A former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst has hit out at agency whistleblower Edward Snowden for urging US president Barack Obama to grant him a presidential pardon on the grounds his infamous disclosures were beneficial to the public.
Snowden, who currently resides in Russia under asylum after handing over one million secret NSA documents to journalists, previously said that he would return home to the US if he could be guaranteed a fair trial – an option that seems unlikely under the current administration.
While he has been lauded for his actions by privacy advocacy groups like the ACLU and Amnesty International, not everyone agrees that he was morally obligated to leak sensitive – and confidential – material relating to a global spying apparatus.
"Edward Snowden's request for a presidential pardon from Russia is the height of absurdity," John R Schindler, who spent a decade with the NSA, told IBTimes UK.
"The damage Snowden inflicted on US and allied intelligence by stealing and compromising more than a million classified documents is so grave as to be without precedent. If Obama were to pardon Snowden before he comes home to face justice, while the defector lounges under Putin's protective roof, the Espionage Act will have lost any teeth or meaning."
Schindler, a somewhat controversial figure, previously held a national security position at the US Naval War College. However he resigned after racy photos of him emerged online in 2014. Nevertheless, he is respected in many circles on the topics of intelligence, surveillance and cyberwarfare.
His previous experience at the secretive spy agency has left him an outspoken critic of those who are in favour of outing government snooping programmes. On his website, Schindler has branded the NSA whistleblower a Russian agent and labelled him as a "defector".
Snowden, however, remains adamant that his leak was not only in the public interest, but ethically sound. In a recent interview with The Guardian, he said: "In the fullness of time, I think I will end up back home."
He elaborated: "Once the officials, who felt like they had to protect the programmes, their positions, their careers, have left government and we start looking at things from a more historical perspective, it will be pretty clear that this war on whistleblowers does not serve the interests of the United States; rather it harms them."
Of course, Schindler disagrees. "We can assume that Ed's request is the subject of laughter in the White House right now. Snowden made his Russian bed, now he must lie in it," he said.