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White House: We won’t pardon Snowden - The Hill 20150728

White House: We won’t pardon Snowden - The Hill 20150728
By Julian Hattem

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.

“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.

OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO Pardon Edward Snowden
A Response to Your Petition on Edward Snowden
Thanks for signing a petition about Edward Snowden. This is an issue that many Americans feel strongly about. Because his actions have had serious consequences for our national security, we took this matter to Lisa Monaco, the President's Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Here's what she had to say:

"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."