The White House on Wednesday said that Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower, but is someone who risked national security of the United States and jeopardised the lives of Americans in the process.
Snowden is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and former contractor of the US government who had copied and leaked classified government documents of the National Security Agency (NSA). The documents revealed several surveillance programs by the US. Snowden currently lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, which has given him asylum.
"Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower. 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," White House Press Secretary Josh 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 Mr Snowden should return to the United States and face the very serious charges that he is facing," he told reporters at his daily news conference.
The statement from the White House came after several political figures including Democratic Party's Bernie Sanders sought clemency or a full pardon for Snowden.
"He will of course 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 these charges," Earnest added.
Earnest also responded to a question on whether the US President has had any communication with Snowden. The White House spokesperson said that he was not aware of any such communication.