A U.S. official who has analyzed various sensitive intelligence reports revealed that the Russian government is considering handing over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to the United States to curry favor with President Trump. Both Snowden’s ACLU attorney and his Russian attorney have publicly stated they are unaware of any plan to send him back to the United States. Snowden tweeted on Friday that the potential of being sent back to the U.S. served as irrefutable evidence that he never cooperated with Russian intel.
Former members of the intelligence and national security communities have warned the Trump administration to be cautious in accepting any offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin. These officials believe that the situation would be a “win-win” for Russia because they likely have already extracted any intel they wanted from him and could build a stronger relationship with the U.S. at the same time.
For his part, President Trump said of Snowden in July 2016 “I think he is a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly.” In the same comment President Trump also said “And if I were president, Putin would give him over.” Snowden’s desire is to return to the United States without any of the criminal charges against him. During the Obama administration, over one million people signed a White House petition calling for then-President Obama to pardon Snowden but former President Obama took no action.
Former deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate ultimately believes that the timing and terms of any potential delivery of Snowden back to the United States is in the hands of the Russian government. He says “I think this is one of those rare cases where the stakes are so high, the diplomatic implications so deep, that anything can happen.”
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