Gary Johnson Would Consider Pardoning Edward Snowden If Elected President
Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson Thursday told Newsmax TV he would “certainly look into pardoning” Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information exposing illegal wiretapping practices at the National Security Administration, if he were elected president in November.
"This is someone who has divulged information that we would not know about currently—and that's the United States government spying on all of us as U.S. citizens," Johnson told "Hard Line" host John Bachman. "I don't want to see him in prison.”
On Tuesday, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made headlines, telling political strategist David Axelrod he thought Snowden performed a “public service” by leaking the NSA document, before adding that the former NSA contractor certainly broke the law.
Johnson said Holder’s assessment is "pretty darn accurate," adding we should “keep it in mind, the American Revolution, we have these people now being looked back as heroes.”
Johnson noted "we would not know about this mass surveillance that's going on right now” if it weren’t for Snowden.
Johnson’s statement is at odds with both the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump (who has called Snowden a traitor) and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton (who said she thinks the whistleblower should stand trial for leaking classified documents). Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders offered tepid support for Snowden, saying he “played a very important role in educating the American public,” but added the former NSA security contractor “did break the law.”
Johnson is also at odds with President Barack Obama. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Tuesday the Obama administration does not share Holder’s view of Snowden; the Obama administration had previously responded to a WhiteHouse.gov petition asking the president to pardon Snowden, arguing:
If [Snowden] felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and—importantly—accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers, not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions.
Charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property, Snowden was granted temporary asylum in Russia in June 2013, where he remains today. Following Holder’s statements, he tweeted:
2013: It's treason! 2014: Maybe not, but it was reckless 2015: Still, technically it was unlawful 2016: It was a public service but 2017:— Edward Snowden (@Edward Snowden) 1464643400.0
It should be noted that while Johnson's position on Edward Snowden—as well as his vocal support of pot legalization—signals the kind of progressive policies some want, Johnson still supports privatizing prisons, abolishing the miniumum wage and child labor laws, cutting government welfare, and initiating preemptive military strikes against suspected terror targets, among other regressive policies. His beliefs are conservative enough to draw the support of self-described GOP operative and legendary dirty trickster Roger Stone, who similarly supports Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. Just some context.