“Snowden did not try to mask his identity, or lie to the FBI. He knew he would pay a personal price. As he has,” 15 former staff members of the Church Committee write in an 8-page letter to President Obama. The Church Committee investigated illegal activity by intelligence agencies in the 1970s, and now its experts are asking for leniency for Edward Snowden, the Guardian reports. According to the Intercept, the group argues that Snowden, acting selflessly, "stimulated reform" through his actions. The letter writers say that without Snowden, Americans may still not know “what intelligence agencies acting in our name had been up to," TechCrunch reports.
The letter gives more weight to the movement to get Snowden pardoned, though the members of the Church Committee don't go that far; they want Snowden to strike a deal with the government. “There is no question that Snowden broke the law," they write. "But previous cases in which others violated the same law suggest leniency." They point to former CIA director David Petraeus, currently being considered by Donald Trump for secretary of State. He leaked confidential information in violation of national security but received no jail time after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. In contrast, Snowden is facing a sentence of 30 years if he returns to the US from Russia, where he has been living in exile.