No Snowden clemency, White House, lawmakers say

Nov. 4, 2013 at 1:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The White House and two key lawmakers rejected clemency for Edward Snowden, who said the documents he leaked were leading to U.S. surveillance-program reforms.

"He was a contractor. He was trusted. He stripped our system," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told the CBS program "Face the Nation" when asked if she believed Snowden had made a case for a pardon.

"He had an opportunity -- if what he was was a whistle-blower -- to pick up the phone, to call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say, 'Look, I have some information you ought to see,'" Feinstein said.

"And we would certainly see him -- maybe both together, maybe separately -- but we would have seen him and we would have looked at that information," she told the program.

"That didn't happen," Feinstein said. "And now he's done this enormous disservice to our country. And I think the answer is no clemency."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., was equally adamant when asked the same question on the program.

"I don't see any reason [to grant clemency]," he said.

"He needs to come back and own up. We can have those conversations. 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. You just don't do that," Rogers said.

Senior White House strategy and communications adviser Dan Pfeiffer told the ABC program "This Week" there were no conditions under which President Barack Obama would consider clemency.

"Look, Mr. Snowden violated U.S. law," Pfeiffer said. "And our belief has always been that he should return to the U.S. and face justice."

The Constitution gives the president pardon power for federal crimes.

Snowden argued in a "Manifesto for the Truth" open letter to U.S. officials, published by German news magazine Der Spiegel Sunday, that his leaks started a constructive debate about whether U.S. spies were overreaching with the help of powerful technology and should be reined in.

The magazine got the letter from Green politician Hans-Christian Stroebele, who met with Snowden in a secret Moscow location Friday.

U.S. prosecutors have charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property.

But Snowden -- living in Russia after being granted a temporary but extendable one-year asylum Aug. 1 -- denied any disloyalty to the United States in his letter.

He said he disclosed secrets to the news media to push for reforms and did not give anything to unfriendly foreign powers.

"Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested," his letter said.

"Citizens have to fight against the suppression of information about affairs of essential importance for the public," he said. "Those who speak the truth are not committing a crime."

Feinstein told "Face the Nation" she strongly supported a White House review to consider reforms to intelligence operations. She said her committee would have a separate National Security Agency review.

Concerning reports the NSA monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's private cellphone, Feinstein said tapping the personal phones of closely allied leaders had "much more political liability than probably intelligence viability. And I think we ought to look at it carefully. I believe the president is doing that and there are some exceptions."

When Rogers was asked if he thought Obama was truly unaware of such phone tapping and if European leaders were truly outraged by the news, he said, "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."

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