Tulsi Gabbard | Facebook
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New Delhi: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has asked US President Donald Trump to pardon whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who have been charged under the country’s Espionage Act.

Gabbard, a former Democratic US presidential candidate, took to Twitter Thursday calling for charges against Snowden and Assange to be dropped and for the Espionage Act to be reformed.

Her request came after Trump tweeted that he has pardoned his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Gabbard, in her tweet, also referred to a video from 6 October in which she had said, “To make sure that if a whistleblower is prosecuted under the Espionage Act that they will have their fair day in court, something that is not currently allowable under the law as it stands today.”

Besides Gabbard, Republican Thomas Massie (Representative for Kentucky’s 4th congressional district) has also asked Trump to pardon Snowden and Assange. Republican Matt Gaetz (representative for Florida’s 1st congressional district) has retweeted a tweet by the country’s Libertarian Party calling for a pardoning of the two men.

Reacting to the tweets, Snowden said, “I have seen more calls for pardon this year than in all others combined. No other issue in our time unites left, right, and center like the struggle to end governments’ abuse of mass surveillance and secrecy, and that would not be true without you — and your advocacy. Thank you.”

Snowden was formerly with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) of US before he turned whistleblower in 2013. He revealed documents about the NSA’s mass surveillance programmes, which were operating outside of the American Constitution. He has since been charged twice under the Espionage Act, each of which carries a maximum of 10-year prison sentence. He is currently in temporary exile in Russia.

WikiLeaks co-founder Assange is presently in a high-security prison cell in Britain awaiting a decision on whether he will be sent to the US where he faces espionage charges.

Wikileaks has published many classified documents. And one of the most controversial ones was in 2010 when it revealed a video from a US military helicopter that showed 18 civilians being killed in Baghdad, Iraq. In the same year, the site also published thousands of documents leaked by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning on how the US military had killed hundreds of civilians during the war in Afghanistan.


Also read: WikiLeaks Assange accused of conspiring with ‘Anonymous’ hackers


Presidential pardon

The US president has the power to pardon or commute sentences related to federal crimes. The US Supreme Court has held that this power cannot be restricted by  Congress and is “granted without limit”.

With less than two months to go for his tenure as the president to end, Trump Wednesday pardoned Flynn who has twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Data from American think tank Pew Research has revealed that Trump has used his pardon powers less than any US president in modern history. He has so far granted pardon to 29 people and made 16 commutations. In contrast, Barack Obama, during his two-term presidency, had issued 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations.


Also read: Is Assange a journalist? It depends what year you ask


 

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