Washington, Sept 15: Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor who leaked classified government documents is not a whistleblower, but someone who risked national security and American lives, the White House said, dimming his hopes of a presidential pardon from Barack Obama before he demits office.
"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 US. That is not what Snowden did," Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
"Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower," Earnest said. "His conduct put American lives at risk and it risked American national security. That is why the policy of the Obama administration is that Snowden should return to the US and face the very serious charges that he is facing," he told reporters on Wednesday.
Snowden, 33, is accused of violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property for leaking sensitive data to the media about National Security Agency's internet and phone surveillance.
He faces at least 30 years in jail in the US, and has been living in exile at an undisclosed location in Russia since June 2013. His residency permit expires next year.
Earnest maintained the long-held position of the US government that Snowden will be "afforded the rights that are due to every American citizen in our criminal justice system." "But we believe that he should return to the United States and face those charges," he said, adding that there is no communication between Snowden and the US president.
"I'm not aware of any conversations or any communications between Snowden and the president," he said.
Snowden, on the other hand, argues that though he leaked secret data, the information have benefited the public as they led to a improvement in privacy protection laws.
Snowden has asked Obama for clemency in an interview with a UK newspaper, saying: "If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off."
"Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing. But that is perhaps why the pardon power exists - for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things," he said.