Snowden indicates he wants to come home

NSA whisteblower Edward Snowden's lawyer says that his client wants to come back to the United States as long as he can receive a fair trial.

Snowden has been in Russia since 2013, living under a three-year residency permit after having been granted asylum.

It's not clear what charges Snowden would face.  He apparently won't come back if he faces espionage charges.


"We're certainly happy for him to return to the United States to face a court in the very serious charges" he faces, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday.

"So he absolutely can and should return to the United States to face the justice system that will be fair in its judgment of him," she said. "But he is accused of very serious crimes and should return home to face them."

Kucherena said Snowden has so far received a guarantee from Attorney General Eric Holder that he will not face the death penalty -- but that Snowden also wants a guarantee of a "legal and impartial trial."

Such a trial, Snowden's legal advisers have said, would mean he wouldn't face charges under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that was used to charge Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Snowden's lawyer said he's allowed to travel outside Russia now under a three-year Russian residency permit, but that he believes Snowden would be taken immediately to a U.S. embassy as soon as he leaves the country.

"With a group of lawyers from other countries, we are working on the question of his return to America," Kucherena said.

The government just slapped former General David Petraeus on the wrist for leaking a couple of sensitive documents to his mistress.  Does Snowden hope he will get similar treatment?

It's hard to see how leaking thousands of NSA documents could be considered anything but espionage.  Whether that was his intent or not, Snowden's actions revealed secrets that the enemy could use to avoid detection.  Even many Snowden defenders acknowledge this but believe he should receive whistleblower protection because of the importance of the programs he exposed.

The political climate has changed since 2013, with people being less upset about Snowden and angrier at the government for its illegal snooping.  That may play into some kind of plea deal, where Snowden would plead guilty to a lesser charge and perhaps avoid jail time altogether, or receive a minimum sentence.

Would he accept any jail time at all?  Or would he take his chances in court?  My guess is that he won't want to risk a long prison term and will accept a deal only if he can serve his time at a minimum-security facility.  Otherwise, he'll stay put, hoping the political winds continue to blow in his favor.

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