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Amnesty International earlier this month floated a hot air balloon with whistleblower Edward Snowden's portrait above the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

Amnesty International earlier this month floated a hot air balloon featuring whistleblower Edward Snowden's portrait above the Statue of Liberty in New York City. (Photo: AmnestyCanada/flickr/cc)

In Obama's Final Days in Office, Rights Advocates Push for Last-Minute Pardons

Obama must do the right thing before Trump's "law and order" administration takes office, rights advocates argue

Nika Knight Beauchamp

President Barack Obama has only days remaining in the White House and he must use that time to pardon whistleblowers and political prisoners, argue human rights advocates and prominent journalists, before the far-right administration of president-elect Donald Trump takes charge.

Obama has an extraordinarily poor record on pardons, the New York Times editorial board pointed out Monday in an op-ed that argues he had the power to pardon thousands of people yet failed to do so, for reasons that remain unclear.

Indeed, while Obama has commuted the sentences of thousands of prisoners, many imprisoned for outrageously long terms for nonviolent drug offenses, in the president's eight years in office he has pardoned a mere 148.

"Pardons remove the stigma of conviction and restore the right to hold office, to vote, to obtain certain business licenses and to own a gun—all activities that can be denied those with criminal records," the Times observes. "For almost everyone with a criminal conviction, a pardon is the only path back to full citizenship."

And as Trump's presidency looms, more and more people are urging Obama to pardon whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, as well as longtime political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Oscar López Rivera.

As Politico noted Tuesday, the last-minute pardon has been done before—and on behalf of a whistleblower, no less.

And so from petitions, to marches, to publicity campaigns such as #HugsforChelsea—which showcased swelling support for the imprisoned whistleblower—rights advocates are putting the pressure on Obama to help these embattled political fighters before it's too late:


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