(RNN) – Some believe Edward Snowden, the man who revealed details of a classified surveillance program by the U.S. government is a traitor - others believe he is a hero.
A petition on the White House website We the People has more than 57,000 signatures from those who believe Snowden, 29, to be a hero, and want him to be celebrated if and when he returns stateside – not treated like a criminal.
"Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued 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," the petition says.
The petition has until July 9 to reach 100,000 signatures, the number needed to be addressed by the Obama administration.
However, many in Congress are calling him everything but a hero.
"I think he's a defector or traitor - take your pick," said Rep. Peter King, R-NY, according to CNN. "What he's done is incredible damage to our country; it's going to put American lives at risk. I don't know how he can live with himself. A traitor is as good a term as any. I think he violated the Espionage Act."
Snowden was working at the Hawaii office of Booz Allen Hamilton, a private intelligence contractor that works for the National Security Administration, where he obtained top secret government material and released it to the news publication The Guardian.
The story broke on June 5, causing a major uproar in what many have described as the biggest intelligence leak in American history.
"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," Snowden said to The Guardian.
President Obama has defended the government surveillance program, saying the specific targets are not American citizens, but foreign nationals, and believes that specific "safeguards" put in place in the surveillance help his administration fight terrorism.
Snowden was last seen in a hotel in Hong Kong on Monday. The federal authorities are looking for him and his computer to investigate what other information he has obtained.
According to the Associated Press, Russia's Kommersant Daily reported that Moscow said it may provide asylum for Snowden. Other countries that Snowden might attempt to escape to include: China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, North Korea or Iceland - none of which have extradition agreements with the United States.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit with the Obama administration Tuesday, "asking the government to halt phone-tracking programs that collects the telephone records of millions of Americans," calling it "unconstitutional" and cites the heads of the NSA, FBI, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice as violators of the First and Fourth Amendment, according to the Associated Press.
A Philadelphia couple has also filed a lawsuit, alleging the government singled them out for their criticism of the U.S. Army following the death of their son who was a Navy SEAL. They are claiming $3 billion in damages
Snowden's massive top-secret information leak comes at the same time as Army Pfc. Bradley Manning faces court martial in his information sharing to the website Wikileaks in 2010.
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