, although it never came to that. But there has to be a public interest defence, which doesn't exist in US law now.
As things stand, I think the chance that this or any president will pardon Snowden is zero. Nor does Snowden have any chance of a fair trial under the Espionage Act, any more than I did.
Barry Eisler — Bestselling novelist and former covert CIA operative
I wholeheartedly support a full presidential pardon for whistleblower Edward Snowden. As a CIA officer 25 years ago, I knew the government classified too much information. Everyone knew it. But no one spoke up. And today the problem is far worse.
Today we are able to engage in this critical conversation about how properly to govern ourselves, is almost entirely due to the conscience and courage of one man: Edward Snowden. For his service to his country, he deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom. But a presidential pardon might be acknowledgment enough.
Malkia Cyril — Black Lives Matter activist and executive director of the Center for Media Justice
Right now, Black Lives Matter activists protesting deadly police and other forms of state violence who have not been accused of any crime are being spied on with Stingray cellphone interceptors, tracked through biometric facial recognition software and licence-plate readers, among other things. And, this isn't limited to black activists.
This is why Edward Snowden must be pardoned — because the ability of black communities to organise for our collective liberation depends, in part, on whistleblowers like him. Black movements for peace and freedom demand that out of the darkness of empire, truth-tellers emerge to sound the alarm.
His revelations directly challenged the commonly held belief that media, phone and technology corporations must always give into state interests to target and harass the public. His bravery was a catalyst for the modern movement to defend democracy from both state and corporate overreach.
Cornel West — Professor at Princeton University, philosopher and civil rights activist
In an age of pervasive mendacity and massive criminality my dear brother Edward Snowden exemplifies courage and integrity. I call for President Obama to give him a pardon owing to his public service for truth and democratic accountability.
Michael Hayden — Former director of the National Security Agency
What Edward Snowden did amounted to the greatest haemorrhaging of legitimate American secrets in the history of my nation. If he wants to come home, and that's his choice, I think he should face the full force of the law.
It would be incredibly unwise for this president to offer a pardon. President Obama and his successors are dependent on the 100,000-plus people inside the American intelligence community – the people Edward Snowden betrayed. For any president to align himself with Snowden's approach in this controversy would carry an incredible cost to the spirit and morale of the intelligence community.
Mark Udall — Former US senator for Colorado and member of the select committee on intelligence
Although Snowden's actions aided my push for reform, the fact remains that Snowden broke an oath he willingly took to protect our national security and classified secrets.
I do not believe the president should pardon Snowden. You can make the case that he did our nation a service, and that is why I believe he should return to the United States to make that argument in court and to the public.