Opinion: The Push to Pardon Snowden

The 2016 election certainly caused a stir. We now have a President-elect who has been recorded bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, who has promised to deport millions of people who call America their home, and who has been endorsed by the Klu Klux Klan.

Scared? I don’t blame you.

While the anti-Trump protests that have been popping up over the nation are speaking out against the bigotry expressed in the Trump campaign, as they should, there’s another issue that must be discussed before Mr. Trump becomes the most powerful man in the world:

Our constitutional right to privacy.

Whistleblower and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has been living as a political refugee in Russia since August 2014, and was granted a three-year residential permit after leaking information to The Guardian. This information proved that the American government spies on their citizens.

While Snowden argues that he is just one piece in a very large puzzle, saying: “While I care what happens to me… this is not about me, it’s about us,” Snowden represents a rare form of bravery and patriotism that, while it may empower the people, threatens the government.

Snowden had the courage to risk his life and freedom to put the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens above the government. He fought to uphold the Constitution when those sworn to do so failed. This, of course, is where his fight to remain free began.

With less than 70 days before Trump, who has called for the execution of the “traitor” Snowden, takes office, American citizens have been calling on President Obama to pardon Snowden.

For any American concerned about their privacy and the lives of those who fight to maintain this constitutional right, the pardoning of Edward Snowden is a huge movement. Not only would it be a victory for our democracy, but it would also signal a bit of a shift in Obama’s administration.

While often overlooked, the Obama administration has been the worst administration for whistleblowers. Throughout his presidency, there have been eight people prosecuted under the 1971 Espionage Act, more than twice the amount of prosecutions made under all previous administrations combined.

Pardoning Snowden will not erase the Obama administration's history of silencing those who dare to call out their government's misdeeds, but it very well may save Snowden’s life, or at least the quality of his life.

While the Trump presidency is likely to mirror the Trump campaign in terms of its unpredictability, one recent news story, reported by MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, should frighten anyone concerned with our Constitution and the state of our democracy today.

On July 15 of this year, a faction of the Turkish armed forces, known as the Peace at Home Council, attempted a coup against state institutions, including Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Citing an erosion of democracy and a disregard for human rights, the council fought for one day before their mission failed. Over 300 people were killed and thousands more were injured.

Since the coup has ended, at least 40,000 people have been arrested, including judges, journalists, and civilians. President Erdoğan has built over 100 new jails, and officers involved in the coup are now seeking asylum in NATO countries.

The Turkish government is looking to arrest a man they believe to be the leader of the coup, Fethullah Gülen. Gülen is a preacher and political figure that was once tied to Erdoğan. He is currently living in Pennsylvania as a legal resident of the United States. The United States government does not believe that he is tied to any terrorist organizations, differing from the views of the Turkish government.

After Donald Trump’s historic win, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has called for Trump to extradite Gülen back to Turkey.

The frightening part? Aides to the Trump campaign agree. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, an advisor to the Trump campaign and a likely contender for a cabinet position, has called for Gülen to be extradited.

“What would we have done if right after 9/11 we heard the news that Osama bin Laden lives in a nice villa at a Turkish resort while running 160 charter schools funded by the Turkish taxpayers,” Lynn asked.

Lynn went on to argue that “forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gulen, who is running a scam. We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.”

For those fighting for Snowden’s freedom as a United States citizen, this is a bad sign. Looking at the oddly friendly relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin, it is not outrageous for one to predict Trump asking of Russia what Turkey is asking of America.

We the people have an obligation to each other and to our posterity to fight for our freedoms that the Constitution allows. When we see that our government, whether Republican or Democrat led, is failing to uphold our Constitution, we must stand against those who defy it, and stand for those who fight to uphold it.

The worst case scenario for Snowden, at this point, would be extradition to the United States. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of over 30 years in prison for speaking out. If he were to find another country to seek asylum, he may very well end up as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012.

Either way, time is running out. With the countdown clock on for Trump’s inauguration, Americans concerned about their Constitutional right to privacy and their fellow citizens ought to call on President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden.