Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is not a fan of government whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Snowden’s high-profile 2013 leaks of classified NSA documents revealed many of the spy agency’s intelligence gathering and espionage secrets. Human-rights activists praised his actions while government leaders complained that that he damaged U.S. relations with other countries and hurt national security.
At the annual TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Carter was asked whether he believed Snowden should get a presidential pardon for leaking classified materials. Snowden, who faces roughly 30 years in prison for allegedly violating the U.S. Espionage Act, revealed this week to the Guardian that he has petitioned President Barack Obama to pardon him.
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Carter would not directly comment on Snowden or his pardon request, calling it a “law enforcement” matter. But he expressed dismay about government workers who leak classified materials.
“All of us who enjoy the public trust and who handle classified information have a responsibility,” Carter said. “And I think to arrogate to oneself the authority and to basically take something that has been entrusted to you, that is something I can’t condone.”
Carter said that Snowden’s leaks caused “tremendous harm to our security” and to U.S. corporations, and that they “complicated our relations with foreign powers.” He said Snowden granted himself “a power to do things to other people that was not part of the deal when you were entrusted with the position in the first place.”
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Carter’s comments come in light of a new biographical film, Snowden, by director Oliver Stone that is to premiere Friday. Stone has also called on Obama to pardon Snowden. Recently, Stone told reporters at the Toronto film festival that the film’s makers “hope that Mr. Obama has a stroke of lightning and he sees the way, despite the fact that he’s prosecuted vigorously eight whistleblowers under the Espionage Act,” according to an Agence France-Presse report.