Politics

Barr ‘vehemently opposed’ to pardoning Snowden

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr said he would be “vehemently opposed” to any attempt to pardon former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, after the president suggested he might consider it.

The attorney general’s comments in an interview with The Associated Press come days after President Donald Trump said he would “look at” whether to pardon Snowden, who was charged under the Espionage Act in 2013 with disclosing details of highly classified government surveillance programs.

“There are many, many people — it seems to be a split decision that many people think that he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things,” Trump said of Snowden at a news conference on Saturday. “And I’m going to take a very good look at it.”

20 PHOTOSThe NSA, Edward Snowden and the CIASee GalleryThe NSA, Edward Snowden and the CIAA man is silhouetted near logos of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Wikipedia in this photo illustration taken in Sarajevo March 11, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File PhotoAn undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. NSA/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNSU.S. President Barack Obama speaks following a meeting with his National Security Council at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin LamarqueUNITED STATES – FEB. 9 – From left, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, FBI Director James Comey, Director of the National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo is displayed in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 02: Detail of the cufflinks of former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell as he testifies before the House Select Intelligence Committee April 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of ‘The Benghazi Talking Points and Michael J. Morell’s Role in Shaping the Administration’s Narrative.’ (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 02: Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell is sworn in prior to testimony before the House Select Intelligence Committee April 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of ‘The Benghazi Talking Points and Michael J. Morell’s Role in Shaping the Administration’s Narrative.’ (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)A picture taken on February 25, 2015 shows the logo of Gemalto in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any ‘massive theft’ of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)Visitors gather in the Gemalto NV pavilion at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. The Mobile World Congress, where 1,500 exhibitors converge to discuss the future of wireless communication, is a global showcase for the mobile technology industry and runs from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesGemalto CEO Olivier Piou (C) arrives for a press conference on February 25, 2015 in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any ‘massive theft’ of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)Gemalto CEO Olivier Piou (C) gives a press conference on February 25, 2015 in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any ‘massive theft’ of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)Gemalto CEO Olivier Piou shows a cell phone sim card before a press conference on February 25, 2015 in Paris. European SIM maker Gemalto said it had suffered hacking attacks that may have been conducted by US and British intelligence agencies but denied any ‘massive theft’ of encryption keys that could be used to spy on conversations. AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)BERLIN, GERMANY – JANUARY 29: Symbolic photo for data protection, reflection of the seal of the National Security Agency in a computer hard drive on January 29, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)Michael Rogers, director of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. The hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment is prompting U.S. officials to rethink when the government should help private companies defend against and deter digital assaults, Rogers said. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images Visitors chat near a reception desk at the Gemalto NV promotional stand on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. The Mobile World Congress, operated by the GSMA, expects 60,000 visitors and 1400 companies to attend the four-day technology industry event which runs Feb. 27 through March 1. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesAn employee displays a Gemalto NV M2M quad sim card at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. The Mobile World Congress, where 1,500 exhibitors converge to discuss the future of wireless communication, is a global showcase for the mobile technology industry and runs from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesGERMANY, BONN – DECEMBER 12: Symbol photo of a computer hard drive with the logo of the National Security Agency (NSA), on December 12, 2014 in Bonn, Germany. (Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 20:Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, testifies during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee November 20, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on ‘Cybersecurity Threats: The Way Forward.'(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo is displayed in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on August 14, 2008. AFP PHOTO/SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)Up Next

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The Justice Department’s criminal complaint against him was dated just days after Snowden’s name first surfaced as the person who had leaked to the news media that the NSA, in classified surveillance programs, gathered telephone and Internet records to ferret out potential terror plots.

“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” Barr said. “He was peddling it around like a commercial merchant. We can’t tolerate that.”

Snowden remains in Russia to avoid prosecution even as the federal charges against him are pending.

It was unclear how serious Trump was, particularly given that years earlier he had denounced Snowden as a spy deserving of execution. But Trump’s distrust of his own intelligence community has been a staple of his tenure, particularly because of its conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election on his behalf, and he has at times bemoaned the broad surveillance powers that the intelligence agencies have at their disposal.

Any effort to pardon Snowden would unquestionably infuriate senior intelligence officials, who say his disclosures caused extraordinary damage and will have repercussions for years to come.

In a memoir published last year, Snowden wrote that his seven years working for the NSA and CIA led him to conclude that the U.S. intelligence community had “hacked the Constitution” and put everyone’s liberty at risk and that he had no choice but to turn to journalists to reveal it to the world.

“I realized that I was crazy to have imagined that the Supreme Court, or Congress, or President Obama, seeking to distance his administration from President George W. Bush’s, would ever hold the IC legally responsible — for anything,” he wrote, using an abbreviation for the intelligence community.

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