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.