The White House and the leaders of the intelligence committee in Congress are rejecting National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s plea for clemency.
“Mr. Snowden violated U.S. law,” White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said about the former systems analyst, who has temporary asylum in Russia.
“He should return to the U.S. and face justice,” Pfeiffer said.
Snowden made the plea in a letter given to a German politician and released Friday. In his letter, he asks for clemency for charges over allegedly leaking classified information about the NSA to the news media. “Speaking the truth is not a crime,” Snowden wrote.
Snowden’s revelations, including allegations that the U.S. has eavesdropped on allies including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have led to calls from allies to cease such spying, and moves by Congress to overhaul U.S. surveillance laws and curb the agency’s powers.
But the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that if Snowden had been a true whistle-blower, he could have reported it to her committee privately.
“That didn’t happen, and now he’s done this enormous disservice to our country,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “I think the answer is no clemency.”
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, called clemency for Snowden a “terrible idea.”
“He needs to come back and own up,” said Rogers (R-Mich.). “If he believes there’s vulnerabilities in the systems he’d like to disclose, you don’t do it by committing a crime that actually puts soldiers’ lives at risk.”
Rogers said that Snowden’s revelations caused three terrorist organizations to change how they communicate.