The Obama administration shot down a petition calling for the pardon of NSA leaker Edward Snowden on Tuesday.
The President’s Adviser on Homeland Security Lisa Monaco responded to the 167,954 people who pledged their support for Snowden’s pardon, suggesting that the former contractor 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.”
Snowden is currently living under asylum in Moscow.
Monaco reiterated the administration’s commitment to keeping the American people safe while respecting their civil liberties.
“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,” Monaco added.
Ironically, the very intelligence reforms that Moncao cites as evidence of the administration’s concern for civil liberties were the direct result of Snowden’s disclosures.
Earlier this month, former Attorney General Eric Holder said Snowden had “spurred a necessary debate” and that the “possibility exists” for the Justice Department to offer him a plea bargain if he returned to the United States.
Although, the Obama administration has repeatedly called on Snowden to come home and make his case before a jury of his peers, the nature of the charges against him may preclude such a defense.
Snowden has been charged under the Espionage Act, which includes no public-interest or whistle-blower exemption. As Freedom of the Press Foundation co-director Trevor Timm has written, recent case law suggests that arguments about the intent of the leaker, the public value of the information disclosed and the lack of harms caused by the leak are irrelevant to espionage charges and thus inadmissible in court.