Edward Snowden put out a public plea earlier this week for a pardon from President Obama—and two human rights activists agree with his call for clemency. Making their case for the ex-NSA contractor in the New York Times, Kenneth Roth (director of Human Rights Watch) and Salil Shetty (secretary general of Amnesty International) write that because of "outlaw" Snowden's whistleblowing about NSA surveillance, there were positive ripple effects worldwide, including more transparency in US surveillance procedures, digital privacy mandates from the UN, and enhanced encryption from tech companies. "His actions have brought about a dramatic increase in our awareness of the risks to our privacy in the digital age—and to the many rights that depend on privacy," they write.
Yet Snowden can't escape being called a "traitor," even though Roth and Shetty say no one's looking at the context under which Snowden violated the "antiquated" Espionage Act of 1917. While they acknowledge that the US government's national security is paramount, the "public interest … is crucial" when it comes to whistleblowers. "No one should be prosecuted for exposing human rights violations," they write—especially Snowden, whose revelations they say caused "little impact" in the country's counterterrorism efforts. "It's time to pardon Mr. Snowden and bring him home, not to face the music but to work for the security and privacy of us all." (Read their full argument here.)