Outgoing US President Barack Obama has said that he cannot pardon 33-year-old former NSA contractor Edward Snowden currently in exile from US authorities in Russia.

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The statement came in response to mounting pressure from vocal advocates of Snowden, including prominent privacy groups, civil libertarians, and well known writers.

While President Obama did concede that Snowden’s actions had “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… I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves, so that’s not something that I would comment on at this point.”

Obama also raised the argument that if Snowden did return to the USA before his presidency ended, that it might be a different matter entirely.

“At the point at which Mr. Snowden wants to present himself before the legal authorities and make his arguments or have his lawyers make his arguments, then I think those issues come into play. Until that time, what I’ve tried to suggest — both to the American people, but also to the world — is that we do have to balance this issue of privacy and security.”

And while the current President of the USA seems fairly adamant about the above point, some legal experts disagree. According to them, they claim that Obama could pardon Snowden without him having to return to the US. Some people familiar with the law say Obama can pardon Snowden without him returning to the U.S. Evan Greer of the Fight For The Future group told a news publication that “Obama’s claim that he cannot pardon Edward Snowden is misleading and factually incorrect.”

Edward Snowden himself has already made his case for a pardon in September when he was interviewed by the Guardian newspaper. His argument that exposing the way in which Western governments were spying on their own citizens was a necessity. He also pointed out that the US changed its intelligence gathering policies because of the information leaked:

“If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off.”

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