Thousands sign petition for Snowden’s pardon as he seeks asylum in Iceland

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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A White House petition requesting that President Obama pardon admitted National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is quickly amassing signatures as the 29-year-old former government contractor looks abroad for political asylum.

Snowden came forward on Sunday to reveal his identity as the source behind the most recent NSA leaks, which were reported by The Guardian and The Washington Post last week.

During an interview with the Guardian on Sunday, Snowden indicated that he would try to seek political asylum in Iceland. But, as Wikileaks has pointed out on Twitter, Iceland’s newly-elected conservative government may not as sympathetic be as he hopes. And Icelandic ambassador to Beijing Kristín Árnadóttir told the South China Morning Post that Snowden needs to be in Iceland in order to apply for asylum.

Icelandic lawmaker Birgitta Jónsdóttir and Smári McCarthy, executive director of the International Modern Media Institute, announced their intention to aid Snowden in his quest to attain asylum in Iceland.

“Whereas IMMI is based in Iceland, and has worked on protections of privacy, furtherance of government transparency, and the protection of whistleblowers, we feel it is our duty to offer to assist and advise Mr. Snowden to the greatest of our ability,” they wrote in a statement to the media Sunday.

Jonsdottir,  a privacy rights and press freedom activist, is a member of Iceland’s Pirate Party.

By the early Monday morning, a petition on the White House website asking for Snowdon’s release had swelled to over 9,000 signatures.

The petition, which was started after Snowdon revealed his identity on Sunday, has until July 9 to reach 100,000 signatures in order to elicit an official response from the White House.

Snowdon, who had been living in Hawaii, was in Hong Kong when he revealed his identity. He moved to the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on May 20 after handing releasing a series of sensitive documents to journalists. The Washington Post reported Sunday that he first brought his story to the publication in early May.

Still, there is no guarantee Snowden is safe from extradition back to the U.S. if he remains in Hong Kong, which defers to Beijing on matters of foreign and defense policy.

On Saturday, the NSA formally requested that the Justice Department to open an investigation into the leaks.

A similar petition was started in September 2011 for U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking a massive trove of secret files to Wikileaks. The White House responded to the petition, which collected 6,619 signatures, by declining to comment.

“The military justice system is charged with enforcing the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” said the White House.

“Accordingly, the White House declines to comment on the specific case raised in this petition,” it said.

Manning’s trial began on June 3, the day before The Guardian published its first story in its series featuring Snowden’s whistleblowing.

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