The German Tagesschau writes* that Snowden was not among those pardoned by Obama, contrary to prior speculations.

As far as I am aware, pardoning means to reduce a sentence. However, I thought that Snowden was not convicted of anything at this time. Could he still be pardoned by the POTUS, and what exactly would such a pardon mean?

* link is in German

  • 1
    But keep in mind that trump expressed his hatred for snowden
    – Lynob
    Jan 18, 2017 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


Yes, the constitution allows pardoning people who haven't been charged.

Reduction of a sentence is not technically considered pardoning. A President can pardon someone who hasn't be charged. Pardons make an individual immune to any conviction in future.

Article 2, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives the President the right to pardon:

[The President] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

An example is Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon after Nixon resigned. The pardon absolved the former president of "all offenses against the United States which he … has committed or may have committed or taken part in" between the date of his inauguration in 1969 and his resignation in August 1974.

This Slate article further describes why people not charged can be pardoned.

Snowden can actually be pardoned, Obama may have meant that he "won't" pardon Snowden rather than "can't" pardon. So, the pardon means that he won't be charged for all offences he may have committed.

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    WRT the last paragraph: Also, keep in mind that "can't" doesn't always mean "it's physically impossible". It might mean "it's infeasible", or "the costs outweigh the benefits".
    – anon
    Jan 18, 2017 at 6:14
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    @QPaysTaxes: Or "It goes against my code of conduct". and such.
    – user8229
    Jan 18, 2017 at 22:34

As far as I am aware, pardoning means to reduce a sentence.

That's commutation. While that's part of the pardon power in the United States, that's not actually a pardon.

As per Wikipedia:

A pardon is a government decision to allow a person who has been convicted of a crime to be free and absolved of that conviction, as if never convicted.

Apparently it can be used to forestall a conviction as well. For example, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon who was never formally convicted. So there is precedent for pardoning someone prior to conviction and thereby preventing prosecution.

Barack Obama could pardon Edward Snowden to prevent prosecution by later administrations.

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    Guess it would be more to grant immunity for crimes he may or may not have committed. Jan 19, 2017 at 1:03

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