White House petition to pardon Edward Snowden gathers steam

U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower EdwardSnowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from a video during an interview with the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. The 29-year-old contractor at the NSA revealed top secret U.S. surveillance programmes to alert the public of what is being done in their name, the Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday. Snowden, a former CIA technical assistant who was working at the super-secret NSA as an employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, is ensconced in a hotel in Hong Kong after leaving the United States with secret documents. Footage taken June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Courtesy of The Guardian/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from a video during an interview with the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. (Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras/The Guardian via Reuters)

More than 54,000 people are petitioning the White House to pardon Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who has admitted leaking information about the nation's classified surveillance programs.

The petition, launched late Sunday afternoon, gathered more than 54,347 signatures by 5:30 p.m. Tuesday..

"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 petition reads.

The White House does not respond to petitions until they garner 100,000 signatures, and typically does not comment when the petition concerns an ongoing investigation. For example, it declined to comment on a petition granting clemency to Chris Williams, who is facing 80 years in prison for growing medical marijuana, or Native American activist Leonard Peltier.

The push to pardon Snowden is relatively fast-moving: by contrast, the petition to free  Bradley Manning — now facing a court martial for providing a trove of classified diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks — has gathered just 6,619 signatures.

However, the current drive has yet to match the petition calling for new gun-control measures in the wake of last year's shooting in Newtown, Conn., which got 100,000 signatures within 24 hours. And other issues have galvanized Americans in greater numbers recently: A petition launched last month questioning election irregularities in Malaysia has collected 223,369 signatures.

The White House declined to comment on the Snowden petition Monday.

However, it's fair to say the White House does not appear to be inclined to grant Snowden clemency at the moment. On Sunday, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the intelligence community is “reviewing the damage” the leaks have done. “Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law,” said the spokesman, Shawn Turner.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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