WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr said he would be “vehemently opposed” to any attempt to pardon former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, after the president suggested he might consider it.
The attorney general’s comments in an interview with The Associated Press come days after President Donald Trump said he would “look at” whether to pardon Snowden, who was charged under the Espionage Act in 2013 with disclosing details of highly classified government surveillance programs.
“There are many, many people — it seems to be a split decision that many people think that he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things,” Trump said of Snowden at a news conference on Saturday. “And I’m going to take a very good look at it.
The Justice Department’s criminal complaint against him was dated just days after Snowden’s name first surfaced as the person who had leaked to the news media that the NSA, in classified surveillance programs, gathered telephone and Internet records to ferret out potential terror plots.
“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” Barr said. “He was peddling it around like a commercial merchant. We can’t tolerate that.”
Snowden remains in Russia to avoid prosecution even as the federal charges against him are pending.