Edward Snowden performed a “public service” in stoking a national debate about secret domestic surveillance programs, but he should still return to the U.S. to stand trial, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a podcast released on Monday. Holder said that Snowden had grown concerned that the domestic spying programs weren’t providing a substantial return of useful intelligence even before even before he revealed the secrets via WikiLeaks. As a National Security Agency contractor, Snowden leaked classified details in 2013 of the U.S. government’s warrantless surveillance of its citizens before fleeing the country. He now lives in Russia and faces U.S. charges that could land him in prison for up to 30 years.
2013: It’s treason! 2014: Maybe not, but it was reckless 2015: Still, technically it was unlawful 2016: It was a public service but 2017:
A tweet from Edward Snowden
Holder, who served as as attorney general from 2009 to 2015 was speaking to CNN political commentator David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “He’s broken the law. In my view, he needs to get lawyers, come on back and decide what he wants to do - go to trial try to cut a deal,” said Holder. "But in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, a judge could take into account the usefulness of having that national debate.“ Snowden has repeatedly said he would be willing to return to the United States if the federal government would provide him a fair trial. However, Snowden says he is concerned that federal espionage laws would not allow him to present a whistleblower defence.
We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate we engaged in and by the changes that we made.