Demonstrators hold placards supporting former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden during a protest against government surveillance on October 26, 2013 in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN—AFP/Getty Images
By Kate Samuelson
September 13, 2016

Edward Snowden argued in a new interview that his massive leak of NSA surveillance activities was “not only morally right” but also “left citizens better off,” as he called on President Obama to grant him a pardon before he leaves office in January.

Speaking to The Guardian via a video link from Moscow where he is in exile, the former NSA contractor said that when assessing the consequences of his disclosures, it should be clear that people had benefitted.

“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists—for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” he said.

Snowden has been charged in the U.S. with violations of the Espionage Act for revealing classified information, though Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder and others have said they welcome the debate fueled by the leaks.

Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com.

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