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Snowden on New Push for Pardon: 'This Is About Us'

The White House has said that Snowden will be “treated fairly" if he returns to the U.S. to face charges

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    Dinah PoKempner, left, general council for Human Rights Watch, listens as Edward Snowden speaks on a television screen via video link from Moscow during a news conference to call upon President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office, on Sept. 14, 2016, in New York.

    Three major human rights organizations met in New York Wednesday to launch a new campaign seeking a pardon for Edward Snowden. Snowden himself spoke from Moscow, where he’s in exile, via live video stream at the meeting. 

    President Obama’s latest comment on Snowden is that the former National Security Agency contractor should return to the U.S. to face felony charges for leaking classified information, The Associate Press reported. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Snowden’s 2013 information leaks put national security at risk.

    The ACLU, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch announced the new campaign for the pardon just before a film about Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and directed by Oliver Stone, is released in the U.S. this week.

    Snowden faces charges under the U.S. Espionage Act, which the ACLU said “doesn’t distinguish between selling secrets to foreign governments and giving them to journalists working in the public interest.” Snowden said via live video that while he’s grateful to the organizations and individuals who are supporting a pardon, this isn’t just about him.

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    “This is about us. It’s about our right to dissent,” he said. “It’s about the kind of tomorrow that we want to see, a tomorrow where the public has a say.” He also said that a long prison term for him would produce a "chill effect" and "erode the quality of our democracy."

    A petition presented by the ACLU has signatures from various former government officials, legal scholars and business leaders, like Steve Wozniak, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and former director at the Obama White House National Security Staff Timothy Edgar.

    Snowden’s leaks revealed information about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs. Whistleblower advocates point to reforms enacted since the leaks were reported on by the Washington Post and The Guardian, including Congress’ passage of the USA Freedom Act, which ended the practice of bulk-collecting citizens’ call data.

    The AP has reported that charges could land Snowden in prison in the U.S. for up to 30 years. Earnest has said that Snowden will be “treated fairly and consistent with the law” if he returns to the U.S. to face charges.

    Sean Rayford/Getty Images