In 2013, then-National Security Agency subcontractor Edward Snowden revealed details about the federal government’s collection of metadata along with other classified secrets. Snowden has since become a divisive figure, with some hailing him as a whistleblower while others condemn him as a traitor.
That division appears to extend to the Trump administration, with President Donald Trump and his Attorney General Bill Barr appearing to take very different positions on Snowden.
Trump on Snowden pardon
In recent weeks, Trump had floated the idea of pardoning Snowden, something that would allow him to return to the United States. The former intelligence contractor initially fled to Hong Kong and then Russia.
“There are many, many people — it seems to be a split decision that many people think that he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things,” the AP quoted Trump as saying at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
The president went on to explain that he is “going to take a very good look” at whether or not he should extend a pardon to Snowden.
Such a move would represent a major change from Trump’s position seven years ago when he condemned Snowden as a “terrible traitor” who should face the death penalty.
Barr: Snowden “was a traitor”
However, Attorney General Bill Barr has expressed no such ambivalence, stressing during an interview with the Associated Press that he is utterly opposed to the idea that Snowden should receive a pardon.
“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” Barr insisted. “He was peddling it around like a commercial merchant. We can’t tolerate that.”
During his 2014 congressional testimony, Gen. Martin Dempsey said that most of the material Snowden stole “had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities.”
Dempsey, who was then serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added, “The vast majority of those were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures.”
The Associated Press also quoted a segment from Snowden’s memoir in which he accused the United States government of having “hacked the Constitution.”
“I realized that I was crazy to have imagined that the Supreme Court, or Congress, or President Obama, seeking to distance his administration from President George W. Bush’s, would ever hold the IC (intelligence community) legally responsible — for anything,” he wrote.