The White House on Tuesday dismissed a two-years-old public petition asking for a pardon of former fugitive leaker Edward Snowden, saying in its response that the former National Security Agency contractor’s disclosures were “dangerous” and had “had severe consequences for the security of our country.”
The response to the “We the People” petition, which has accrued more than 167,000 signatures since it began in the days after Snowden’s initial batch of leaks surfaced in June 2013, reinforces the Obama administration’s public stance that Snowden is deserving of little leniency. The White House typically responds to “We the People” petitions that earn more than 100,000 signatures.
“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,” Lisa Monaco, the White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, said in the written response.
Snowden has earned a cult following among civil-liberties advocates, who have long argued that his leaks were an act of conscience that should be celebrated, not condemned. But the administration and nearly all lawmakers on Capitol Hill continue to insist Snowden’s actions were unlawful, may have jeopardized national security, and that he could have sought internal means within the NSA to express his grievances about the scope of the government’s surveillance apparatus.
“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,” Monaco said in Tuesday’s response. “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.”
Earlier this month, former Attorney General Eric Holder suggested in an interview with Yahoo News that a “possibility exists” that Snowden could come home and face some sort of reduced sentence. But many politicians, especially Republicans, have said Snowden’s actions were treasonous. Donald Trump, currently leading the GOP field in presidential polls, once suggested the computer analyst should be executed.
In her response, Monaco made reference to President Obama’s efforts to expand civil liberties while maintaining security. Earlier this year, Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which will effectively end the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. call data — the first and most controversial of the programs exposed by Snowden — in favor of a more limited regime.
“We live in a dangerous world,” Monaco said. “We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyberattacks, 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.”
Snowden currently lives under asylum in Moscow, where he has been since fleeing Hong Kong following the first wave of revelations about the NSA’s domestic and international surveillance powers. He faces charges under the Espionage Act and has insisted he would not earn a fair trial if he returned to the United States — though he has expressed a desire to come home at some point.
The Obama administration has brought charges against more people under the Espionage Act than all previous presidencies combined.
What We're Following See More »
"The Trump administration is putting pressure on Senate Republicans to crack down on Democratic efforts to delay its agenda, fueling talk about the need for rules reform among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Republicans are in discussions with Democrats about bipartisan changes to Senate rules to speed up consideration of President Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees, but if that effort flounders — as similar ones have in the past — they’re not ruling out unilateral action."
During his campaign, Donald Trump indicated to Washington Post reporters that he'd like to have White House employees sign nondisclosure agreements. That is, in fact, what he's done, according to a scoop by the Post's Ruth Marcus. "Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event." The administration intended the agreements to remain in force beyond Trump's tenure. An early draft included penalties of up to $10 million.
"Trump is asking for a bill" that would effectively break the WTO. One of the core WTO principles — which has underpinned globalization and trade for 70 years — is an idea called 'most favored nation status.' Countries that belong to the WTO have all agreed to charge the same tariff rate for imports from all other WTO members." But Trump covets reciprocal tariffs "nation-by-nation, product-by-product." The GOP free-traders in Congress are unlikely to support such an effort.