No amnesty for Snowden who thumbs his nose at us

January 31, 2014 

Late last year, Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who stole and leaked thousands of classified U.S. documents, declared victory.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he told The Washington Post. “I already won.” Snowden is relishing his victory in Russia at the moment, where he has been granted asylum.

Last week, he suggested again that he’d like to return to the United States — where he faces espionage charges — should an appropriate deal be offered. On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder rejected amnesty but did not rule out the possibility of plea negotiations, if Snowden returned to plead guilty.

The United States has sound reason to stick to that position. No amnesty, no clemency. Snowden should return to the U.S. and face criminal charges.

It appears that he has been much more than a whistle-blower who embarrassed the White House and prompted a U.S. debate over privacy and NSA surveillance programs. He has damaged national security.

Snowden’s disclosures set back U.S. efforts not just against terrorism, but cybercrime, human trafficking and weapons proliferation, according to a classified Pentagon report described by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee.

Most of the estimated 1.7 million classified documents that Snowden copied from NSA computers involve U.S. military operations. Fixing the damage to those operations will cost the government billions of dollars, says Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House committee.

U.S. officials have an incentive to lure Snowden back to the U.S. with a possible plea bargain — that is, treat him like an accused felon who has caused significant harm. If he cooperated, he could confirm to U.S. officials all that he took and where it was knowingly distributed. That could help officials minimize some of the damage.

Snowden needs to cooperate, not thumb his nose at U.S. authorities from his Russian hidey-hole.

Chicago Tribune

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