A petition demanding the US government pardons Edward Snowden, the former NSA agent whose leaks revealed the existence of the PRISM program and other spying revalations, has passed the 100,000 digital ‘signatures’ required to force a response from the President’s Office.

The timing of the milestone is impeccible since, yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that the US government has charged Snowden under two counts of espionage.

Snowden, who is currently residing in Hong Kong, stands accused of “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person” — however it is not clear what stage attempts to extradite him are at.

The petition to pardon Snowden was filed under the We Are The People initiative which allows US citizens to start their petitions in the nation’s interest. If a petition passes 100,000 signatures (the threshold has been upped multiple time from an initial requirement of 5,000 when it launched) then a White House staff member is duty bound to issue a response on the matter.

Filed on June 9, the Snowden petition is seeking a highly unlikely “absolute pardon” for the whisteblower. The argument is entirely the opposite to the charges brought against Snowden:

Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.

This petition is almost certain to have zero bearing on the Snowden case — which experts say could take years to process, given Hong Kong’s conversative judicial system — although it will be interesting to see what response it receives from Obama’s team.

Snowden went on record saying that he had considered leaking information in the past, but the election of Obama gave him hope of reform.

It wasn’t to be, however, and Snowden said he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in.” As a result, “I got hardened”, Snowden said. The rest is history.

We’ll update this post when there’s an official response to the petition.

Our full PRISM coverage is here

Headline image via Getty Images