MOSCOW, Ru. – In a New York Times op-ed piece set for release this week, Former CIA system administrator Edward Snowden will announce his intention to enter the 2016 U.S. Senate race in his home state of North Carolina. Snowden, who in 2013, leaked thousands of classified documents detailing the U.S. government’s global and domestic surveillance programs, told The Intercept he intends to run as an Independent to replace incumbent North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr.
On June 14, 2013, the U.S. government formerly charged Snowden with theft of government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act through the unauthorized communication of classified material with each charge carrying a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. However, the Espionage Act, which was signed into law in 1917 just after the U.S. entered WWI, was never meant to be used against whistle-blowers. Rather, it was intended to prevent direct support to America’s enemies during times of war.
Yvonne Bunton, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who specializes in Constitutional law, is representing Mr. Snowden and has filed an appeal in federal court to have the charges overturned. “In light of the decision by congress to end the NSA’s illegal spying program, I’m confident Mr. Snowden will be cleared of all charges in time for him to launch his campaign for the Senate,” Ms. Bunton said. Citing the case of former CIA director General David Petraeus, who, in April, was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine for disclosing classified information to his biographer, Ms. Bunton called the Obama administration’s treatment of Snowden “absolutely disgraceful by comparison.”
Several current and former United States congressmen, including Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, have already publicly endorsed Snowden. In a televised interview Sunday evening, Senator Paul commended Snowden’s actions, calling him an “American hero,” and said if Snowden were “just a few years older, he’d be my first and only choice for VP.” The Republican senator is spearheading a bipartisan initiative along with twenty-three other congressmen to overturn the charges against the former government contractor and clear his name. “People like Edward Snowden are what keep America great,” Paul said.
Mr. Snowden told The Intercept that if elected, he plans to use his position in the senate to fight government secrecy and “uphold the right to privacy granted to all Americans under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” Elections for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina will take place on November 8, 2016. Mr. Snowden is one of several prospective candidates hoping to unseat Senator Richard Burr, who is running for a possible third term. Snowden currently resides in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum in 2013, but plans to return to the U.S. once the charges levied against him are dropped.