Edward Snowden, the infamous NSA whistleblower – or traitor, depending upon whom you ask – has voiced his desire to return to the United States, according to a report from CBS. However, he has one very big condition: only if he is guaranteed a fair trial. Snowden currently faces one charge of theft of government property and two charges of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, should he return to America.
Edward Snowden is currently living in Russia after being granted asylum by Russian President Vladimir Putin when he ended up stranded in a Russian airport en-route to Cuba in 2013, a logical destination for an American fugitive at the time. Snowden had originally withdrawn his application for asylum in Russia after Putin included the condition that he “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners;” after being stranded, he was granted “temporary asylum,” a condition that has persisted for three years, a decision in which President Putin’s secretary has suggested that Putin was not involved in.
The White House continues to demand Snowden’s extradition, and to threaten consequences to any nation which harbors him. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder further indicated that the courts would not seek the death penalty “even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes” in an attempt to invalidate Snowden’s stated reasons for seeking asylum.
Meanwhile, according to a 2014 interview granted to German channel ARD by Edward Snowden, he has no faith in a fair trial, given the nature of his pending charges.
“It’s interesting because he mentions three felonies. What he doesn’t say are that the crimes that he’s charged me with are crimes that don’t allow me to make my case. They don’t allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convicne a jury that what I did was to my benefit.”
“The Espionage Act was never intended – it’s from 1918 – was never intended to prosecute journalistic sources for informing the newspapers about information that is in the public interest. It was intended for people who were selling documents and secrets to foreign governments or bombing bridges or sabotaging communications – not people who were serving the public good.”
Of course, whether Snowden was acting in the public good has been a matter for debate from the first. Some consider him a champion of the people, exposing America’s crimes against its own citizens. Others see him as an American traitor. Certainly, whatever your position, it is not unreasonable to say that Snowden’s actions – releasing confidential intelligence documents to foreign powers (Snowden’s leaks were first handed to The Guardian, based in the United Kingdom) do, strictly speaking, strongly resemble espionage. On the other hand, his personal motivations for the action are not unreasonable in and of themselves. If nothing else, the fact that criminal charges still await him in America is a case-in-point for his decision to release those documents overseas.
Meanwhile, Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told a news conference that he has teamed up with German and American lawyers to address the issue of returning Edward Snowden to his home country. Snowden apparently travels freely in Russia in the meantime, albeit accompanied by guards, shopping and visiting cultural attractions such as theaters and museums, and has even been visited in Moscow by his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. Kucherena praises Snowden as a “heroic and open person,” with “principles and convictions.”
Of course, according to an interview with The Nation, Snowden still feels that a lot of people still don’t know he never intended to flee to Russia – and that not letting him reach his original destination was a big mistake on America’s part.
“A lot of people are still unaware that I never intended to end up in Russia…. [they] waited until I departed Hong Kong to cancel my passport in order to trap me in Russia. If they really wanted to capture me, they would’ve allowed me to travel to Latin America, because the CIA can operate with impunity down there. They did not want that; they chose to keep me in Russia.”
Whatever side of the issue you are on, it is hoped that Edward Snowden will be able to return home soon to a fair and just trial.
[Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images]