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Editorial boards float prospect of pardon for Snowden

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NSA leaker Edward Snowden attends a news conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, left, Friday, July 12, 2013.

The editorial boards of The Guardian and The New York Times pushed Thursday for the Obama administration to give NSA leaker Edward Snowden a pardon or at least a "substantially reduced punishment." 

Editorials in both newspapers argued that Snowden has done a public service by blowing the whistle on NSA surveillance and data collection. The editorial in The Guardian, which first published information based on Snowden's leaks, acknowledged that the Obama administration has shown "little patience" for leakers and said it is "difficult to imagine Mr. Obama giving Mr. Snowden the pardon he deserves." 

However, the newspaper questioned what would happen if the Supreme Court ultimately agrees with those who say the leaks raised "serious concerns." 

"... is it then conceivable that he could be treated as a traitor or common felon?" the editorial said. "We hope that calm heads within the present administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr Snowden to return to the US with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself." 

An official leading the NSA task force assessing the leaks recently floated the possibility of amnesty for Snowden, who is currently living in Russia under political asylum. 

But the White House has not backed off its position that Snowden should face felony charges in the United States. A former CIA director, James Woolsey, went so far as to say Snowden should be hanged. 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say Snowden has damaged national security with his leaks. 

The New York Times, however, argued that considering the "enormous value" of the information he revealed, "Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight." 

"He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower."