Edward Snowden has been taking refuge in Russia for quite a few years now to avoid charges under the Espionage Act that he currently faces in the United States.
While he successfully obtained asylum in Russia and even became a citizen of the country back in 2022, he can’t make his way back to the U.S. right now if he wants to continue avoiding those charges.
That could change, though, if a surprise candidate ends up winning the White House in 2024.
Earlier this week, GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said that if he were to be elected president, he would pardon Snowden, which would pave the way for him and his family to return to America.
Snowden was a former federal contractor for the National Security Agency. In 2013, he leaked classified documents that related to various digital surveillance programs that the federal government as well as the governments of allies were running.
While the U.S. government is charging him with various crimes – each of which could see him spend 10 years in jail – Ramaswamy has a different take on the situation. On an appearance on The Hugh Hewitt Show, the GOP candidate called Snowden’s acts “heroic.”
“[T]here’s a certain heroism in it at the same time – is that he took a risk that he didn’t have to take in order to actually expose to the public what the public did not already know.”
In the same interview, Ramaswamy praised the WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. He also promised that he would pardon Assange if he were elected president.
WikiLeaks is a site that publishes many government secrets they are able to obtain from sources. The site gained a ton of notoriety when it published more than 250,000 diplomatic cables from the U.S., many of which were classified.
They were supplied to the site by Bradley Manning, a former U.S. Army Specialist, who is now a transgender woman who goes by Chelsea Manning.
Ramaswamy said Assange was “a member of a disfavored political class at the time,” and so he was unable to get a commutation or pardon. Manning ended up getting a commutation in 2017 by President Barack Obama, but Assange did not.
The GOP candidate said that the willingness of Snowden to “take a risk” and to drive “progress” were reminiscent of the acts taken by civil rights icon Rosa Parks. In 1955, she famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama, that was racially segregated.
Despite that strong comparison, Ramaswamy did said that he didn’t think the two people’s substance of the actions were the same. As he clarified:
“It was progress of very different kinds, but yes, did Edward Snowden contribute to us making progress in delivering accountability to a part of the national security establishment that wasn’t previously held accountable? Absolutely.”
Snowden was born in America, so he’s still a U.S. citizen despite his actions. He can’t be stripped of his citizenship.