On June 9, 2013, shortly after Snowden began leaking documents about the National Security Agency’s secretive spying programs, a Rochester, New York resident set up the petition on the White House’s We the People website. It garnered well over 167,000 signatories from across the country since Russia granted and extended temporary asylum to Snowden.
“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 petitioners wrote.
After two years of ignoring the petition, the Obama administration finally responded with a clipped dismissal by Lisa Monaco, the president’s advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism.
“Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed”
While Snowden maintains he was acting in the best interests of the American people, he did not act appropriately by leaking the information, she wrote.
“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 wrote in the response.
“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,” she continued. “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.”
In March, Snowden revealed that, since fleeing the country, he has been in negotiations with the US government to secure terms for a fair trial should he decide to return to America. However, he says that he has no plans to do so in the near future because the US government is not willing to offer him a fair trial at the moment.