White House Remains Silent on 'Pardon Edward Snowden' Petition

Petitions significantly under 100,000-signature threshold receive official comment despite Snowden silence.

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Germans protest in favor of Edward Snowden in Berlin, July 27, 2013. More than 100,000 Americans fans of the former NSA contractor singed a petition urging a presidential pardon.
Germans protest in favor of Edward Snowden in Berlin, July 27, 2013. More than 100,000 Americans fans of the former NSA contractor singed a petition urging a presidential pardon.

A petition on the White House's website demanding a pardon for fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden passed the 100,000-signature threshold to win an official response two months ago. It's still waiting for a response, despite petitions significantly under the threshold receiving official comment during the same time frame.

"Response times vary," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told U.S. News in an email Friday, responding to a request for White House comment on the two-month delay. "We're not in a position to comment on the substance of a response before it has been issued," she added.

Any response is unlikely to please the 134,000 people who agreed that Snowden is "a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon" for releasing to news publications information on the National Security Agency's phone and Internet surveillance programs.

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"I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," President Barack Obama said Aug. 9. The president has vigorously defended the surveillance programs exposed by Snowden in June.

However, it's also possible for the administration to duck the issue by giving a response similar to the one used by White House spokesman Josh Earnest Wednesday on Bradley Manning's 35-year prison sentence for providing documents to WikiLeaks. Manning has since self-identified as a woman, and is seeking recognition under the name Chelsea.

"I'm not going to get ahead of that process," Earnest said. "If there is an application that's filed by Mr. Manning or his attorneys, that application will be considered in that process like any other application."

The petition urging a pardon for Snowden passed the 100,000 threshold June 24, meriting an official response.

[RELATED: Russia OKs Asylum for Snowden]

Despite the lengthy delay for Snowden supporters, two of the three most recent White House petition responses – one regarding H-1B visas and another regarding American Sign Language – were awarded despite those petitions not clearing the requisite hurdle.

The sign language petition received around 37,000 signatures and the visa petition less than 27,000.

Earlier in 2013 a petition urged the abolition of the White House's petition site. "This is not participation in the political process," that petition said. "This is a way for you to cherry pick a few popular issues and make a statement to get some quick press coverage."

Hayden assured U.S. News the Snowden petition would eventually receive a response.

"Each petition that crosses the threshold of 100,000 signatures will be reviewed by the appropriate policy staff and receive a response," she said.

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