House Armed Services Committee leaders say that President Donald Trump would be making a "serious mistake" by pardoning Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor charged with espionage for stealing and leaking classified information on U.S. surveillance programs.
In a joint statement Monday, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the committee chairman, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the ranking member, said a pardon for the 37-year-old Snowden would "completely undermine this administration's position and mock our national security workforce, who take immense caution in their work to keep us safe."
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Twice last week, Trump floated the idea of pardoning Snowden, who fled to Russia in 2013, after charges of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property were unsealed against him.
Trump told The New York Post last Thursday that he is thinking about the possibility of a pardon for Snowden. "There are a lot of people that think that he is not being treated fairly. I mean I hear that," he said.
In a news conference at his Bedminster, New Jersey, estate on Saturday, Trump said of a possible pardon, "Many people think that he should somehow be treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things. I'm going to take a very good look at it."
In their joint statement, Smith and Thornberry said Snowden "did enormous harm to our national security, and he must stand trial for his actions."
Pardoning him would mean that he could not be held accountable for his crimes and also "send a dangerous message to others who are contemplating espionage and the adversaries who would support them."
In a Twitter post Monday, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said, "Edward Snowden is a traitor. He is responsible for the largest and most damaging release of classified info in U.S. history. Pardoning him would be unconscionable."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.