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Snowden ‘Not Counting on’ Pardon, Would Feel ‘Vindicated’ by a Russian Exile


Edward Snowden (Yahoo News screen grab)NSA leaker Edward Snowden is back in the news after doing a 50 minute interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News at a Moscow hotel. In addition to sharing his frustration over General David Petraeus getting off easy for what Snowden calls “far more highly classified” information than he leaked, Snowden addressed the possibility of a presidential pardon. With President Barack Obama exiting office next month, there’s been plenty of speculation as to who he will pardon on his last day in office, but Snowden says that he’s “not counting on it” when it comes to planning his future.

When Couric asked Snowden what he would say to Obama if he had 60 seconds to sell him on a pardon, Snowden said that he wouldn’t. “I would respectfully say to the president, ‘I understand you have an incredibly difficult job,’” He explained. “No one wants to be a whistleblower. This is something that’s hard to do. It’s hard enough to stand up to a bully in your life, to your boss in the office, much less the combined might of the National Security Agency, the FBI and, you know, the apparatus of government.”

From there, the topic moved to his time in Russia, how he’s been treated, and what would happen if he was kicked out and turned over to the United States. His answer about that last part was not quite what you would expect. “It wasn’t so many years ago that people were saying, ‘This guy’s a Russian spy,’” Snowden noted. “But countries don’t give up their spies. And if my recent criticism of the Russian government’s Internet policies, criticisms of their human rights record, have been so severe that even my greatest critics in the intelligence community are now saying, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s a liability, they wanna get him out of there,’ that’s a vindication.”

Asked by Couric to clarify his comments, Snowden said it would vindicate “The fact that I’m independent, the fact that I have always worked on behalf of the United States, and the fact that Russia doesn’t own me. In fact, the Russian government may see me as sort of a liability.” But it’s not as if he’d be happy to be turned over into American custody, and it “would obviously be something that would bother me” as “something that would be a threat to my liberty and to my life.” But he concluded that line of questioning by saying that he is “proud of […] the fact that every decision that I made I can defend.”

[Photo: Yahoo News screen grab]

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David Bixenspan is a writer, editor, and podcaster based in New York.