How Can Obama Let Criminals Like Clapper Go … Yet Go After Snowden?

Professor Jonathan Turley is one of the nation’s top military and constitutional law experts.


  • Has held a top-secret clearance since the Reagan administration
  • Is the second most cited law professor in the country
  • Has worked as both the CBS and NBC legal analyst during national controversies
  • Ranks 38th in the top 100 most cited ‘public intellectuals’ in a recent study by a well-known judge
  • Is one of the top 10 lawyers handling military cases
  • Has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues
  • Is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues

Turley writes today in the Los Angeles Times:

It may be time for President Obama to show real leadership and acknowledge that Snowden is the reason for the current reform push.

It may be time to pardon Edward Snowden.


Snowden is a better candidate for clemency than many believe.

A presidential pardon is not an endorsement of the underlying actions of an individual. To the contrary, the vast majority of pardons follow criminal convictions. Rather, pardons are issued because of mitigating or extenuating circumstances.


Sometimes clemency is a way of healing a national divide or bringing closure to a national controversy. George Washington pardoned all of those in the Whiskey Rebellion, and John Adams considered it in “the public good” to pardon Pennsylvania rebels. Likewise, Gerald Ford did not condone the crimes of Richard Nixon, but he viewed a pardon as in the best interest of the country.

Presidential pardons can be issued at any time after an alleged offense, even before a person is charged or convicted. Such was the case with Jimmy Carter‘s pardon of draft dodgers and Ronald Reagan‘s pardon of the six officials accused in the Iran-Contra affair.

When considered in light of the thousands of past pardon and commutation recipients, Snowden compares favorably.


Snowden faced a system that was entirely uninterested in, if not outright hostile to, hearing about abuses. Indeed, various people had tried to raise questions about the extent of government surveillance in previous years. I represented one prior NSA whistle-blower who disclosed the massive surveillance program, but the public ignored him and he was threatened with arrest.


A pardon would demonstrate to both Americans and our allies that the White House is serious about reform, and accepts responsibility for the abuses that have been documented.Finally, a pardon would resolve a glaring contradiction in how the White House has dealt with alleged crimes by national security officials. After all, this is the president who pledged early in his first term that no CIA employee would be investigated, let alone prosecuted, for the Bush torture program. Likewise, no one was prosecuted when CIA officials admitted destroying torture tapes to avoid their use in any future prosecution. Finally, when the NSA program was raised in public, National Intelligence Director James Clapper appeared before Congress and lied about the program. He later said that he gave the least untruthful statement he could think of. But it was nevertheless untrue and potentially a crime for which he could be prosecuted.


[Snowden] certainly deserves the same consideration in disclosing abuses that Obama officials received in concealing them from the public.

Indeed, the calls for Clapper’s head are growing louder by the day. If he remains unprosecuted, so should Snowden …

Category: Think Tank, War/Defense

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

25 Responses to “Military Law Expert: Obama Should Pardon Snowden”

  1. ilsm says:

    Everyone in the pentagon has a top secret (TS). Maintaining a TS clearance means no one has prosecuted the incumbent. Programs in the “black world” (TS) are notoriously badly managed. It is a badge of being a player in the not so good system for “national security”.

    The nation is strengthened by those who expose misconduct or waste.

    • linhdtu says:

      Agree completely. I carried a TS for 11 yrs with the AF, being involved in many “dark projects” and although I do believe in the concept and objective of national security, in real life , the excuse of national security is a catch all and coverall for many badly and completely useless programs that are carried on long after they should have been terminated.
      All the secrecy has done is to provide an iron clad job security guarantee for the people involved including myself. I felt this most acutely during the Great Recession of 07-08,when most if not all my engineer friends in the private world suffered layoffs.

  2. MikeNY says:

    Hear, hear.

    IMO Snowden did American citizens ad HUGE favor.

  3. Moss says:

    Neither will happen. Clapper is part of the system, has defended it, part of the status quo. Snowden on the other hand is outside the system, betrayed it. It would take a different administration to pardon Snowden. It is all about politics, protecting the NSA apparatus and all its supporters within the Congress.
    Does anyone even know what the NSA budget is?

  4. constantnormal says:

    Expecting Obama to oppose domestic spying is like expecting Romney to embrace asset redistribution … … I know, LaRouche is hardly the acme of unbiased information, but these items are independently verifiable, and this is a nice compendium …

  5. ricardoalifernandez says:

    J.T., I am convinced your right. In addition at the very least we need H.R. 3361/ S. 1599 passed.

    Thanks to Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) we can get a start on stopping the abusive application of the state secrets privilege and related doctrine and policy abuses.
    Without reform the intelligence gathering pedophiles etc. will be sticking their protrusions where they don’t belong. We need legislation to recognize the last sixty plus years of the abusive application of the state secrets privilege and related doctrine and policy abuses and make it far more onerous to engage in future abuses. If we don’t stop the abusive application of the state secrets privilege and related doctrine and policy abuses we will be perpetually replaying the likes of the tax payer funded oligarchy occult mind-control abuses of the last sixty plus years.

  6. david_12321 says:

    Not happening. Snowden is going to see the inside of a solitary prison cell and is lucky to be a US traitor because other countries would have executed him by now. Anyone else here ever hold a security clearance and understand the rules?** Treason. Looks like Turley is trolling for work. Lawyers.

    **Some thing not talked about – The spying done on American citizens done by the NSA and other agencies is done for Department of Homeland Security. Why do people argue that the dog has done wrong when it is following orders?

    • constantnormal says:

      I thought that the Nuremberg trials established once and for all that “just following orders” is no excuse for criminal behavior.

      Correct me if I am wrong, but the driver of the getaway car in a bank robbery where people were killed is just as liable under the law as the perp that pulled the trigger.

