President Obama makes false claims regarding his power to pardon Edward Snowden, and the likely future director of the CIA is a danger to civil liberties that wants to execute Snowden. Obama is an expert in constitutional law, so he knows that he’s lying in the interview with Der Spiegel, and Snowden would return to the U.S. to face trial, but the unconstitutional Espionage Act he’s charged under permits him from making a public interest defense.
President Obama indicated on Friday that he won’t pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even as President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick to run the CIA: Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, who has called for “the traitor Edward Snowden” to be executed.
Pompeo has supported nearly unfettered NSA surveillance, has blamed Muslim leaders for condoning terror, and is one of the most hyperbolic members of Congress when it comes to describing the Islamic State, which he has called “an existential threat to America” and “the most lethal and powerful terrorist group ever to have existed.”
In an interview with Obama published on Friday, German newspaper Der Spiegel asked: “Are you going to pardon Edward Snowden?” Obama replied: “I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves, so that’s not something that I would comment on at this point.”
But P.S. Ruckman, editor of the Pardon Power blog said Obama is wrong to suggest he couldn’t pardon Snowden if he wanted to. Ruckman noted that Obama has previously only granted pardons and commutations to people who have already been convicted. “I just think what he may have better said is: ‘I prefer that he present himself to a court and then we’ll talk turkey.’ But technically in terms of the Constitution, there are no restrictions at all.”
The operative Supreme Court ruling, from 1886, states that “The power of pardon conferred by the Constitution upon the President is unlimited except in cases of impeachment. It extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment. The power is not subject to legislative control.”
Civil liberties groups immediately expressed concern about Pompeo as CIA director. The position requires Senate confirmation.
“Congressman Pompeo’s positions on bulk surveillance and Guantanamo Bay also raise serious civil liberties concerns about privacy and due process,” the ACLU said in a statement. “These positions and others merit serious public scrutiny through a confirmation process. His positions on mass surveillance have been rejected by federal courts and have been the subject of several lawsuits filed by the ACLU.”