The top Republican and Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee on Monday blasted rumored White House plans to pardon former CIA employee turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying such a move would “mock our national security workforce.”
The statement from committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said that Snowden is responsible for “harmful leaks from the Department of Defense and elsewhere in the federal government” and must stand trial for his actions.
“It would be a serious mistake to pardon anyone who is charged under the Espionage Act, who admits to leaking sensitive information, and who has spent years since then as a guest of the Putin regime,” the pair said.
“Not only would it mean that Snowden cannot be held accountable for his crimes, but it would send a dangerous message to others who are contemplating espionage and the adversaries who would support them.”
Snowden fled the United States in 2013 and shared classified National Security Agency documents with journalists which revealed previously covert domestic surveillance operations by government officials.
Open government advocates have hailed him as a hero, but military officials have criticized his actions for jeopardizing military operations and personnel across the globe. He has been living in Russia to avoid law enforcement attempts to return him to the United States and face trial on charges of mishandling classified information.
President Donald Trump in the past has said publicly that Snowden should be “executed” as a traitor and a spy. But on Saturday, Trump said he was re-examining the case, suggesting that “it seems to be a split decision” among top government officials whether Snowden should be prosecuted or allowed to return to America without legal consequences.
The committee leaders urged him not to do the latter.
“Edward Snowden did enormous harm to our national security and he must stand trial for his actions,” they said.
Trump’s past pardons have drawn significant public scrutiny, including his decision last month to pardon Roger Stone, his former political adviser, and the move to grant legal protections to a trio of controversial military figures last fall.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.