Would accept jail time: Edward Snowden Exile

Published: October 6, 2015

Would accept jail time: Edward Snowden Exile, The US justice department has made no effort to contact Edward Snowden to discuss a plea deal that would see him return from exile in Russia, the NSA whistleblower said in an interview on BBC Panorama to be broadcast on Monday night.

Snowden, who is wanted under the Espionage Act after leaking tens of thousands of top secret documents, said he had offered to do time in prison as part of a deal. “We are still waiting for them to call us back,” he said.

His comments come just months after Eric Holder, who was US attorney-general until April, said Snowden’s revelations had “spurred a necessary debate”. He also said the “possibility exists” of a plea deal.

But senior figures in the security services in both the US and UK are unforgiving, wanting him to serve a long sentence both as punishment and to act as a deterrent to others.

Former head of the NSA Michael Hayden, asked by Panorama what would happen to Snowden, said: “If you’re asking me my opinion, he’s going to die in Moscow. He’s not coming home.”

Snowden, in his first interview with the BBC since he disclosed the documents two years ago, said: “I’ve volunteered to go to prison with the government many times. What I won’t do is I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”

Asked if he was prepared to face a jail sentence, he replied: “Of course.”

If Snowden was to return to the US without a deal, he would be tried under the Espionage Act, which would mean no jury and he would be looking at least at 30 years in jail or even a life sentence.

But Snowden does have some leverage. Even some of his critics acknowledge he has sparked a necessary debate worldwide about surveillance and privacy.

Further leverage is the embarrassment factor to the US from Snowden’s receipt of prestigious awards and his general popularity, particularly among the young: since starting on Twitter a week ago, he has attracted 1.36 million followers.

In May 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii. The following month he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents, and then travelled to Russia, where he was subsequently granted asylum.

One of the consequences of the Snowden revelations has been an increasing reluctance on the part of internet service providers and social media to cooperate fully with police and security agencies in handing over data.

Mark Rowley, the head of counter-terrorism police operations in the UK, said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London on Monday that some of the internet companies and social media were immature.

Rowley said: “Some simply undermine us by adopting a policy that if they supply data to us they will tell the subject that they have done that.”

But Simon Milner, Facebook director of policy for the UK and Ireland, told Panorama: “We have made important strides in the last three years to ensure that Facebook is a hostile place for terrorists … and in rare circumstances where we find somebody who is organising activities which may pose an imminent risk to life, then we can and will report those people to the authorities.”

Milner said: “Facebook doesn’t track terrorist content … However, what we do do is rely on reports from the 1.5 billion people using Facebook to let us know when they see things on Facebook that shouldn’t be there, including terrorist activity.”

Milner added: “There is no algorithm that finds terrorist content.”


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