U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a “gift” to President Donald Trump – who has called the NSA leaker a “spy” and a “traitor” who deserves to be executed.
A gift to the new administration and “gesture of goodwill”, well, unless you’ve read anything published by the liberal media today. Left wing media outlets immediately went into fanatic-mode, proclaiming that this was a “trick”, a “ploy”, and a “conspiracy”, still somehow convinced that Russia is responsible for the loss of Hillary Clinton.
According to a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports, a Snowden handover is one of the first ways Russia may move to strengthen it’s relationship with the new administration. A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration.
Snowden’s ACLU lawyer, Ben Wizner, says he is unaware of any plans that would send him back to the United States. “Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern,” Wizner said.
Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they're next. https://t.co/YONqZ1gYqm
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 10, 2017
It would signal warmer relations and some desire for greater cooperation with the new administration, but it would also no doubt stoke controversies and cases in the U.S. around the role of surveillance, the role of the U.S. intelligence community, and the future of privacy and civil liberties in an American context.
The White House had no comment, but the Justice Department said it would welcome the return of Snowden, who currently faces federal charges that carry a minimum of 30 years in prison.
“I think he’s a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly,” Trump said in July. “And if I were president, Putin would give him over.” In October 2013, Trump tweeted: “Snowden is a spy who should be executed.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo has also called for Snowden to face American justice. “I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence,” Pompeo said last February.
“Is this going to happen? I don’t know. Could it happen? Sure. Am I worried about it? Not really, because here’s the thing: I am very comfortable with the decisions that I’ve made. I know I did the right thing.”
More than 1 million people signed a White House petition calling for then-President Obama to pardon Snowden. Snowden himself did not file an application and tweeted that Army leaker Chelsea Manning should get clemency ahead of him. Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, but took no action on Snowden.
Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the state-run news agency last month that his client would like to return to the United States — with no criminal charges hanging over his head.
“We hope very much that the new U.S. president would show some weighted approach to the issue and make the one and only correct decision — to stop prosecution against Edward Snowden,” Kucherena said.