Reports have surfaced this week that the National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower, Edward Snowden (30), had made a clemency plea to the U.S. and that the Obama administration had firmly rejected the application.
Mr. Snowden, who won temporary asylum in Russia after fleeing the U.S. to Hong Kong and then landing up in the international transit zone of Moscow airport in June, has been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for exposing covert global surveillance of Internet and telephone communications by the NSA, programmes that were said to have violated some provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
On Monday several mainstream media outlets including the Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News carried reports suggesting that his “official request for clemency was released Friday after Snowden gave the one-page typed letter to a German politician,” and that over the weekend “White House and elected officials scoffed” at this request.
However Glen Greenwald, the journalist who authored the exposés for The Guardian newspaper over the summer disputed the clemency claim.
He said on Twitter, “The US media fabricated this ‘Snowden is pleading for clemency’ fairy tale - where did this happen? Where did he ‘plead for clemency?’” Mr. Greenwald added, “All weekend, mindless TV news personalities asked: ‘Snowden is pleading for clemency - what's your reaction?’ This never happened.”
Media here quoted reactions by senior government officials to the reported plea made by Mr. Snowden, including remarks by White House Advisor Dan Pfeiffer who said, “Mr. Snowden violated U.S. law… He should return to the U.S. and face justice.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and Chairperson of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that Mr. Snowden had done an “enormous disservice to our country,” by shining a light on information about the NSA’s mass spying including the tapping of world leaders’ phones, and so “I think the answer is no clemency”.
Mr. Snowden meanwhile released to German newspaper Der Spiegel what he called a “Manifesto for the Truth” in which he argued that he had “started a useful debate about whether American spies are overreaching with the help of enormously powerful technology and should be reined in”, and that “the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested”.
He has also been quoted saying that he hopes to receive international support to stave the U.S.’s “persecution” of him.