The “Pardon Snowden” campaign kicked off with a joint news conference on Wednesday put together by three human rights groups and interestingly, the man who seeks to benefit the most from it says he’s sitting this one out.
“This is an independent campaign that was lead by Amnesty [International], the ACLU and Human Rights Watch,” Snowden told the crowd at the conference (Snowdwn is under asylum in Moscow and addressed the audience through the use of a telepresence robot). “I’m not actually involved in the logistics or the decisions for how things are handled.”
When asked a follow-up question on why that is, Snowden explained his reasoning was similar to how he leaked the massive trove of top secret intelligence files — by giving them to accredited journalists who would decide whether a document was in the public interest before publishing, rather than simply dumping them on the internet like WikiLeaks would do.
“I am comfortable with the decisions I’ve made. But I don’t think its up for me to decide the direction of the future of our society,” Snowden said. “I believe it’s a participatory multilateral decision and we should intentionally remove the outside influence of a particular individual, and that includes myself. And that’s why I do not, myself, ask for a pardon, and I never will.”
Still, Snowden’s supporters are certainly doing just that — starting with a public relations blitz, an online petition for clemency, and the release of a film about his work in intelligence and how he stole an estimated 1.7 million files from NSA while working as a contractor in 2013.
“This is just the beginning of this. I think we’re going to see an outpouring of support,” said Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU.
‘This is his last chance’
Whether Snowden receives an outpouring of support in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen, but many believe the battle to secure a pardon from President Obama will be incredibly tough.
“This is his last chance,” Brad Moss, a national security lawyer, told Business Insider. “Aside from Obama having a last-minute ‘I just feel so guilty’ type of moment, I just can’t see him doing it. I think the intelligence community would go ballistic.”
Moss is not alone. Even one of the journalists who interviewed Snowden in Hong Kong, Ewen MacAskill, characterised the chances of a pardon as “remote,” and Oliver Stone, the Academy Award-winning director behind “Snowden” expressed scepticism that he would return to the US on Tuesday.
But his supporters remain hopeful.
“By standing up for the privacy rights of his fellow citizens,” Romero said. “Edward Snowden should be thanked and not punished.”
That was a sentiment echoed throughout the call by various supporters of Snowden, which made him choke up with emotion at times.
“I have to say I am deeply appreciative. I’m moved beyond words by the outpouring of support,” Snowden said. “While I am grateful for the support given to my case, this really isn’t about me. It’s about us. It’s about our right to dissent. It’s about the kind of country we want to have. The kind of world we want to build.”
He added: “I love my country. I love my family. And I have dedicated my life to both of them.”