The two most famous American whistleblowers have requested pardons from outgoing US President Barack Obama in his final days in office.
US whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning asked the soon-to-be-former president for clemency or commutations, according to a report published by Politico on Friday.
The two were reportedly joined by retired Marine Corps General James Cartwright and former CIA officer John Kiriakou, standing in the line for clemency order.
Their requests, as Politico reported, neither meet requirements for clemency under the US Justice Department, nor fall under Obama's plan to reduce sentences of nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to long terms in federal prisons.
“I think he’s going to announce a lot of names in the next few weeks. I don’t think any of them will be these big-name figures,” Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, told the news publication. “This administration does have an aversion to high-profile cases generally.”
Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, wanted in the US for spilling state secrets, currently lives in Russia under asylum granted by President Vladimir Putin .
During his tenure at the NSA, Snowden downloaded tens of thousands of classified top secret US documents and then published them. The documents exposed the huge extent of US spying across the world, on friends and foes alike.
The publication of the documents in June 2013 dealt a heavy blow to the US government, causing it an international scandal.
"I can't pardon somebody who hasn't gone before a court and presented themselves," Obama said in November about Snowden.
“I think that Mr. Snowden raised some legitimate concerns. How he did it was something that did not follow the procedures and practices of our intelligence community. If everybody took the approach that I make my own decisions about these issues, then it would be very hard to have an organized government or any kind of national security system,” he noted.
Politico reported that a Snowden trial would likely be a public spectacle and lead to more revelations about the US government surveillance.
The 33-year-old is wanted by the US government for treason and faces up to 30 years in prison. Many people around the world, however, consider him a hero who did what was morally correct and benefited the public.
Manning (seen above), the former US army soldier, received a 35-year prison sentence from a military judge after being convicted at a court martial of disclosing hundreds of thousands of classified and unclassified diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, by far the longest sentence ever imposed in a leak case.
In early 2010, the 28-year-old disclosed diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world, incident logs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, intelligence dossiers about Guantánamo Bay detainees and a video of a helicopter airstrike in Baghdad in which two Reuters journalists were killed.
The transgender former Army intelligence analyst was born Bradley Manning and after her conviction in 2014, she announced that she wanted to be known as Chelsea Manning and referred to by female pronouns.
She attempted suicide after she was sentenced to 14 days in solitary confinement in September, her punishment for a previous attempt to end her life in July.
About 116,000 people have signed a petition on the White House website, asking Obama to commute Manning’s sentence to the roughly six years he has already served.
General Cartwright (pictured above), who served as deputy chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been the target of a US Justice Department investigation into a leak of information about a highly classified operation to hobble Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability through cyber-sabotage in 2010.
The general admitted that he had leaked information about the Stuxnet worm, reportedly part of a US-Israeli cyber attack to dismantle Iran’s nuclear power.
Cartwright retired in 2011 and was stripped of his security clearance in 2013, pleading guilty before US District Court Judge Richard Leon in Washington.
According to media reports, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant was at the center of the cyber attack. The offensive failed as it was averted in time by Iranian experts.
Kiriakou was convicted in January 2013 for disclosing classified information about a fellow CIA agent involved in torture operations, which he said was in retaliation for “blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program and for telling the public that torture was official US government policy.”
The former CIA officer was released on February 3 last year. He now faces a further three months of house arrest and another three years of probation. Following his release, Kiriakou said his conviction was not about leaking classified information but about exposing torture.
A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on Obama’s plans regarding his clemency power during his last days of tenure. It is speculated that the outgoing president may prefer to avoid a politically charged pardoning.