According to former Attorney General Eric Holder, Edward Snowden and the Justice Department might strike a deal that enables the former NSA contractor to return from Moscow to the United States.
Charged with three felony violations of the Espionage Act, Snowden’s decision to release tens of thousands of government documents to journalists has ignited a diverse conversation, one Holder refers to, in an interview with Yahoo News, as “necessary.” And while the terms of Snowden’s hypothetical return remain to be seen, Holder views them optimistically: “I certainly think there could be a basis that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists.”
Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner, interprets Holder’s remarks as a sign that tides are turning, that Snowden’s disclosure is being regarded less in terms of criminality and more as the impetus for significant reform: “The former attorney general’s recognition that Snowden’s actions led to meaningful changes is welcome...I don’t think we’ve seen this kind of respect from anybody at a Cabinet level before.”
But, should Snowden return, will this seeming shift in perspective mitigate potential repercussions? Melanie Newman, spokesperson for current Attorney General Loretta Lynch, firmly denies this possibility. “This is an ongoing case, so I am not going to get into specific details,” she wrote in an email, “but I can say our position regarding bringing Edward Snowden back to the United States to face charges has not changed.”
Talks of a plea bargain have been in the air, but Wizner maintains that Snowden’s actions should not result in incarceration: “Our position is he should not be reporting to prison as a felon and losing his civil rights as a result of his act of conscience.”
Yet many in Congress and in the intelligence community are likely to disagree with Wizner. From Yahoo News:
“[Any] suggestion of leniency toward Snowden would likely run into strong political opposition from Congress as well as fierce resistance from hard-liners in the intelligence community who remain outraged over his wholesale disclosure of highly classified government documents. Those feelings have, in some ways, been exacerbated by Snowden’s worldwide celebrity that recently prompted him to enter into an arrangement with a speaker’s bureau that has allowed him to give paid talks to worldwide audiences via Skype from his apartment in Moscow.”
Ultimately, Holder will wield no power over Snowden’s legal fate, and the latter still has a host of stateside enemies. We must wait and see how justice is to be interpreted here.
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