Putin to send Edward Snowden to America as ‘gift’ to Donald Trump
Putin is planning to send whistle-blower Edward Snowden back to America as a ‘gift’ to Donald Trump.
Before taking office, the President called the former National Security Agency worker a ‘spy’ and a ‘traitor’ that deserves to be executed.
Reports from American intelligence, seen by NBC News, suggest that Russian authorities want to ‘curry favour’ with the Trump administration.
Other intelligence papers seen by the news organisation indicate the Kremlin has been discussing the possibility of Snowden’s repatriation since Trump’s inauguration.
Snowden leaked classified documents from his job at the NSA in 2013 and fled to Russia in June of that year.
Trump had previously written on Twitter: ‘Snowden has given serious information to China and Russia-anyone who thinks otherwise is a dope! He is a traitor who fled – he knew the crime!’
During the campaign Trump said of the former-NSA employee: ‘I think he’s a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly. And if I were president, Putin would give him over’.
While the White House has not yet commented on the report, the Justice Department said it would welcome the return of Snowden who was charged under the Espionage Act of 1917.
The leaker could expect a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, agreed with Trump.
He said: ‘The proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence’.
Putin’s apparent offer has been received with caution in Washington. Juan Zarate, a former national security adviser, 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 the United States 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 the US around the role of surveillance, the role of the US intelligence community, and the future of privacy and civil liberties in an American context.
‘All of that would perhaps be music to the ears of Putin’.
Snowden has recently had Russian residency extended until 2020, by which point he would be able to apply for citizenship.
The dissident said in response to the latest reports: ‘Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next.’
While it appears he has welcomed the reports as proof of innocence, Snowden’s lawyer tried to pour cold water on the reports.
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Ben Wizner said: ‘Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern’.
Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, called the reports ‘nonsense’.
Before President Trump left office he commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence, who leaked sensitive military documents to Wikileaks, but refused to take action against Snowden.
Snowden called the choice between Secretary Clinton and Trump a ‘tragedy of our times’ and has since deleted a tweet saying it was ‘a choice between Donald Trump and Goldman Sachs.’
After the surprise victory of Trump, the whistle-blower said he was ‘just the President. It’s an important position but it is one of many.’
His Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has previously said that Snowden should be able to return to America without fear of arrest.
He said: ‘We hope very much that the new U.S. president would show some weighted approach to the issue and make the one and only correct decision: to stop prosecution against Edward Snowden.’