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‘I’ll Start Looking at’ Pardoning Edward Snowden

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Edward Snowden may be able to return to the United States if Donald Trump chooses to grant the whistleblower a presidential pardon.

According to an Aug. 15 report from Reuters, Trump said he was “going to start looking at” a possible pardon for the whistleblower, who has been living in asylum in Russia since he left the U.S. in 2013. The comments came shortly after Trump told The Post “a lot of people” think that Snowden “is not being treated fairly.”

In a Twitter response to Trump’s comments, Snowden said:

“The last time we heard a White House considering a pardon was 2016, when the very same Attorney General who once charged me conceded that, on balance, my work in exposing the NSA’s unconstitutional system of mass surveillance had been ‘a public service.’”

Under Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, a sitting president has the power to grant reprieves and pardons “for offenses against the United States.” Snowden still faces federal charges for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property. 

Should the U.S. president invoke this authority, it would make the former National Security Agency contractor the 26th person Trump has pardoned since taking office in January 2017.

Snowden still outspoken on crypto

From exile in Russia, Snowden has often expressed his opinions on Bitcoin (BTC), even voicing concerns over its blockchain as “devastatingly public.” 

The servers Snowden used back in 2013 to leak thousands of documents to journalists were reportedly paid for using Bitcoin. In addition, the whistleblower said he “felt like buying Bitcoin” during the March downturn when the price of the coin dropped to $3,782.

In 2019, Snowden had hinted he might turn to crypto in order to circumvent the U.S. government‘s attempt to restrict his access to profits from the publication of his book, Permanent Record. On Aug. 7, a U.S. Magistrate Judge ruled to impose sanctions on the whistleblower over his book sales, stating that he had “unequivocally acted in bad faith.”





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Regulation

Fed governor says CBDCs remain ‘a solution in search of a problem’

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Chris Waller, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, seems to think it’s unnecessary for the U.S. government to develop a central bank digital currency.

Speaking with Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute today, Waller said he was “highly skeptical” of a central bank digital currency, or CBDC, addressing issues in existing payment systems. He feels that the U.S. government should only intervene with a potential digital solution in the event of significant market failures.

“I am not convinced as of yet that a CBDC would solve any existing problem that is not being addressed more promptly and efficiently by other initiatives,” said Waller.

He added:

“The private sector is already developing cheaper payment alternatives to compete with the banking system, hence it seems unnecessary for the Federal Reserve to create a CBDC to drive down payment [systems] we see by banks […] Facilitating speedier payments is not a compelling reason to create a CBDC.”

Screenshot from American Enterprise Institute

Specifically, the Fed governor said he believed the government should not be competing with the private sector given the potential benefits of a CBDC may be outweighed by privacy concerns and would likely not address the issue of financial inclusion or encourage faster and cheaper payments. Waller cited a 2019 survey from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, estimating that only 1% of households in the United States were both unbanked and might be interested in using a CBDC.

Related: Fed Chair says stablecoins need stricter regulation, speaks on CBDC

However, Waller also expressed concern with potential CBDC designs giving the Fed access to “a vast amount of information” from account holders. According to the Fed governor, The system would make it a tempting target for hackers, and be more akin to China monitoring the transactions of its citizens with the digital yuan.

“A CBDC remains a solution in search of a problem.”

Waller’s comments come two months after Fed chair Jerome Powell said the government agency would be issuing a discussion paper on CBDCs in the United States, calling on the public to comment “on issues related to payments, financial inclusion, data privacy, and information security.” Powell said the paper would be released sometime this summer, giving the Fed roughly six more weeks to publish.

Unlike Waller, Powell’s public statements on CBDCs have seemingly been more measured, often saying it is more important “to get it right than it is to be first” when it comes to rolling out a digital dollar. President of the Dallas Federal Reserve Robert Kaplan also said in November that it is “critical that the Fed focuses on developing a digital currency.”

Other U.S. lawmakers have spoken in favor of CBDCs when comparing a central bank issued digital currency with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC). Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said in June that the tokens had “great promise,” calling CBDCs “legitimate digital public money” that could drive out “bogus digital private money” like crypto.