NEW YORK — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Wednesday thanked supporters who launched a campaign for his pardon and said that for the sake of democracy, future whistleblowers must not be silenced.
Speaking by video link from Moscow, where he has been in exile since 2013, Snowden said that while the founding fathers created checks and balances to guard against government abuses, ‘‘whistleblowers, acting in the public interest, often at great risk to themselves, are another check on those abuses of power, especially through their collaboration with journalists.’’
He said whistleblowing ‘‘is democracy’s safeguard of last resort.’’
The 33-year-old addressed a New York City news conference where advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International announced an online petition drive to urge President Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office.
The supporters called Snowden a hero for exposing the extent of government surveillance by giving thousands of classified documents to journalists.
The Obama administration has urged Snowden to return to the United States and face trial.
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said Wednesday: ‘‘It is important to remember, Mr. Snowden is not a whistleblower. He is accused of leaking classified information and there is no question his actions have inflicted serious harms on our national security.’’