Adding to a trend of polling Twitter on significant issues, Elon Musk is asking users to opine on whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden should be pardoned.
Both Assange and Snowden are facing serious charges in the United States but are regarded by their supporters as critical whistleblowers of national security secrets.
“I am not expressing an opinion, but did promise to conduct this poll. Should Assange and Snowden be pardoned?” Musk asked in a tweet on Saturday evening. More than 14 hours into the 24-hour poll, with more than 2.6 million responses, a little more than 80 percent of users chose “yes.”
I am not expressing an opinion, but did promise to conduct this poll.
Should Assange and Snowden be pardoned?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 4, 2022
Assange, a 51-year-old from Australia, is best known for his leadership of WikiLeaks, a group that has given a platform for whistleblowers to release sensitive documents. That includes publishing documents stolen from Democrats during the 2016 election cycle.
Assange was arrested in 2019 outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after a years-long asylum was revoked. He was sentenced to 50 months in prison for skipping bail in 2012 when he faced possible extradition to Sweden in sex crimes investigations that have since been dropped.
This year, Assange has been fighting extradition to the United States to stand trial on charges stemming from the publication of classified documents more than a decade ago. A group of news outlets, including The New York Times, criticized the U.S. government in a letter last week, saying that indicting Assange under the Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that jeopardizes national security reporting. Their letter did not voice support for federal prosecutors to drop the part of the case related to accusations of a hacking-related conspiracy, though it did note “some of us are concerned” about it.
Snowden, 39, has been charged by the Justice Department with two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and one charge of stealing the property of the U.S. federal government after he left his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii in 2013. He then flew out of the country and leaked classified information, including documents about domestic surveillance programs.
Snowden has been living in exile in Russia for years, and on Friday, his lawyer said Snowden had sworn an oath of allegiance to Russia and received a Russian passport.
Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who completed a $44 billion takeover of Twitter earlier this year, held a poll last month on the social media platform asking users if former President Donald Trump should be reinstated. Trump was banned after the Capitol riot in January 2021. After a slim majority voted in Trump’s favor, the former president’s account was reinstated, though Trump has yet to tweet anything since then.