Amnesty for Snowden?

The NSA is considering giving amnesty to leaker Edward Snowden in return for the up to one million documents he purloined from the agency.


The NSA official tasked with controlling the damage caused by Edward Snowden's intelligence leaks thinks that amnesty for the former NSA contractor should be on the table.

Rick Ledgett told CBS' 60 Minutes that allowing Snowden's return to the United States is "worth having a conversation about" if Snowden could prove that the massive amounts of data he took are contained from further leaks.

"I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured and my bar for those assurances would be very high," Ledgett said in the interview that aired Sunday night. "It would be more than just an assertion on his part."

Ledgett said he wants to contain Snowden's most dangerous documents, which contain information on how countries can protect against U.S. surveillance. "It's the keys to the kingdom," he said.

But Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, doesn't agree. "This is analogous to a hostage taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10, and then say, 'if you give me full amnesty I'll let the other 40 go,'" Alexander said.

"I think people have to be held accountable for their actions," he added. "Because what we don't want is the next person to do the same thing, race off to Hong Kong and to Moscow with another set of data, knowing they can strike the same deal."

Snowden himself has said he gave all his data to journalists, and no longer has any of it himself.

Snowden may not physically possess the documents, but he may have control of them though some kind of key system that unlocks a few thousand files at a time. Otherwise, you'd think that Glen Greenwald, the Guardian, the New York Times, or the Washington Post would be serializing those documents for the last few months.

As General Alexander has made clear, amnesty is probably not on the table. It's equally clear that even our closest allies have no desire to arrest and extradite the former analyst, giving him de facto freedom for the foreseeable future.

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