Washington: US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia on political asylum, would be offered due process of law, but he should first return to the country and face charges, the White House has said.
Snowden, 33, the former intelligence contractor with the US National Security Agency (NSA) would be offered due process of law on return, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday, adding that President Barack Obama continues to believe that he has done harm to the national security interest of the US.
"The first is that Mr Snowden has been charged with serious crimes and it is the policy of the administration that Mr Snowden should return to the US and face those charges. He, of course, will be afforded due process and there are mechanisms in our criminal justice system to ensure that he is treated fairly and consistent with the law. That is what the President believes."
"With regard to the impact that he has had on the broader debate, the fact is the manner in which Mr Snowden chose to disclose this information damaged the US, harmed our national security, and put the American people at greater risk," Earnest said.
"There are mechanisms that Mr Snowden could have availed himself of, if he had concerns about information that he had access to, to communicate this information more responsibly and address some of the policy concerns that he purports to have."
"But the impact of his actions, because of the way he chose to disclose this information, did harm our national security. The President said that on a number of occasions, and his assessment of that situation has not changed," Earnest said.
Refusing to entertain questions on presidential pardon of Snowden, Earnest said he is not going to get into the President's thinking about anybody being considered for a pardon.
"Obviously there is a process that people can go through in requesting a pardon. But right now, Mr Snowden has not been convicted of crimes with regard to this particular situation, but he is charged with various crimes."
"It is the view of the administration and certainly the view of the President that he should return to the US and face those charges, even as he enjoys the protection of due process and other rights that are afforded to American citizens who are charged with serious crimes," Earnest added.
Snowden, charged by the US with espionage and theft of government property after leaking sensitive documents to the media about NSA's internet and phone surveillance, has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013.
First Published On : Sep 13, 2016 12:34 IST