Military Law Expert: Obama Should Pardon Snowden

How Can Obama Let Criminals Like Clapper Go … Yet Go After Snowden?

Professor Jonathan Turley is one of the nation’s top military and constitutional law experts.


  • Has held a top-secret clearance since the Reagan administration
  • Is the second most cited law professor in the country
  • Has worked as both the CBS and NBC legal analyst during national controversies
  • Ranks 38th in the top 100 most cited ‘public intellectuals’ in a recent study by a well-known judge
  • Is one of the top 10 lawyers handling military cases
  • Has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues
  • Is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues

Turley writes today in the Los Angeles Times:

It may be time for President Obama to show real leadership and acknowledge that Snowden is the reason for the current reform push.

It may be time to pardon Edward Snowden.


Snowden is a better candidate for clemency than many believe.

A presidential pardon is not an endorsement of the underlying actions of an individual. To the contrary, the vast majority of pardons follow criminal convictions. Rather, pardons are issued because of mitigating or extenuating circumstances.


Sometimes clemency is a way of healing a national divide or bringing closure to a national controversy. George Washington pardoned all of those in the Whiskey Rebellion, and John Adams considered it in “the public good” to pardon Pennsylvania rebels. Likewise, Gerald Ford did not condone the crimes of Richard Nixon, but he viewed a pardon as in the best interest of the country.

Presidential pardons can be issued at any time after an alleged offense, even before a person is charged or convicted. Such was the case with Jimmy Carter‘s pardon of draft dodgers and Ronald Reagan‘s pardon of the six officials accused in the Iran-Contra affair.

When considered in light of the thousands of past pardon and commutation recipients, Snowden compares favorably.


Snowden faced a system that was entirely uninterested in, if not outright hostile to, hearing about abuses. Indeed, various people had tried to raise questions about the extent of government surveillance in previous years. I represented one prior NSA whistle-blower who disclosed the massive surveillance program, but the public ignored him and he was threatened with arrest.


A pardon would demonstrate to both Americans and our allies that the White House is serious about reform, and accepts responsibility for the abuses that have been documented.Finally, a pardon would resolve a glaring contradiction in how the White House has dealt with alleged crimes by national security officials. After all, this is the president who pledged early in his first term that no CIA employee would be investigated, let alone prosecuted, for the Bush torture program. Likewise, no one was prosecuted when CIA officials admitted destroying torture tapes to avoid their use in any future prosecution. Finally, when the NSA program was raised in public, National Intelligence Director James Clapper appeared before Congress and lied about the program. He later said that he gave the least untruthful statement he could think of. But it was nevertheless untrue and potentially a crime for which he could be prosecuted.


[Snowden] certainly deserves the same consideration in disclosing abuses that Obama officials received in concealing them from the public.

Indeed, the calls for Clapper’s head are growing louder by the day. If he remains unprosecuted, so should Snowden …

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  • Reagan’s pardon was a crime. He was a co-conspirator. He essentially pardoned himself.

  • Robert Barsocchini

    I’m surprised you guys didn’t mention H.W. Bush’s pardon of “unrepentant terrorist” Orlando Bosch:

    Orlando Bosch Ávila (18 August 1926 – 27 April 2011)[1] was aCuban exile, former Central Intelligence Agency-backed operative, and head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, which the FBI has described as “an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization”.[2] Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburghcalled Bosch an “unrepentant terrorist”.[3] He was accused of taking part in Operation Condor and several other terrorist attacks, including the 6 October 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which all 73 people on board were killed, including many young members of a Cuban fencing team and five North Koreans. The bombing is alleged to have been plotted at a 1976 meeting in Washington, D.C. attended by Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, and DINA agent Michael Townley. At the same meeting, the assassination of Chilean former ministerOrlando Letelier is alleged to have been plotted. Bosch was given safe haven within the US in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, who in 1976 as head of the CIA had declined an offer by Costa Rica to extradite Bosch.

  • yo@yo

    They won’t even though common sense says, “Yes, do the common sense thing, the human being thing.”

    An Administration can not, and will not admit wrong doing or that it is wrong period. They will not say, “we’ve made bad calls, we’ll get better.”

    The status quo is at stake. The government has done many bad things that are incredibly wrong. Like Robert’s post above where H.W. Nazi-CIA-George Bush pardoned a TERRORIST due that terrorist’s CIA connection. Because well, double standards and gotta protect the CRIME!

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    Presidential pardons can be issued at any time after an alleged offense, even before a person is charged or convicted.

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