Calls to Pardon Edward Snowden See Matt Gaetz, Liz Cheney Clash on Twitter

Members of Congress are clashing on social media this week amid calls for President Trump to pardon whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Debate has raged since the weekend as multiple Republican politicians suggested the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor should be allowed to return to the U.S. without facing legal consequences for espionage charges filed in June 2013 for leaking documents outlining the nation's vast surveillance apparatus.

Matt Gaetz, Representative for Florida's 1st congressional district, on Sunday rejected a tweet from Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney that said pardoning Snowden would be "unconscionable" while characterizing the exiled American as a "traitor."

"The Cheney ideology supporting forever wars puts more troops at risk than @Snowden
ever did," Gaetz tweeted back. The same day, Gaetz said the president was "listening" to those urging a Snowden pardon and asserted it was the "right thing to do."

Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, claimed Snowden had put the country and military at risk by giving "secrets to Russian and Chinese intelligence."

The Cheney ideology supporting forever wars puts more troops at risk than @snowden ever did. https://t.co/BNbEVa4E6C

— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) December 14, 2020

Gaetz's posting about the subject came after journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted that a Snowden pardon would be a "victory" against abuses by various three-letter agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Greenwald's tweet on Sunday included a clip from a Trump press conference in August in which the president suggested he would be looking into the case. The same month, Trump told The New York Post a "lot of people" think Snowden is not treated fairly.

If Trump follows through on a pardon of @Snowden, it'd be a huge victory against CIA/FBI/NSA abuses.

Everyone from @RandPaul, @MattGaetz & @TulsiGabbard to @ACLU, @BernieSanders & @NYTimes have advocated this.

The only ones angry would be Brennan, Clapper, Comey & Susan Rice. pic.twitter.com/wZR68xZdCB

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 13, 2020

Despite reluctance to concede, Trump is set to leave the White House next month after being defeated in the 2020 presidential election by Democrat Joe Biden.

Gaetz was not the only Republican politician to side with the whistleblower, as support was voiced on social media—and retweeted by Snowden—by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky), Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) alongside the Libertarian Party's Justin Amash.

"James Clapper brazenly lied to Congress denying that the Deep State was spying on all Americans. @Snowden simply revealed Clapper's lies and exposed unconstitutional spying. He deserves a pardon from @realDonaldTrump," tweeted Sen. Paul.

James Clapper brazenly lied to Congress denying that the Deep State was spying on all Americans. @Snowden simply revealed Clapper’s lies and exposed unconstitutional spying. He deserves a pardon from @realDonaldTrump!

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 13, 2020

Pardon @Snowden.

— Justin Amash (@justinamash) December 13, 2020

Now is the time to #pardonsnowden https://t.co/41MrrIYwYB

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) December 13, 2020

In 2013, then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper claimed in Congress that the National Security Agency was not collecting data on millions of Americans, a claim that was proven to be false by Snowden's disclosures, which were given to Greenwald and detailed how the agency was amassing citizens' phone records and internet data.

As reported by NPR, Clapper later issued an apology, informing the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Dianne Feinstein, his statement had been "erroneous."

After traveling from the U.S. to Hong Hong and meeting with journalists in June 2013, Snowden was able to flee the country with the help of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks and ended up in Russia, where he was granted asylum and has lived since.

Earlier this month, Snowden tweeted that if Trump was to issue one act of clemency before leaving office it should be to free Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who is now battling extradition to the U.S. over his own releases of sensitive information.

Last September, Snowden said he wanted to return to the U.S., but would only do so if he was assured that he would face a fair trial, which he noted was unlikely.

Speaking in an interview on CBS This Morning, he said: "If I'm gonna spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom line demand that we have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that is the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won't provide access to what's called a public interest defense."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has long supported a presidential pardon for Snowden. He "blew the whistle on illegal government activity kept secret for years. Our democracy is better off because of him," the campaign group tweeted on Sunday.

Edward Snowden
Computer security consultant Edward Snowden in connection from Russia during the Wired Next Fest 2019 at the Giardini Indro Montanelli on May 26, 2019 in Milan, Italy. Members of Congress are clashing on social media this week over calls for President Trump to pardon the NSA whistleblower. Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty