Rights organizations push for Snowden amnesty after film

Rights organizations push for Snowden amnesty after film

A woman walks past a banner displayed in support of US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in this file photo. — AFP

LONDON — Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union will on Wednesday urge US President Barack Obama to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on the back of a new film by Oliver Stone.

“I think Oliver will do more for Snowden in two hours than his lawyers have been able to do in three years,” Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lawyer, was quoted as saying by Vice Motherboard, which said the two rights groups would make a joint appeal on Wednesday.

“We are going to be doing both a mass signature campaign around the world and trying to get prominent individuals and organizations to join our call to President Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office,” Wizner was quoted as saying.

Contacted by AFP, London-based Amnesty International did not confirm or deny the report.

Vice Motherboard said the signatures would be collected through the website www.pardonsnowden.org

Anti-establishment director Stone also called for a pardon at the Toronto film festival last week at a screening of his espionage thriller biopic, “Snowden.”

“We hope that Mr. Obama has a stroke of lightning and he sees the way,” Stone said.

Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks representative who helped Snowden flee Hong Kong and seek refuge in Russia, said she hoped the film would help rehabilitate him but thought an amnesty was unlikely.

“That would be lovely if it came. I would be very surprised if it does,” Harrison said last week.

Snowden’s residency permit in Russia runs out next year.

“Then the question comes up again of where he can be safe. Obviously, he’d love to go back home,” said Harrison, director of the Courage Foundation which helps whistleblowers, including Snowden.

Alternatively, “he’d really like asylum in a number of other countries, some European countries. Maybe the situation will have changed in some of those, but sadly so far he’s always been denied,” said Harrison.

“In this current environment in which it’s kind of an empire that the US is running, his chances are minimal,” she said.

Harrison said whistleblower protections in the United States were too weak, but that “public awareness is improving and that’s always a first step.”
“These sorts of actions should be protected in some way or at least be allowed a defense.”

“What will help Snowden’s situation and potential other whistleblowers as well, is getting more public awareness of the retaliation that’s used against people that do these sorts of things,” Harrison said.

US authorities charged Snowden with espionage and theft of state secrets after he released thousands of classified National Security Agency documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill in 2013.

Considered a traitor by some and a hero by others, the 33-year-old fled to Hong Kong, where he hid among Sri Lankan refugees in cramped tenements, and was later given political asylum in Russia after the US revoked his passport.

He now leads a reclusive life there.

Snowden himself called on Obama to pardon him in comments published by Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, arguing that it had been morally “necessary” to shine a light on mass surveillance.

“If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off,” he told the Guardian in a video-link interview from Moscow on Monday.

“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists — for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things,” he said.

Snowden insisted he had widespread support, saying the “public, by and large, cares more about these issues far more than I anticipated.”

Last year, the White House rejected a petition signed by over 150,000 people urging a pardon for Snowden, saying he should be “judged by a jury of his peers.