The President of the U.S. Barack Obama said that Edward Snowden, the former contractor of the National Security Agency (NSA), who leaked classified documents about its surveillance programs, may not be pardoned as he has caused "unnecessary damage" to the country's intelligence agency and its diplomacy.
Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), was involved with leaking classified government data to the media. Since then, the NSA has come under fire and has been questioned regarding its mysterious global surveillance operations.
Snowden's allies believe that he is a hero and a patriot who has brought to light NSA's secretive telephone recording program. On the other hand, government officials call him a traitor and a thief of government property.
On Tuesday, December 17, Obama met with 15 well-known technology executives such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, and more, to discuss how to improve its Healthcare.gov Web site.
At the meeting, Pincus raised the question if Snowden should be pardoned.
"I think that, as important and as necessary as this debate has been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence capabilities and U.S. diplomacy," replied Obama. "But I will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general to weigh in publicly on the specifics of Mr. Snowden's case."
Around 150,000 people have already signed a White House petition in June this year asking Obama to pardon Snowden. The petitioners are still to receive a response from Obama.
A U.S. Federal judge has ruled that NSA's bulk collection and surveillance of telephone records was "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary invasion" of privacy. The judge ruled in favor of Larry Klayman, a conservative activist and lawyer who had filed a lawsuit claiming that NSA's data collection program violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search.
The judge has granted a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiff; however, he also stayed his decision "pending appeal," which gives the U.S. government time to fight the decision. This is the first major ruling against NSA after the classified documents were leaked in June.
Snowden's actions have definitely raised a finger at the government; however, being the President of the U.S., Obama has the power to pardon Snowden, which may come at a price.
Edward Snowden is currently living in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.