It’s been more than two years since Edward Snowden became a name as familiar to the millions of people who have no idea what the NSA actually does it is to the power players in Washington. In that time support for Snowden has waxed and waned, but the position of the White House on Snowden’s actions has never changed.
On Tuesday, White House officials finally responded publicly to a long-running petition to pardon Snowden for his theft of classified documents from the NSA. The answer was an unequivocal “No”, and the administration’s homeland security and counterterrorism advisor said Snowden’s actions have threatened the security of the United States. The White House’s response said that while there is a legitimate need for intelligence reform, Snowden went about it the wrong way.
“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,” Lisa Monaco, homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, wrote in a response to the petition.
“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.”
Snowden, a former NSA and CIA contractor, has been living in Russia for much of the time since his identity as the man behind the NSA stories became public in the summer of 2013. His passport has been canceled by the United States government and he has been charged with espionage. The petition to pardon him has nearly 170,000 signatures and calls Snowden a national hero for exposing NSA programs and tactics.
“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.