Since the petition exceeded 100,000 signatories way back in 2013, the White House has officially been required to respond for a while, but failed to answer — though it had previously indicated it would.
The original petition stated:
“Edward Snowden is a national hero and 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.”
It will probably surprise nobody to learn that, even with almost 170,000 backers, the petition hasn’t been successful — in fact, official responses have been rather scathing.
Lisa Monaco, the President’s advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, says that rather than “constructively addressing these issues,” Snowden’s “dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country.”
She adds that rather than facing the consequences of his actions, he’s “running away” from them.
This echoes previous statements from various government officials and the U.S. Justice Department, suggesting that if Snowden were to leave asylum in Russia and return to the U.S., he would face criminal charges. Indeed, he’s currently up against at least three charges, all under the Espionage Act.
The full White House statement reads as follows:
“A Response to Your Petition on Edward Snowden
Thanks for signing a petition about Edward Snowden. This is an issue that many Americans feel strongly about. Because his actions have had serious consequences for our national security, we took this matter to Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Here’s what she had to say:
“Since taking office, President Obama has worked with Congress to secure appropriate reforms that balance the protection of civil liberties with the ability of national security professionals to secure information vital to keep Americans safe.
As the President said in announcing recent intelligence reforms, “We have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our Constitution require.”
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.
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.
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.”