In response to an online petition asking for a pardon for Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, the White House said on Tuesday that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face justice.
“He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime,” the White House said in a statement.
Mr. Snowden downloaded a vast trove of intelligence while working as a contractor for the N.S.A. and then leaked the documents to reporters. He is now living in Russia beyond the reach of prosecutors in the United States. Among other things, his disclosures revealed an N.S.A. program that collects the phone records of millions of Americans and that was ruled illegal by a federal appeals court in May.
He has since become a celebrity among some civil libertarians and has been making video appearances at conferences around the world.
The petition said Mr. Snowden was “a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free and absolute pardon.”