Florida congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz is calling for President Donald Trump to pardon Edward Snowden for disclosing classified national security documents that critics say caused “grave damage” to the United States’ intelligence capabilities.
Gaetz, a two-term Republican whose 1st Congressional District includes a large swath of the Florida panhandle, issued the request first in a Twitter post on Thursday and echoed the comment in his podcast “Hot Takes With Matt Gaetz.”
“As of today, the case has never been stronger that Edward Snowden deserves a pardon from President Trump. I would support a pardon for Edward Snowden,” Gaetz said. “If it were not for Snowden, we might not know today that our own government was engaged in an activity that now a federal appellate court has deemed illegal.”
Gaetz referred to a ruling from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Wednesday that declared the surveillance program run by the National Security Agency that collected millions of Americans’ phone records unlawful. Documentation of the program was among the many items Snowden – who at the time worked for an NSA subcontractor – downloaded, smuggled out of the country and disclosed to The Guardian, Washington Post and others in 2013.
Snowden, who has received asylum from Russia and is living there, is charged with violating the Espionage Act as well as theft of government property. A House select committee in 2016 estimated that Snowden downloaded approximately 1.5 million documents.
Trump said a week ago that he was “going to take a very good look” at the calls for Snowden’s pardon, noting “it seems to be a split decision that many people think that he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things,” FloridaPolitics.com reported.
Attorney General William Barr has vehemently opposed any suggestion of pardoning Snowden.
“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” Barr said. “He was peddling it around like a commercial merchant. We can’t tolerate that.”