The Obama administration on July 28 announced a decision to refuse a pardon to Edward Snowden, the former contractor of the National Security Administration who leaked thousands of classified government documents to the media two years ago.
“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, President Barack Obama’s adviser on terrorism, said in a statement.
After his revelations were made public, the U.S. government filed espionage charges against Snowden. Since the scandal broke, Snowden has been living in Moscow, Russia, where he receives asylum from the Russian government, The Guardian reports.
The “We the People” petition was initially launched after Snowden released the information, which has received 168,000 signatures since its inception. The petition characterizes Snowden as “a national hero … (who) 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.”
“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,” Monaco added. “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.”
Despite the majority of politicians not supporting Snowden’s actions, members of Congress passed overwhelming reform to surveillance methods and data collection procedures earlier this year. The USA Freedom Act was passed in June, ultimately ending the government’s practice of collecting bulk personal data from Americans by transferring responsibility to phone companies.
The White House still insisted that Snowden, “should come home to the U.S., and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime.”