A petition calling for American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden to be pardoned has been rejected by the US government – two years after it was started.
More than 167,000 people signed the petition – calling for Mr Snowden to be “immediately issued with a full, free, and absolute pardon” – on the government’s official petitions website, We the People.
But the US government said it would not be acting on it and instead urged Mr Snowden to return to America and be "judged by a jury of his peers".
Classified information revealing the extensive use of internet and phone surveillance by US intelligence services was leaked by the former National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee in 2013, and then published in national newspapers in the UK and America.
In June that year, the US government charged Mr Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence
Each charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
He left Hawaii, where he was living with his girlfriend at the time, and flew to Hong Kong, before travelling to Moscow.
Mr Snowden continues to reside in Russia, which does not have an extradition treaty with the US.
The US government is required to respond to petitions which receive more than 100,000 signatures.
Whistleblowing controversies of the last decade
Whistleblowing controversies of the last decade
1/12 Edward Snowden NSA leak
Articles in The Guardian revealed that the US and the UK spied on foreign leaders and diplomats at the 2009 G20 summit.
2/12 WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables leak
In 2009, former US soldier Chelsea Manning, downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified US Government documents, and passed them on to Jullian Assange's whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Among the documents were 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables. One disclosed the close relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the Guardian reported. Allegations included "lavish gifts", lucrative energy contracts and the use by Berlusconi of a "shadowy" Russian-speaking Italiango-between.
3/12 WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables leak
WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables leak: In a revelation which bruised the UK's 'special relationship' with the US, WikiLeaks published conversations by US commanders criticising Britain's military operations in Afghanistan.
4/12 WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables leak
WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables leak: One document disclosed startling levels of corruption in Afghanistan, including an incident involving the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, who was reportedly stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash.
5/12 WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables leak
Another cable documented fears in Washington over Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, in a volatile country with a strategic position in the Middle East.
6/12 WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables leak
Day four of the gradual drip of leaks exposed allegations that Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations, with one cable reporting that the relationship is so close that the country has become a "virtual mafia state".
7/12 Edward Snowden NSA leak
In 2013, The Guardian published classified US National Security Agency (NSA) documents, from a then anonymous whistleblower. Four days later he was exposed as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. A month after the initial leak, the New York Times allegeded that the NSA received emails, video clips, photos, voice and video calls, social networking details, logins and other data held by a range of US internet firms.
8/12 Edward Snowden NSA leak
Since Snowden revealed that the US had eavesdropped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, German-US relations have been strained. In May 2014, Mrs Merkel said still had significant differences with the United States over surveillance practices and that it was too soon to return to “business as usual," according to the New York Times.
9/12 Edward Snowden NSA leak
On 7 June, The Guardian published the Presidential Policy Directive 20, whcih included a list of potential targets for cyber-attacks by the US Government.
10/12 Samy Kamkar iPhone and Android exposé
In April 2014, hacker and researcher Samy Kamkar revealed that Android phones collect user location data every few seconds. Files are then transited to Google several times an hour.
11/12 Samy Kamkar iPhone and Android exposé
It is believed Apple and Google are using the data to better target adverts to smartphone users, according to The Guardian.
12/12 Samy Kamkar iPhone and Android exposé
The two companies have since justified the collection of data. In a letter to the US congress Apple confirmed it collected the data and said that, in order to be useful, "the databases [of tower and network locations] must be updated continuously". A Google spokesman told the Guardian Android phones explicitly asked to collect anonymous location data when users turned them on.
In a statement, Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said Mr Snowden would not be exempted from the charges he faced and should stop hiding "behind the cover of an authoritarian regime".
“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,” she said.
“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.
“Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions.”
Ms Monaco said President Obama had introduced intelligence reforms seeking to address the balance of “how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections”.
But she added: “We live in a dangerous world.
“We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address.
“The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate and those who are willing to engage in it here at home.”
Last month, Mr Snowden said that becoming an "international fugitive" was worth it because of the benefits it brought to public life.
"The difference is that you get a different quality of government when they are accountable to the public," he said via video-link at a human rights event organised by Amnesty International in London.
"The most liberating thing about burning your life to the ground, and becoming an international fugitive, or so I'm told, is that you no longer have to worry about tomorrow, you think about today," he added.Reuse content