A petition demanding the Obama administration pardon Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) agent who blew the lid on the US government's spying programs on tens of millions of Americans via their telephone records and Internet data, has mustered over 106,000 digital signatures.
The petition, posted on Whitehouse.gov, says “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 was filed under the "We The People" initiative which permits Americans to raise an issue that matters to them with the U.S. government. If a petition meets the threshold of 100,000 digital signatures within 30 days, the administration-run website should issue a response about the matter.
The Snowden petition was posted on June 9th and met its signature threshold in less than two weeks.
Snowden leaked two top secret US government spying programs under which the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are eavesdropping on millions of Americans’ phone records and their Internet data from major Internet companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Microsoft.
The Justice Department has charged Snowden with “espionage” and “theft of government property”, “unauthorized communication of national defense information,” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person”. The crimes carry a total potential sentence of 30 years in prison.
Several US government officials including President Obama and FBI
director Robert Mueller have defended the secret spying programs claiming that
they are essential to the fight against terrorism. But civil rights activists
and groups have condemned them. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has
filed a lawsuit against the programs calling them
Snowden landed in Moscow on Sunday after leaving Hong Kong. Some sources are saying that Snowden plans to fly from Moscow to Cuba on Monday and then to Venezuela.
Meanwhile, in a knee-jerking reaction, Democratic US Senator Charles Schumer has said that Snowden’s flight to Moscow has "serious consequences" for the US-Russian relationships. Schumer has charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin "aided and abetted Snowden's escape."