Two years after it was posted, the White House has responded to a petition to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The news, however, isn't anything new: it maintains that Snowden should have gone through official channels to raise his concerns about surveillance, and that he should come back to the US to be tried for his actions.
"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," said White House homeland security and counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco, who answered 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."
"He's running away from the consequences of his actions."
Soon after Snowden leaked information about the NSA's broad internet and phone surveillance programs, federal prosecutors charged him under the Espionage Act. Snowden fled to Russia, where he was granted asylum and remains today. Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly told Russia that the US would not seek the death penalty for Snowden, but he would still face a lengthy prison term. WikiLeaks source Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was given a 35-year sentence just a few months after Snowden's leaks emerged.
Snowden can stay in Russia for at least another two years, but he's still petitioning other countries to grant him asylum. In March, he named Switzerland as an ideal location, saying he had unsuccessfully applied to 21 countries. Last month, a French official obliquely suggested that France could offer him asylum. Snowden has said that he will only return to the US if he is guaranteed a fair trial. "Unfortunately, the Department of Justice is unwilling to agree in that regard," he said in March. "The only thing they have said at this point is that they would not execute me, which is not the same as a fair trial."