White House rejects ‘We the People’ petition for Edward Snowden pardon

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Michael Walsh
·Reporter
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Edward Snowden appears live via video during a meeting at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, in June. (Photo: Vincent Kessler/Reuters)

The White House has issued a scathing response to a petition asking that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden be granted amnesty.

The petition, titled simply “Pardon Edward Snowden,” garnered 167,954 signatures since its publication to “We the People” on June 9, 2013.

“Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs,” the original petition reads.  

In her response, Lisa Monaco, Obama’s adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, said the country needs to make important decisions about the balance between security and civil liberties.

“Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it,” she wrote.

Monaco said that if Snowden felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, he should have engaged in “a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept[ed] the consequences of his actions.”

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Edward Snowden leaked classified information from the National Security Agency. (Photo: CNET)

In May 2013, Snowden leaked classified information about the NSA’s global and domestic surveillance operations to journalist Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.

The following month, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Snowden with violating the 1917 Espionage Act and stealing government property. A few days later, the former NSA contractor traveled to Russia, where he has been living at an undisclosed location while applying for asylum in 21 other countries.

Monaco argued Snowden should come back to the U.S. to be judged by a jury of his peers, rather than hiding behind “the cover of an authoritarian regime.”

“Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions,” she said.

Last March, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said that his client would be willing to return to the U.S. if he were guaranteed a fair trial, according to Russian government-owned news agency TASS.

“Edward Snowden is ready to return to the U.S.,” he said, “but on the condition that he will be given guarantees on receiving a fair and impartial trial.”