Russia Reportedly Considering Sending Snowden Back to US as a ‘Gift’ to Trump
Russian officials have discussed the possibility of extraditing whistleblower Edward Snowden to the US as a way to improve political relations with President Trump, according to NBC News. The report cites an unnamed US official who has analyzed intelligence reports pertaining to Russia’s plans to “curry favor” with the new administration. During his campaign, Trump called Snowden a “traitor” and plainly stated that he should be executed for treason if he ever sets foot back in the country.
It’s not clear whether a plan to remove Snowden has moved beyond the deliberation stage. The former NSA contractor has resided in Russia since June 2013, when he flew to Moscow from Hong Kong one month after journalist Glenn Greenwald and major newspapers around the globe began publishing shocking revelations about the US surveillance state Snowden had taken using his security clearances. Russia granted him asylum for one year, and then extended that for an additional three years. Snowden is currently seeking asylum elsewhere, but cannot do so in any country with which the US has extradition treaty.
According to ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner, who spoke with NBC News, "Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern.” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman called the possibility of returning Snowden to the US as “nonsense.” Still, the Justice Department confirmed to NBC News that it intends to carry out the charges against Snowden first issued back in 2013 if he does indeed return to US soil. Those charges include the theft of government documents and two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Snowden faces a minimum of 30 years in prison if convicted.