Representative image of Edward Snowden from an interview with a Swedish newspaper in Moscow in 2015. Photograph: (AFP)
Edward Snowden, charged with espionage and theft of government property after leaking sensitive documents, has been living in exile
Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor, Edward Snowden, who leaked classified government documents, is "not a whistleblower. He risked the lives of Americans and the national security," the White House said on Wednesday responding to Snowden's appeal for pardon.
"Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower," White House press secretary Josh Earnest was quoted as saying by Indian news agency PTI.
"There actually is a specific process that is well-established and well-protected that allows whistleblowers to raise concerns that they have, particularly when it relates to confidential or classified information, to do so in a way that protects the national security secrets of the United States. That is not what Mr Snowden did."
Mr Snowden should return to the United States and face the very serious charges that he is facing." - White House press secretary
"His conduct put American lives at risk and it risked American national security. That is why the policy of the Obama administration is that Mr Snowden should return to the United States and face the very serious charges that he is facing," Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference on Wednesday.
Charged by the US with espionage and theft of government property after leaking sensitive documents to the media about National Security Agency (NSA)'s internet and phone surveillance, Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013.
Campaign for pardon
Meanwhile, three rights groups, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, launched a campaign on Wednesday to try to persuade President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden.
The campaign for a pardon includes a website, www.pardonsnowden.org, that people can use to write to the White House. The groups also ran advertisements in the Washington Post and Politico newspapers, saying Snowden exposed unlawful programs and prompted reforms.
The campaign coincides with the release of a film, titled "Snowden," directed by Oliver Stone.
The groups also ran advertisements in the Washington Post and Politico newspapers, saying Snowden exposed unlawful programs and prompted reforms.
The campaign also comes at a time when US authorities are investigating whether hackers backed by Russian spy agencies have been interfering with the US presidential campaign by stealing and releasing documents and emails principally to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Reuters reported today.
Snowden said he could not receive a fair trial in the United States because a law he was charged under, the 1917 Espionage Act, does not let him explain to a jury his reasons for leaking.
"This World War I-era law does not distinguish between those who freely give critical information to journalists in the public interest or spies who sell it to a foreign power for their own," said Snowden, who lives in Moscow.
A pardon now may make sense for Obama, the groups said, because he may be seeking to burnish his legacy and be able to act with less concern for politics. Obama, a Democrat, will leave office at the end of his second, four-year term on Jan. 20.
Responding to a question, the White House official said there is no communication between Snowden and the US President.
"I'm not aware of any conversations or any communications between Mr Snowden and the President," he said.
(WION with inputs from PTI, Reuters)