President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to pardon someone tomorrow that he said was “very, very important,” but it won’t be one major name that has been in the news recently.
The news comes as speculation has swirled that Trump could pardon former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified documents that damaged U.S. national security.
“On flight back from Wisconsin, Pres Trump told press pool he would be issuing a pardon on Tuesday to someone ‘very very important,’ but said it was not Michael Flynn or Edward Snowden,” CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller tweeted. “Might see it as a way to detract attention from Democratic Convention speeches slamming him.”
The possibility of pardoning Snowden comes after Trump was asked by a reporter last week, “Do you want to give Edward Snowden a pardon and bring him back?
“Well I’m going to look at it,” Trump responded. “I mean, I’m not that aware of the Snowden situation, but I’m going to start looking at it. There are many, many people. It seems to be a split decision. There are many people think that he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things. And I’m going to take a very good look at it. I mean, I’ve seen people that are very conservative and very liberal and they agree on the same issue. They agree both ways. I’m going to take a look at that very strongly, Edward Snowden.”
Snowden leaked classified information about the U.S. government’s efforts to collect and store all telephone metadata because of the Patriot Act.
Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake highlighted the problem with pardoning Snowden:
The problem, though, is that Snowden also stole and disclosed far more than that. In June 2013, while in Hong Kong, he shared with the South China Morning Post documents that identified the exact machines the NSA was hacking in China and Hong Kong, along with details of whether they were still monitored and how they were attacked.
This did not advance American civil liberties. Rather, it exposed U.S. efforts to monitor the cyber threats of a hostile power.
Another problem is that even though the U.S. government has conducted a damage assessment of Snowden’s theft of state secrets and disclosures, there is still much it doesn’t know. The reason for this is that Snowden devised a program to scrape the classified computer networks he was administering as a contractor for the NSA in Hawaii. The U.S. government knows the files that Snowden’s program probed, but it does not know which ones he stole.
Lake noted that then-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn was the one who oversaw the review of what Snowden stole and said that officials were concerned that Snowden may have “stolen information on defense capabilities, war plans and technical intelligence collection methods.”
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