- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2020

Edward J. Snowden, a fugitive leaker whom President Trump said he would consider pardoning, urged him Thursday to weigh sparing another wanted secret-spiller: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

“Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency during your time in office, please: free Julian Assange. You alone can save his life,” Mr. Snowden posted on the social media platform Twitter.

Mr. Assange, a 49-year-old Australian, has been charged with violations of the U.S. Espionage Act and conspiracy to commit computer hacking in connection with his role running the WikiLeaks website.

He was arrested in London in April 2019 and remains in jail while a British court weighs an extradition request made by the Trump administration. A decision is expected next month.

Mr. Assange faces the possibility of spending decades in prison if sent to the U.S. and convicted of crimes he faces related to WikiLeaks soliciting, receiving and publishing classified material.

The material WikiLeaks published includes troves of sensitive diplomatic and military documents supplied to WikiLeaks more than a decade ago by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

Some of Mr. Assange’s supporters have recently urged Mr. Trump to intervene in light of a surge in novel coronavirus infections occurring within Belmarsh Prison, the London detention facility where he is housed.

Mr. Assange’s partner, Stella Morris, said last week that a total of 65 people housed in the same part of the prison have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Posting on social media, Ms. Morris also shared a photograph of two children she conceived with Mr. Assange before his arrest, captioned with an appeal directed squarely at Mr. Trump.

“I beg you, please bring him home for Christmas,” Ms. Morris posted on Twitter.

Mr. Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA, admittedly leaked material to the media in 2013 which exposed its vast surveillance capabilities and operations.

Although he called Mr. Snowden a “traitor” after the leaks occurred, Mr. Trump told reporters in August that he “going to start looking at” the possibility of granting him a presidential pardon.

The president has weeks remaining in the White House after recently losing his race for reelection to Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden and could exercise his pardon powers before leaving office.

Mr. Snowden, 37, has lived in Russia for the last seven years beyond the reach of the U.S. justice system. He has previously said he will return home if guaranteed a trial he considers to be fair.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii Democrat and former 2020 presidential hopeful, has offered congressional resolutions calling on the government to abandon the Snowden and Assange cases. Each has tripartisan support, including the House’s lone Libertarian Party member, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.

Mr. Snowden’s recommendation that Mr. Trump pardon Mr. Assange marks hardly the first time he has suggested clemency for others similarly situated.

In early 2017, during the final days of former President Barack Obama’s administration, Mr. Snowden urged him to free Ms. Manning, the WikiLeaks source, and spare her from serving the rest of a 35-year prison sentence. Mr. Obama followed through days later.

More recently, in September, Mr. Snowden named a list of leakers he believes Mr. Trump should pardon, including fellow former NSA contractor Reality Leigh Winner, among others.

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