Edward Snowden has an open invitation to talk with Attorney General Eric Holder — but only if the former NSA contractor accepts responsibility for leaking government secrets.
The U.S. “would engage in conversation” about a resolution with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden under those circumstances, said Holder in an upcoming interview with MSNBC. The Attorney General said that full clemency, “where we say, no harm, no foul,” would be going to far, however.
Holder isn’t too fond of Snowden’s whistleblower title, either. “I prefer the term defendant,” he said. “That’s the most apt title.”
President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for Snowden to come and face the charges against him in a U.S. court. But Snowden thinks it’s “unlikely that [he] will have a fair trial or humane treatment” if he comes to stand trial in the U.S., according to a letter he wrote to Ecuador’s foreign minister last year. It’s possible a judge would grant Snowden a trial by jury if he and the government agreed on that format, although it would represent a departure from standard federal court practices.
Obama hasn’t outright rejected the possibility of clemency for Snowden. “I do not have a yes-no answer on clemency for Edward Snowden,” the President told the New Yorker’s David Remnick last week. “This is an active case, where charges have been brought.”
Earlier today, a federal privacy watchdog organization called the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board declared the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records illegal and said the program should be shut down.
Unsurprisingly, the White House rejected the agency’s findings. “We simply disagree with the board’s analysis on the legality of the program,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
The watchdog organization, which released its 238-page report (PDF) on the telephone records program Thursday, is an independent government agency that operates within the executive branch.
The Obama administration has charged seven whistleblowers with mishandling secret information under the 1917 Espionage Act law — more than all previous administrations combined.
Hat tip: NBC News