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Snowden: 2 newspapers ask White House for clemency

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked to The Guardian that the U.S. government had collected phone records of millions of Verizon customers, is seen in this undated file photo.

January 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The New York Times and Guardian newspapers have asked the White House for clemency for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Both newspapers have published editorials that urge the Obama administration to treat Snowden as a whistleblower. They backed Snowden's decision to go public and said the 30-year-old deserved praise for his action, not prosecution.

"Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight," the Times said, calling either for a plea bargain, some form of clemency, or a "substantially reduced punishment."

The Guardian said it hoped "calm heads within the present (U.S.) administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr. Snowden to return to the U.S. with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself."

Snowden stole classified documents about the U.S. government's surveillance program and released the information to the press last year. His actions prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the NSA.

A government panel is now also calling for an overhaul of the program.

Snowden fled to Russia following an abortive attempt to flee to Latin America.

The U.S. has demanded Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage, but Russia dismissed the request. U.S. officials have described his role in the leaks as damaging or even life-threatening.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.