Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The Pardon Snowden campaign urges people around the world to write to Obama throughout his last four months in the White House. (Photo: Antonio Marín Segovia/flickr/cc)

'Pardon Snowden' Campaign Takes Off as Sanders, Ellsberg, and Others Join

'His bravery was a catalyst for the modern movement to defend democracy,' said Malkia Cyril of Center for Media Justice

Nadia Prupis

Prominent activists, lawmakers, artists, academics, and other leading voices in civil society, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are joining the campaign to get a pardon for National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"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," Sanders wrote for the Guardian on Wednesday. "Now we must learn from the troubling revelations Mr. Snowden brought to light. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must be given the tools they need to protect us, but that can be done in a way that does not sacrifice our rights."

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who co-founded the public interest journalism advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation, where Snowden is a board member, also wrote, "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."

Snowden faces charges under the Espionage Act after he released classified NSA files to media outlets in 2013 exposing the U.S. government's global mass surveillance operations. He fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, where he has been living under political asylum for the past three years.

"The NSA and U.S. government have revealed no evidence that the information Ed Snowden released has caused any harm," Ellsberg continued. "Inconvenience, yes, embarrassment certainly, but what has truly been revealed is that the NSA itself was unquestionably committing international, domestic, and constitutional crimes."

"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."
—Malkia Cyril, Center for Media Justice

Black Lives Matter activist and Center for Media Justice co-founder Malkia Cyril wrote in the Guardian that Snowden must be pardoned "because the ability of black communities to organize 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," she continued. "His bravery was a catalyst for the modern movement to defend democracy from both state and corporate overreach."

In a separate op-ed, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein wrote, "The American people have a right to privacy. My hope is that Obama uses his power to pardon Snowden now. The debate he began must be continued so we find a resolution that protects the freedom of press, association, religion and speech as well as the privacy of people in the United States and around the world."

Their words—as well as those of actress and Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon, renowned scholar and linguistics professor Noam Chomsky, civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West, Harvard Law School professor and former Democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig, and technology lawyer Mishi Choudhary, among others—come as a coalition of human rights groups launch a last-ditch effort to convince President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office, as the chances for clemency will be much lower under a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration.

"It is indisputable that our democracy is better off thanks to Snowden, and it's precisely for cases like his that the pardon power exists."
—Anthony D. Romero, ACLU

The Pardon Snowden campaign, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW), urges people around the world to write to Obama throughout his last four months in the White House.

"Thanks to Edward Snowden's act of conscience, we have made historic strides in our fight for surveillance reform and improved cybersecurity," said ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero. "It is indisputable that our democracy is better off thanks to Snowden, and it's precisely for cases like his that the pardon power exists. President Obama should use this power for good instead of leaving an American whistleblower stranded in exile."

Snowden himself made the case for his pardon on Tuesday, telling the Guardian that the leaks "were necessary things, these were vital things."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Bodycam Footage Shows Ohio Police Shooting Jayland Walker 60+ Times

"The Department of Justice needs to step in to investigate immediately," said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Impeach Justice Clarence Thomas' Petition Nears 1 Million Signatures

"He has shown he cannot be an impartial justice and is more concerned with covering up his wife's coup attempts than the health of the Supreme Court," reads the petition.

Jake Johnson ·


'Tipping Point of No Return' Feared as Amazon Rainforest Fires Surge

"Up to now, the Biden administration has only legitimized the Brazilian government's anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda," said Greenpeace USA.

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Urged to Embrace Windfall Tax as Exxon Says Profits Doubled in Second Quarter

"It's time for the president to demand that Congress pass a windfall profits tax on Big Oil and use the revenue to provide rebates to consumers NOW!" wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Jake Johnson ·


Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo