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Ex-Watergate Investigators Urge Leniency for Snowden

Investigators urge President Obama to let whistleblower Snowden return home.

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is interviewed by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong...Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. Snowden was on July 24, 2013 granted documents that will allow him to leave a Moscow airport where he is holed up, an airport source said on Wednesday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking details of U.S. government intelligence programmes, was expected to meet his lawyer at Sheremetyevo airport later on Wednesday after lodging a request for temporary asylum in Russia. The immigration authorities declined immediate comment. Picture taken June 6, 2013. MANDATORY CREDIT. REUTERS/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Courtesy of The Guardian/Handout via Reuters  (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS MEDIA)  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. MANDATORY CREDIT

Fifteen members from the Church Committee which investigated the CIA during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s have written an eight-page letter to plead leniency for whistleblower Edward Snowden. The group, led by its former chief counsel Frederick Schwarz Jr. and ex-staff director William Green Miller, sent the letter to President Barack Obama and  Attorney General Loretta Lynch, claiming that Snowden’s actions helped improve secret service policies in America.

“There is no question that Edward Snowden’s disclosures led to public awareness which stimulated reform. Whether or not these clear benefits to the country merit a pardon, they surely do counsel for leniency,” the letter reads.

Snowden fled the United States after leaking internal NSA documents in 2013. He has been living in exile in Russia ever since, facing 30 years in prison on espionage charges if he ever returns to his homeland. President Obama has previously refused to pardon him, but the Church Committee group maintains that Snowden’s disclosures have been instrumental in enacting much-needed change.

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“When intelligence agencies operate in the dark, they often have gone too far in trampling on the legitimate rights of law-abiding Americans and damaging our reputation internationally. We saw this repeated time and time again when serving as staff members for the U.S. Senate Select Committee… that in 1975-76 conducted the most extensive bipartisan investigation of a government’s secret activities ever, in this country or elsewhere,” the letter further argued.

Snowden did break the law by leaking the NSA files, but the group points to other cases in the past. They note that Snowden’s actions were more selfless than those of others who had been shown leniency, and that this should be taken into consideration. “Snowden did not try to mask his identity, or lie to the FBI. He knew he would pay a personal price. As he has,” the group said.

source: Church Committee

Image credit: Reuters

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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