Russia Considers Returning Snowden to curry favor With Trump: Official
Cynthia McFadden, William Arkin, NBC News, Feb 10 2017
Pindo 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. That’s according to a senior Pindo boxtop who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations and who says a Snowden handover is one of various ploys to “curry favor” with Trump. 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, told NBC News they are unaware of any plans that would send him back to Pindostan. Wizner said:
Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern.
Snowden responded to NBC’s report on Twitter:
Former deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate urged the Trump administration to be cautious in accepting any Snowden offer from Putin. He said:
For Russia, this would be a win-win. They’ve already extracted what they needed from Edward Snowden in terms of information, and they’ve certainly used him to beat Pindostan over the head in terms of its surveillance and cyber activity. 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 Pindostan around the role of surveillance, the role of the Pindo intelligence community, and the future of privacy and civil liberties in a Pindo context. All of that would perhaps be music to the ears of Putin.
The White House had no comment, but the Justice Dept told NBC News it would welcome the return of Snowden, who currently faces federal charges that carry a minimum of 30 years in prison. Putin spox Peskov said talk about returning Snowden is nonsense. If he were returned to Pindo soil, Snowden would face an administration that has condemned him in the strongest terms. Trump said in July:
I think he’s a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly. And if I were president, Putin would give him over.
In Oct 2013, Trump tweeted:
Snowden is a spy who should be executed.
DCI Pompeo has also called for Snowden to face Pindo justice, saying last February:
I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence.
In an interview streamed on Twitter in December, Snowden said being forced to return to Pindostan would be a human-rights violation but would also put to rest to accusations that he is a Russian spy. Snowden said:
A lot of people have asked me, is there going to be some kind of deal where Trump says: “Hey, look, give this guy to me as some kind of present!” Will I be sent back to Pindostan, where I’ll be facing a show trial? 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’m very comfortable with the decisions that I’ve made. I know I did the right thing.
Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said last month that his client would like to return to Pindostan with no criminal charges hanging over his head:
We hope very much that the new Pindo president would show some weighted approach to the issue and make the one and only correct decision: to stop prosecution against Edward Snowden.
Zarate said there is no way to predict if Putin will deliver Snowden or when. He said:
I think this is one of those rare cases where the stakes are so high, the diplomatic implications so deep, that anything can happen. So this could be a secret diplomatic deal made in the dead of night, or it could be a weeks-in-formation deal with lawyers on all sides. I think at the end of the day, Moscow holds the cards here.