23:52 GMT20 January 2021
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    The White House on Tuesday dismissed a two-year-old public petition asking for a pardon of National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    The petition, titled "Pardon Edward Snowden," collected 167,954 signatures since its publication to "We the People" in June 2013 – shortly after Snowden first leaked classified documents about NSA surveillance programs.

    "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," the original petition reads. 

    In her response, Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama's adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, said the country has worked to balance security and civil liberties.

    "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.

    If Snowden took issue with the government, Monaco continued, then he should have challenged it by speaking out and engaging in constructive protest – accepting whatever consequences may have followed.

    The US Justice Department charged Snowden with violating the Espionage Act and stealing government property.

    The former NSA contractor traveled to Russia, where he has been living at an undisclosed location while applying for asylum in 21 other countries.

    "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," Monaco wrote.

    A 2014 survey conducted by YouGov found that the majority of Americans (55%) believe Snowden "did the right thing" in exposing the US government’s domestic bulk data collection program, which a federal judge determined in May to be illegal.

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    Tags:
    Russia, Espionage Act, National Security Agency (NSA), Edward Snowden, Lisa Monaco, US
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