Gary Johnson: I Would Pardon Edward Snowden

Amid a renewed debate over Edward Snowden, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson said Saturday he would pardon the whistleblower based on his knowledge of the case.

Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian candidate for president, is interviewed by Matthew Dowd, chief political analyst for ABC News, at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 24, 2016.

Amid a renewed debate about Edward Snowden, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson said Saturday he would pardon the whistleblower based on his knowledge of the case. 

In an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival, Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, was deeply skeptical of how the United States is using the kind of intelligence capabilities brought to light by Snowden. Snowden, a former government contractor, faces charges under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information about the National Security Agency to reporters in 2013. 

"I would like to see ... these satellites turned away from 110 million Verizon users," Johnson said. "I'd like to see the satellites turned away from you and I as U.S. citizens, recognizing that there is due process out there for anyone that's suspected of crime or harm against the rest of us."

A new campaign is underway to persuade President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden, the subject of a biographical movie released last week. Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently added his name to the list of those pushing for a pardon. 

Johnson has previously said he would be inclined to pardon Snowden but appeared to go further Saturday. 

"Based on what I know about Edward Snowden, I would pardon Edward Snowden," Johnson said.

The Libertarian nominee is considered a long-shot candidate for the White House, especially after missing the cut to make the first debate, which is being held Monday. Acknowledging the importance of qualifying — "The only way to have a chance at winning is to be in the presidential debates" — Johnson noted that he has only failed to make the first debate and that there are three in total. 

He also voiced doubt that voters would have their minds made up following Monday night's debate between the two polarizing major-party nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. 

"Is anybody predicting that after Monday night, the entire country is going to collectively go, 'Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, we’re in such good hands'?" Johnson said. "I don’t think so."

Read the Tribune's related coverage:

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  • In announcing his endorsement of Donald Trump this week, former 2016 GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz said he is willing to put the personal acrimony with his former rival behind him.