After two years of silence, the White House finally responded with a “No” to a popular online petition on its website to issue a “full, free, and absolute pardon” for National Security Agency (NSA) whistle blower Edward Snowden.
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) July 28, 2015
On Tuesday, July 29, Lisa Monaco, advisor on homeland security and terrorism to President Barack Obama, said in a statement that Snowden must be held accountable for his actions and return to the United States to be judged by a jury of his peers.
“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,” said Monaco, who thanked the more than 167,000 people who signed the 2013 petition.
Monaco added that the Obama administration’s recent surveillance reforms, which attempt to limit and add transparency to the way the government collects data, balance “the protection of civil liberties with the ability of national security professionals to secure information vital to keep Americans safe” in a dangerous world.
According to founding editor of the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of the NSA’s mass surveillance two years ago, Snowden is willing to accept the legal consequences of his acts. However, under the Espionage Act, Greenwald added, Snowden would be barred from arguing any justification for the leaks, rendering a trial in the United States unfair.
Turning himself in, according to Daniel Ellsberg, a former US military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, would bring nothing good to Snowden. He would be “incommunicado … almost certainly confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment” and under “cruel, inhuman and degrading” conditions.
A few weeks before the White House’s response, former US Attorney General Eric Holder stated that Snowden could strike a deal to return to the country without jail time, while other officials suggested that the Obama administration would benefit from the symbolic victory of having Snowden serve some time in a US jail rather than living in Russia.