White House Says It Will Respond to 'Pardon Edward Snowden' Petition

The petition earned a response in June.

A demonstrator dressed as President Barack Obama is seen in front of the U.S. Capitol during a protest against government surveillance on Oct. 26, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
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It's been a long wait, but supporters of whistle-blower Edward Snowden are – eventually – going to get some satisfaction.

Despite five months of silence, a White House spokesperson says a pro-Snowden petition on the White House website will get a response.

That petition crossed the 100,000 threshold earning official feedback June 24. It urges a full pardon for the former National Security Agency contractor.

"Yes, we'll be responding," said Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council.

[ACLU: Second Federal Judge 'Skeptical' of Case for Surveillance]

That answer is significant because it means the White House is not invoking an exception that would allow it to dodge the question to avoid exerting undue influence on a law enforcement matter.

Hayden did not say when the response might come and pointed to a previous explanation she provided for the delay: "Response times vary."

The White House petition-hosting service was started to facilitate the involvement of ordinary citizens in policymaking. To its critics, it's a propaganda tool that allows officials to respond to softball questions or ones that attract maximum positive press – while ignoring more critical demands.

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Many petitions well under the 100,000 threshold have received responses ahead of the Snowden petition.

In fact, the most recent petition responses – awarded to gluten-free campaigners, public land use advocates and supporters of temporary asylum for Guatemalans – all went to petitions under the threshold. The gluten petition garnered 40,000 signatures, but the other two yielded fewer than 30,000 each.

Snowden is living in exile in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum Aug. 1 after a dramatic 39-day stay in Moscow's international airport. He's accused by the U.S. government of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by exposing massive domestic and international surveillance programs.

In August the White House responded to a pardon request from WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, another whistle-blower who caused headaches for the Obama administration, by saying the former Army intelligence analyst's appeal would be considered like any other.

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