The White House has rejected a petition to pardon National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, dubbing the former contractor's revelations about the US government's surveillance apparatus as "dangerous" and compromising to national security.
Responding to a "We the People" petition, the Obama administration on 28 July reiterated its belief that Snowden should face criminal charges for his actions.
The petition was launched after Snowden's initial leaks were published in the Guardian two years ago.
The statement from White House
"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, Obama's adviser on homeland security and counter-terrorism, said in a statement.
"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."
The US government filed espionage charges against Snowden shortly after his revelations were made public. He has been living under asylum in Moscow, after fleeing the US for Hong Kong in the wake of the leaks. Civil liberties advocates have argued that Snowden's actions were courageous and stepped up calls on the Obama administration to grant him clemency.
The petition in support of Snowden
In their petition to the White House, nearly 168,000 signatories hailed Snowden as "a national hero [who] 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".
Snowden's revelation led to surveillance reform
The Obama administration has maintained a hard line on Snowden, even as his revelations prompted the US Congress to approve the most sweeping surveillance reform in decades. Federal lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the USA Freedom Act in June, which effectively ended the federal government's bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records by transferring responsibility to private telecom companies.