More than 1 million people signed onto a petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, proponents of the pardon said Friday.
The campaign began in September, when Snowden, his attorney Ben Wizner from the ACLU, and other privacy activists announced they would formally petition Obama for a pardon. Snowden leaked classified NSA documents detailing surveillance programs run by the US and its allies to journalists in 2013, kicking off a heated debate on whether Americans should be willing to sacrifice internet privacy to help the government protect the country from terrorist attacks.
Obama and White House representatives have said repeatedly that Snowden must face the charges against him and that he'll be afforded a fair trial.
In the US, a pardon is "an expression of the president's forgiveness and ordinarily is granted in recognition of the applicant's acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or completion of sentence," according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. It does not signify innocence.
Also on Friday, David Kaye urged Obama to consider a pardon for Snowden. Kaye, the special rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the freedom of expression, said US law doesn't allow Snowden to argue that his disclosures were made for the benefit of the public. The jury would merely be asked to decide whether Snowden stole government secrets and distributed them -- something Snowden himself concedes he did.
"This all-or-nothing approach does not allow a court to balance the government's legitimate need to protect certain kinds of information with the public's right to know," Kaye said.
Kaye's position as rapporteur to the UN is honorary and he isn't an official on the Human Rights Council.
A representative from the White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
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