      • david_12321 says:

        I thought that the Nuremberg trials were a farce where of thousands guilty, only 18 were tried for war crimes or crimes against humanity. Stalin thought thousands of germans should be executed and Churchill

        Back to this, Snowden committed treason and the NSA follows valid orders given to it by our freely elected government. Homeland directs what domestic intel is captured, recorded and examined. The executive branch runs homeland with oversight by the legislative. It’s like some conspiracy exists such that no one comments on or complains about that part of government that has taken away you privacy or right to privacy.

      • 23 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich, though one of the defendants, Martin Bormann, was tried in absentia, while another, Robert Ley, committed suicide within a week of the trial’s commencement. Not included were Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels, all of whom had committed suicide several months before the indictment was signed”

      • linhdtu says:

        I never thought much about “the treason” principle behind the conservative argument.
        Based on that reasoning, there can never been any crime committed by any individual no matter how heinous it can be. All the Waffen SS swore a personal oath to Adolf Hitler and Adolf Hitler wanted to wipe out the Jews from the face of this earth. So based on that, no matter how many Jews any Waffen SS kill, no one can ever been prosecuted. Following the Malmedy massacre of US POW by SS, there was a tit for tat response from the US Army where no Waffen SS were taken alive. My point in bringing these old stories back to life is that without a higher morality cause than my country, mein fuhrer etc …, every thing falls back to “might makes right” other wise known as the law of the victors.
        To have a higher moral by which most of the time I and most of society fail by, makes for a much better world than one in which there can be nothing higher than what come across to me to be no more than tribal traditions dressed up as patriotism.

    • deafndumb says:

      A few comments about your various blogs:
      1. Stalin did in fact kill over a million German soldiers in his gulags and elsewhere after their capture.
      2. Many European countries as well as our Canadian friends have abandoned the death penalty.
      3. Lifelong solitary confinement is worse than death. It constitutes cruel and unusual punishment according to some judges.
      4. The NSA obviously has misled Congress and God knows who else for some time. Following orders that you know or should know to be unconstitutional should be punishable and often is.
      5. Eric Snowden literally put his life on the line in order to alert us to the massive violation of our privacy. Regardless of denials by everyone in Washington about the practice, I was told several years ago that my conversations and emails are not just recorded. I assure you that I am just a deafndumb Archie Bunker type living next door. Where I fault Eric is in fleeing to China and Russia while still carrying the goods which I strongly suspect they have obtained.

  7. louiswi says:

    How Snowden will be treated will be left to the disciples of Edward Bernays–

    That is to say, whose propaganda machine will win the day?

    For the U.S. citizen, he is a hero and a true patriot. Of course, the U.S. citizen matters little on this subject.

  8. > Not happening. Snowden is going to see the inside of a solitary prison cell and is lucky to be a US traitor because other countries would have executed him by now.

    I love these confident predictions . . . personally, I think this story has a long ways to play out, with the outcome far from clear . . .

    • david_12321 says:

      US History is pretty consistent with what happens to spys and traitors. Snowden will probably be in a cell near Robert Hanssen or treated just like good old Bob. It’s kind of weird how he “hangs out” in a country that has a -very- colorful history dealing with what they feel are traitors. Putin is old school KGB and is only doing this to give the finger to the US (security agencies).

  9. VennData says:

    Jail the crooks wise ass.

  10. rd says:

    I don’t think it will happen for a long time. The chief reason being that he is leaking a huge quantity of information and is indiscriminate about it. He could likely have achieved the same ends with a much, much smaller leak than this. While I think the current NSA surveillence program is both un-Constitutional and in violation of the general social contract between the American government and the population put in place by the founding fathers, emptying out the contents of all the filing cabinets of the NSA out onto the street is likely to do significant harm to many people.

    In the end, we can only hope that American citizens can realize that it is not possible to protect everybody from any potential threat by somebody who wants to do harm. It is very bizarre that the US has the implicit contradiction of an almost complete lack of gun laws while condoning the use of massive surveillence programs.

  11. theexpertisin says:

    I’d be happy if practically every web site I peruse for news and information did not have spy trackers scooping up bits and pieces of my routine. In the past five months, my DO NOT TRACK ME app attached to Mozilla Firefox has blocked over 75,000 unwanted infringements.

    On a personal level, Snowden is a sideshow.

  12. kaleberg says:

    George W Bush pardoned Scooter Libby who seriously damaged our espionage networks in Iran and China by exposing a CIA working operative, Valerie Plame. Of course, Libby was working in a good cause, helping to promote the Iraq War as a way of getting the government off of Osama bin Laden’s back.

    • Um, no he didn’t — he did not Pardon Libby.

      What Bush did was Commutes Libby’s Prison Sentence after he served 2.5 years.

      But there is no doubt that the Bush White House outed a CIA spy as payback for criticism of foreign policy and falsifying phone intel as an excuse to invade Iraq.

      Its been a few years, but you forget what evil motherfuckers the Bush Admin were. A dark period of American history

  13. boogerrogue says:

    So, if the US pardons Snowden, does that mean he will stop leaking?

    Doubt it, his “reporters” will continue to release data as they are starting a new online news business and this will be good for stories for many years.

    If Putin and his own parents can’t get him to stop, nobody can…

  14. LeftCoastIndependent says:

    Obama pardon Snowden ? Haha. More like Obama has a drone over his head right now. Let’s all face it, Obama isn’t the guy that people voted for in 2008.

  15. fedbob says:

    I believe it was Bush I, not Reagan, who pardoned the Iran Contra defendants in 1992. The treatment of Clapper is contrasted with the treatment of Richard Helms (the former CIA chief was prosecuted by the Carter Administration for false testimony).