NSA leaker Snowden’s clemency plea falls on deaf ears

04 Nov 2013


The White House and the heads of the intelligence committees in Congress have clearly made up their minds to reject a plea for clemency by Edward Snowden, who leaked details of the US National Security Agency's massive global phone and internet surveillance programme.

White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer told a TV news channel on Sunday that no offers are being discussed, and that Snowden should return to the US and face charges.

Pfeiffer's sentiment was echoed by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Mike Rogers, who chair separate intelligence committees.

Rogers called clemency for Snowden a ''terrible idea.'' Feinstein said Snowden broke the law when he could have privately reported his revelations to her committee.

Snowden, a former NSA systems analyst, faces the book in the US, where authorities are thoroughly upset over his whistleblowing. He is currently a refugee in Russia, which has granted him temporary asylum.

Snowden made the clemency plea in a letter given to a German politician and released on Friday. In his one-page typed letter, he says, ''Speaking the truth is not a crime.''

Snowden's revelations, among the allegations that the US has eavesdropped on allies including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have led to calls by allies to cease such spying and moves by Congress to overhaul US surveillance laws and curb the agency's powers.

But Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee said if Snowden had been a true whistle-blower, he could have reported his concerns to her committee privately.

''He needs to come back and own up,'' said Rogers. ''If he believes there's vulnerabilities in the systems he'd like to disclose, you don't do it by committing a crime that actually puts soldiers' lives at risk in places like Afghanistan.''

Rogers contended that Snowden's revelations had caused three terrorist organizations to change how they communicate.

The two lawmakers from opposed parties differed on how much President Barak Obama and other leaders knew about the NSA surveillance, after recent hints by the White House that the president was in the dark about much of these activities including the alleged tapping of Merkel's personal phone.

Rogers implied that he didn't believe the president or the European leaders who claimed they were shocked by Snowden's allegations.

''I think there's going to be some best actor awards coming out of the White House this year and best supporting actor awards coming out of the European Union,'' he said. ''Some notion that ... some people just didn't have an understanding about how we collect information to protect the United States, to me is wrong.''

Feinstein said she didn't know what the president knew, but said she intended to conduct a review of all intelligence programs to see if they were going too far.

''Where allies are close, tapping private phones of theirs ... has much more political liability than probably intelligence viability,'' she said.

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