President Donald Trump on Saturday said that he was ‘very strongly’ considering pardoning Edward Snowden – the former CIA employee who leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency.
In his strongest indication yet that the 37-year-old could be coming home from exile in Russia, Trump said at a press conference held at his Bedminster golf course that he was weighing up Snowden’s fate.
‘I’m going to take a look at that very strongly,’ he said.
Snowden’s revelations triggered a debate over government eavesdropping, with some hailing him as a hero and others calling him a traitor.
Trump said he is ‘not that aware of the Snowden situation,’ but that people on both the left and the right are divided over the former contractor.
‘It seems to be a split decision,’ he said.
‘There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that,’ Trump told the publication.
‘I guess the DOJ is looking to extradite him right now?… It’s certainly something I could look at. Many people are on his side, I will say that. I don’t know him, never met him. But many people are on his side.’
Trump then asked aides who were present during his interview with The Post for their opinions on Snowden.
He then added: ‘I’ve heard it both ways. From traitor to he’s being, you know, persecuted. I’ve heard it both ways.’
In 2013, Snowden shared thousands of classified documents with journalists, prompting the US government to charge him with two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property.
The Hawaiian-based whistleblower worked for the CIA and NSA for several years and says he concluded that both agencies had ‘hacked the constitution’ with extensive government surveillance, putting everyone’s liberty at risk and forcing his hand to leak the information to the media.
Snowden’s decision to go public with the information set off a global debate about government surveillance, put in place by intelligence agencies in a perceived bid to avoid a similar attack to 9/11 from happening ever again.
He has been living in exile in Russia since he leaked the documents.
However, last year, Snowden said his ‘ultimate goal’ was actually to return home to the US.
Though he said any such return would be dependent on the US government offering him a fair trial, something he says officials have ‘refused to gua….