The two year long wait for petition to pardon Snowden cut short by the White House “No” verdict
Edward Snowden, a former NSA and CIA contractor, became a familiar name more than two years ago when United States Federal Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against him and charged him with theft of classified documents from the NSA, and on two counts for violating the Espionage Act.
On Tuesday, after two years, the White House finally responded to the petition to pardon Snowden with a “No” and saying thanks for signing. The White House’s response also added that while there is a lawful need for intelligence reform, Snowden chose the wrong way to do it. The pardon petition was signed by more than 167,000 people.
“Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a 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 petition says.
In a statement issued by Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s adviser on terrorism and homeland security said “We live in a dangerous world. We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address. The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate and those who are willing to engage in it here at home.”
The White House in Tuesday’s response also accepted that “This is an issue that many Americans feel strongly about.”
In response to the petition, Monaco said: “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.”
Monaco has asked for return of Snowden from Russia to the United States, where he faces criminal charges.
“Snowden currently faces three felony charges under the Espionage Act of 1917, a World War I-era law that doesn’t allow for a public interest defense — so he would be unable to argue in court that his decision to give classified documents to journalists was for the greater good,” Monaco wrote.
“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”
The Snowden response was one of 20 responses to what the White House called “ We the People” backlog. The White House has been receiving criticism for avoiding awkward topics in spite of gathering public support.
Giving explanation, Jason Goldman, the Chief Digital Officer of White House said that this is a part of a larger move in a blog post on Medium. “[F]rom now on, if a petition meets the signature goal within a designated period of time, we will aim to respond to it — with an update or policy statement — within 60 days wherever possible.”
The responses to the Snowden response on Twitter, which included reactions from signers of the petition, were highly disapproving.