White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said the administration would wait for the investigation into Edward Snowden to “proceed” before commenting, sidestepping questions on whether he would characterize the National Security Agency (NSA) leaker as a “traitor.”
Carney declined to address comments from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerMarch is the biggest month for GOP in a decade House markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving MORE (R-Ohio), who called Snowden a "traitor" earlier Tuesday.
He added that the "appropriate posture" is to allow investigators to do their work without interference. Carney said it was "up to investigators to determine whether or not crimes have been committed" and what charges to bring.
Snowden, a 29-year old Defense contractor, claimed responsibility for the NSA surveillance leaks in a video released on Sunday. The former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor travelled to Hong Kong before stories revealing the NSA's secret programs monitoring calls and Internet traffic were published.
The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the leak.
The White House is facing pressure both from lawmakers praising Snowden for his disclosures and those who want him arrested for revealing security secrets.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinA guide to the committees: Senate Dem: Trump's China trademark looks like a quid pro quo Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday said she believed the leaker's actions rose to the level of treason.
Carney said that President Obama did not discuss Snowden’s case with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the pair's joint talks over the weekend in California.
He added that President Obama was not briefed about Snowden's admission until traveling back from the California summit aboard Air Force One on Sunday.
Carney wouldn't say Tuesday whether the United States would request extradition of Snowden from China.
"I am not going to discuss the subject of a recently opened investigation," Carney said. "The whereabouts of this individual, his status … we're going to wait for the investigation to proceed."
Snowden has not been seen since Monday, when he checked out of his downtown hotel.
The White House spokesman reiterated the administration's general belief that leaks of classified information endangered national security.
"Individuals who take an oath to protect classified information are bound by it whether they are classified employees or contractors," Carney said.
Earlier Tuesday, Russian officials said they would consider offering asylum to Snowden.
"If such an appeal is given, it will be considered. We'll act according to facts," said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's spokesman, according to The Guardian.