Exiled US whistleblower Edward Snowden is sensing a shift in the political winds in his favor, as news that President Donald Trump will consider pardoning him elicited opposition from “only the worst people in the country.”
“Imagine my surprise to find only the worst people in the country willing to speak against a pardon this time around,” Snowden said Monday on Twitter. “How far we’ve come!”
Among those who remain most stridently against Trump’s promise to “take a look at that very strongly” when asked by a reporter about pardoning Snowden, was Susan Rice, former national security advisor under President Barack Obama. “I. Just. Can’t,” Rice said on Twitter. “Congratulations GOP. This is who you are now.”
Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin replied, “Old enough to remember when they were Cold Warriors. Now they praise a traitor and let Putin get away with targeting our troops.”
While Trump appears to be considering a pardon, some prominent Republicans still remain in the anti-pardon camp. “Edward Snowden is a traitor,” Representative Liz Cheney, a neoconservative and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said Sunday on Twitter. “He is responsible for the largest and most damaging release of classified info in US history.”
Trump’s comments on Snowden are emblematic of how far opinions have shifted on the former National Security Agency contractor who released classified information exposing surveillance abuses by the US government in 2013 and wound up exiled in Russia after his US passport was revoked. Edward-Isaac Dovere, a writer for The Atlantic, noted that Trump had previously spoken out against Snowden on Twitter 35 times.
Trump called Snowden a “spy” who should be executed in 2014. After Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum in 2013, Trump said: “Isn’t it sad the way Putin is toying with Obama regarding Snowden. We look weak and pathetic. Could not happen with a strong leader!”
But it became clear there was a dramatic change in Trump’s attitude about the US case against Snowden last week, when he said in a New York Post interview, “There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean, I hear that.”
Those who continued to press for Snowden to be brought to justice were met with pushback. Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped break the Snowden story in 2013, said, “National security apparatchiks like Rice have wanted Snowden in prison for years because he exposed how they secretly and illegally converted the internet into their spying playground.”
Twitter users mocked Rubin’s fond reference to “Cold Warriors” and called her view of Snowden “cowardly” and “fascist.” One netizen said, “Just admit it: You think Big Brother is the hero of ‘1984.’”
Cheney received similar reactions, including from author Mike Cernovich who told her to “go away.”
Snowden at least hasn’t had to seek handouts from Moscow to get by during his exile. He has grossed more than $1.2 million in speaking fees in recent years, according to a US Justice Department lawsuit that seeks to strip him of profits he made based on stealing classified information. Snowden failed to clear his speeches and his book, “Permanent Record,” with the NSA and CIA in advance. His speaking fees ranged from $50,000 for a speech to Hong Kong brokerage firm CLSA in 2015 to a $3,000 gig at the University of Iowa that same year.