The Obama administration will not pardon former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for leaking classified information, the White House announced on Tuesday.
Lisa Monaco, President Obama's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, posted a response on Tuesday to a two-year-old petition to pardon Snowden, which was created under the "We the People" section of the White House website. It was signed by 167,954 people, and asked Obama to issue "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."
Monaco gave a lengthy response to why the administration does not view the man who shed light on the NSA's domestic surveillance program favorably.
"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. "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," she said, referring to Snowden's seeking refuge in Russia. "Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions."
Coincidentally, the National Intelligence director announced on Monday that after Nov. 29, the NSA will not analyze information about Americans' phone records collected under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which a federal court ruled illegal in May.
Snowden's revelation that the NSA was collecting time-stamp information from Americans' phone calls in bulk created public and international backlash about the program that eventually led Congress to end it in June. The new USA Freedom Act gave the NSA 180 days to wind down the program.
After Nov. 29, the NSA will maintain the massive data haul "solely for data integrity purposes to verify the records produced under the new targeted production authorized by the USA Freedom Act," the National Intelligence director said in a statement.
After an additional three months, the NSA will only preserve the records until all pending litigation over the program is resolved. And it will be destroyed "as soon as possible," according to the statement.
The statement deals with records already obtained but does not mention that the USA Freedom Act still allows such information to be collected. Now telecommunications companies, not the NSA, are storing the records, and the NSA can access the information if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court grants permission.