The Norman Transcript

Columns

December 25, 2013

A presidential pardon?

NORMAN — Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey weighed in last week on the subject of Edward Snowden. Asked about calls of clemency for the former National Security Agency contractor, Woolsey insisted that Snowden should be “hanged by the neck until he is dead.”

Woolsey reflects the current thinking in Washington: reform for the NSA and the rope for Snowden. However, it may be time for President Obama to show real leadership and acknowledge that Snowden is the reason for the current reform push.

It may be time to pardon Edward Snowden.

He has almost certainly committed criminal acts in removing and disclosing classified material. As someone who has held a top-secret clearance since the Reagan administration, I do not condone such violations of national security laws. However, Snowden is a better candidate for clemency than many believe.

A presidential pardon is not an endorsement of the underlying actions of an individual. To the contrary, the vast majority of pardons follow criminal convictions. Rather, pardons are issued because of mitigating or extenuating circumstances.

Sometimes clemency is a way of healing a national divide or bringing closure to a national controversy. George Washington pardoned all of those in the Whiskey Rebellion, and John Adams considered it in “the public good” to pardon Pennsylvania rebels. ...

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