Rights groups petition Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden

  • 14/09/2016
US whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he delivers a speech during the Roskilde Festival (Reuters)
US whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he delivers a speech during the Roskilde Festival (Reuters)

Human rights groups have joined former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in a campaign seeking a presidential pardon for his leaking of US government secrets.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International have started a petition to "let President Obama know that the American people stand with Snowden."

The US government however won't budge on its demand that Mr Snowden returns to face prosecution, US officials have said.

They say he should be punished for stealing thousands of classified intelligence documents, but his supporters have praised his actions as a whistleblower.

The officials said they expect Mr Snowden's supporters to use the Thursday (local time) release of Snowden - directed by veteran filmmaker Oliver Stone - to mount a public campaign demanding a pardon before Obama leaves office in January.

Mr Snowden, who lives in Moscow, is scheduled to appear via video link at a New York press conference, where advocates from human rights groups will call for a pardon.

They argue that Mr Snowden performed a public service by exposing excessive and intrusive electronic spying by the intelligence agency and its English-speaking allies, including Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

In an interview published by The Guardian on Tuesday, Mr Snowden said the US Congress, the courts and the president all "changed their policies" as a result of his disclosures, and that "there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result".

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday that Mr Snowden is charged with "serious crimes, and it's the policy of the administration that Mr Snowden should return to the United States and face those charges."

Two other US officials said there are no discussions inside the Justice Department about granting him a pardon.