Advocates for Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower pressed for the return of his U.S. passport and his freedom to seek political asylum.
Snowden, whose revelations about a National Security Agency program to collect Americans’ phone data rocked the intelligence community, is currently in Russia.
Supporters, including Coleen Rowley, a former FBI special agent who became a whistleblower herself about the agency’s pre-9/11 knowledge, and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, attempted to deliver thousands of public petitions to the Departments of State and Justice Wednesday.
Rowley and McGovern were among the first Americans to visit Snowden in Moscow. They were joined at the petition effort by Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org, an online civil liberties group whose website hosted the petition drive.
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The petitions “urge” Secretary of State John Kerry to “immediately reinstate” his passport and call on Attorney General Eric Holder to respect Snowden’s right to political asylum.
Previously, Solomon says they had sent emails and letters to Kerry and Holder requesting a time to deliver the petitions, but had received no response. They were largely rebuffed again Wednesday at State and initially at Justice when they appeared in person with the petitions.
Rowley, one of Time magazine’s 2002 “Persons of the Year” for her whistleblower activities, said that “105,000 people took the time to write comments on these petitions. And we think it’s important that officials in these positions, that have the ability to make decisions, should be aware of public sentiment.”
The three individuals, known for their strong anti-NSA policies, said they were not surprised with their reception.
“Here we are at the Department of Justice and we’re literally and figuratively trying to get through the door,” Solomon said.
Peter Carr, from Justice’s Public Affairs Office, eventually collected the boxes of petitions, but had little to add.
“I’m just here to collect the boxes,” he said.