White House: We won’t pardon Snowden

White House: We won’t pardon Snowden
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The White House has stood by its refusal to pardon National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Instead, it said, the former government contractor should return to the U.S. and “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,” White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco said in response to a petition about Snowden on Tuesday.

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“Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions.”

The comments are similar to those that all level of government officials have given in recent months about Snowden, who is currently living in Russia to avoid espionage charges in the U.S. that could keep him imprisoned for decades.

While the Obama administration was at one point discussing the possibility of leniency for Snowden, those talks appear to have dissolved. Still, former Attorney General Eric Holder recently said that the “possibility exists” for a deal with Snowden at some point. 

“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,” Monaco wrote in response to the White House petition. The petition was created in the summer of 2013, shortly after Snowden released his documents, and has more than 167,000 signatures.

“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,” she added.

Snowden’s supporters said that’s easier said than done.

The nature of the Espionage Act charges brought against Snowden would make it impossible for him to have a fair day in court in which he could reasonably offer his side of the story, they allege.

As evidence, they pointed to the case brought against Chelsea Manning, another government leaker who has begun a 35-year prison sentence for her actions.

If Snowden were promised a fair trial, he would “love” to come back to the U.S., he has said. 

The controversy over Snowden’s status is all the more vexing because his leak of classified intelligence documents unquestionably forced Congress to dramatically rein in the NSA earlier this summer. Though the Obama administration still considers him to be a criminal, its hand was forced by the debate that Snowden began.