US President Barack Obama stated that he can’t pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, a claim that isn’t entirely true. The incoming Trump administration took an even tougher stance… execute him. Earlier this week, Obama said in an online interview with German media outlet Der Spiegel:
I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves.
However, there are apparently no legislative restrictions on a presidential pardon. According to a Supreme Court ruling from 1886:
The power of pardon conferred by the Constitution upon the President is unlimited except in cases of impeachment. It extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment. The power isn’t subject to legislative control.
As P S Ruckman, editor of the Pardon Power blog, put it:
I just think what he may have better said is, “I prefer that he present himself to a court and then we’ll talk turkey”, but technically, in terms of the Constitution, there are no restrictions at all.
Mike Pompeo, President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick for CIA director took a draconian position on the issue. Instead of pardoning the NSA whistleblower, he supports imprisoning Snowden and following a course of law that’d likely lead to the death penalty. In an interview with C-SPAN earlier in the year, Pompeo said:
He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think that the proper outcome would be that he’d be given a death sentence for having put friends of mine, friends of yours, in the military today, at enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers.
Pompeo is notorious for his attitudes toward Islamic faith leaders, bulk surveillance, and Guantánamo Bay. For instance, as he said, the fact that many terrorist attacks come from people of a single faith should place special obligations on leaders of that faith. He said in remarks on the House floor:
Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.
Later, the Council on American Islamic Relations called these remarks “false and irresponsible”.
20 November 2017