© RT
Former Texas congressman Ron Paul has announced a petition aiming to secure clemency for Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower who revealed extensive US surveillance programs and ignited a national debate on Americans' privacy.

In a video released Thursday on the Ron Paul Channel, an online network the libertarian started last summer, he calls on supporters to sign the petition in an attempt to bring Snowden home to the US safely before his temporary visa in Russia expires in July.

"Edward Snowden sacrificed his livelihood, citizenship, and freedom by exposing the disturbing scope of the NSA's worldwide spying program," he said. "Thanks to one man's courageous actions, Americans know about the truly egregious ways their government is spying on them."

Paul worked as a physician before serving in Congress intermittently in the 1970s and 1980s then again from 1997 until 2013. He is best known for his libertarian positions, which often put him at odds with members of the Republican party. Paul has repeatedly lent public support to Snowden since the former NSA contractor came forward to admit he leaked classified documents to journalists affiliated with the Guardian and the Washington Post.

"By signing this petition, you are telling the US government that Mr. Snowden deserves the right to come home without the fear of persecution or imprisonment," the website stated.

© Reuters/Jonathan ErnstDemonstrators hold signs supporting former NSA contractor Snowden as they march at "Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance" near the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Paul's announcement comes one day after his son, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), filed a lawsuit against US President Obama and the NSA seeking to stop its collection of phone metadata. The younger Paul said his class-action suit is in response to the intelligence agency's violation of the Fourth Amendment, which requires law enforcement authorities to obtain a judicial warrant before conducting a search or seizure.

"There's a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records are being taken without suspicion, without a judge's warrant, and without individualization," Paul said. "I'm not against the NSA, I'm not against spying, I'm not against looking at phone records. I just want you to go to a judge, have an individual's name and [get] a warrant. That's what the Fourth Amendment says."

Yet the senator, who shares many of his father's libertarian positions and like his father is expected to mount a presidential campaign of his own in 2016, does not share Ron Paul's stance on clemency for Snowden.

"I don't think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison. I think that's inappropriate. And I think that's what he faced," Paul told CBS last month. "I think the only way he's coming home is if someone would offer him a fair trial with a reasonable sentence."