The White House Responds to Petition to Pardon Snowden

Hero Snowden
Edward Snowden has proved to be a divisive figure among Americans. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The White House has released a statement in response to a petition, signed by 167,954 people, calling for the pardon of Edward Snowden. Snowden sought asylum in Russia after leaking between 9,000 and 10,000 classified NSA documents in 2013.

"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," reads the petition that was published on the We the People government website.

Lisa Monaco, the president's adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, wrote the statement to the petition. Monaco acknowledged that although there was a need to uphold "civil liberties and privacy protections," but she says Snowden did not act in a "constructive" manner and had put American lives at risk.

"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 Monaco in the statement released in response to the petition.

We the People aims to be a platform for ordinary Americans to petition their government on matters of policy. To merit a government response, a petition must reach 100,000 signatures in 30 days.

Since leaking the documents, Snowden has become a divisive figure in American politics and has been labeled both a national hero and a traitor. The leaks revealed the full scope of international surveillance programs run by the NSA and "Five Eyes," the phrase used for an intelligence alliance composed of the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Many of the spying revelations threatened American relations with its European allies. It was revealed the NSA had bugged German leader Angela Merkel's phone conversations. In June, the French summoned the American ambassador for an explanation in response to reports that America had spied on French President Francois Hollande as well as the previous two French governments.

The White House's full statement:

"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."