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A pardon for the whistleblower means he could return to the U.S. from Russia, where he has lived under political asylum for the past three years. (Photo: Mike Herbst/flickr/cc)

Human Rights Groups to Launch All-Out 'Pardon Snowden' Campaign

American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are coordinating massive effort to coincide with upcoming Snowden biopic

Nadia Prupis

Some of the world's most prominent human rights organizations are launching a formal campaign on Wednesday calling on President Barack Obama to pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden, a long-awaited effort that will coincide with the release of Oliver Stone's biopic, Snowden, according to reporting by Vice.

The campaign, organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and other groups, will include a mass signature drive and outreach to other influential voices to call on Obama to pardon the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower before he leaves office. And Snowden himself is set to speak by video link from Moscow at a press conference in New York on Wednesday.

Ben Wizner, one of Snowden's attorneys and director of ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology project, told Vice he hopes the upcoming film will help kindle public good will toward him and further strengthen the case for clemency.

"I think Oliver will do more for Snowden in two hours than his lawyers have been able to do in three years," he said.

As the campaign approaches its launch date, the organizers are setting up Facebook and Twitter pages to help circulate their petition and spread information.

A pardon for the whistleblower means he could return to the U.S. from Russia, where he has lived under political asylum for the past three years since releasing classified NSA documents revealing the government's mass surveillance operations, prompting global outrage and forcing Snowden to flee. He still faces espionage charges at home.

And with just four months to go until Obama leaves office, time is running out for Snowden's supporters, as the odds would get significantly longer under either a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration; in fact, Trump's latest campaign hire, former CIA chief James Woolsey, previously said Snowden should be "hanged" for treason in the wake of the Paris attacks last November.

Snowden himself spoke with Alan Rusbridger for the Financial Times this month in Moscow, discussing topics that ranged from his biopic, to the Panama Papers, to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack, to the impact of mass surveillance on geopolitics.

What's powerful about the film, he said, "is that it compresses years of reporting into two hours so it reaches a whole new audience who aren't wonks or, you know, people who aggressively follow policy.... that [means] the film can be a vehicle for democratizing information, and that's a beautiful irony for a film about an act that was intended to do the same thing."

As for what it might mean for the future: "We the public are at one of the last points that we will have to make a difference in how normalised the culture of mass surveillance becomes. And so anything that gets people talking about it, any little thing that gets people thinking about it that otherwise might not, I think is a net positive."

Snowden will be released on Friday, September 16, 2016.

Read more about the film and watch the trailer here.

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