Snowden Petition Shows Many Paths to a White House Response

Kin Cheung/AP

A post-indictment boost gave a petition to pardon the NSA leaker enough signatures for an official administration reply.

News of Edward Snowden’s U.S. indictment and flight from Hong Kong helped push the White House petition to pardon the admitted National Security Agency leaker over the 100,000 signatures needed for an official response this week.

The petition on the White House’s We the People site had about 119,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon.

That post-indictment bump was a bit of a rarity for the 21-month-old We the People site.

Since the White House raised the threshold for an administration response to 100,000 signatures in one month in January, petitions have tended to find only two routes to success: Either they go viral in a big way for a few days and then taper to nothing or they climb slowly over the course of the month.

Petitions rarely lose momentum and then pick up again. But that’s precisely what the Snowden petition did. It dropped from 28,000 daily signatures the day after Snowden was revealed as the leaker on June 9 to fewer than 1,000 signatures on June 20. Then it bolted back up to 11,000 daily signatures on June 22, the day after the indictment came out.

You can check out a velocity graph of the Snowden petition signatures here.

We’ve compared it with an unanswered petition alleging fraud in Malaysia’s May 5 general election that went rapidly viral before tapering off.