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Ex-attorney general Holder hints at possible DOJ plea deal with Snowden

Former Attorney General Holder claimed the Justice Dept. could 'possibly' work out a plea deal with Edward Snowden.

Edward Snowden plea deal DOJ Eric Holder
Credit: Gage Skidmore

The "possibility exists" for Edward Snowden to strike a plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department and return to the USA. At least that's what former Attorney General Eric Holder told Yahoo News, but he's the same guy who previously filed a criminal complaint against Snowden for three felony violations of the Espionage Act. Notice the "former" in front of the attorney general title; it's a shame Holder couldn't see those possibilities when he was in a position to offer them for real.

Holder returned to "Covington & Burling, a corporate law firm known for serving Wall Street clients," such as Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, where he worked before becoming Attorney General in February 2009. Besides being cozy with big banks, The Intercept also noted that Holder failed "to criminally prosecute any of the financial firms responsible for the market collapse in 2008." Holder did manage to lead the charge in the government's war on leakers; a severe crackdown, the likes of which were unprecedented.

Yet now that Holder isn't representing the U.S. government, he told Yahoo reporter Michael Isikoff, "We are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures." Snowden's "actions spurred a necessary debate" that "prompted President Obama and Congress to change policies on the bulk collection of phone records of American citizens." Yeah, OK, except that nothing has really changed, since just a week ago the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court gave thumbs up permission for the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' domestic phone calls to continue "temporarily."

After that unpleasant news, ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said, "Neither the statute nor the Constitution permits the government to subject millions of innocent people to this kind of intrusive surveillance. We intend to ask the court to prohibit the surveillance and to order the NSA to purge the records it's already collected."

When Yahoo asked Holder if the Justice Department is willing to offer Snowden a plea deal, Holder replied, "I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists."

Yet new Attorney General Loretta Lynch apparently does not agree, saying "Our position regarding bringing Edward Snowden back to the United States to face charges has not changed."

Yahoo cited three unnamed sources as saying Robert Litt, chief counsel to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, has suggested the government might offer Snowden a plea bargain if, after Snowden returns to the U.S., he "pleads guilty to one felony count and receives a prison sentence of three to five years in exchange for full cooperation with the government." But "nothing is going to happen unless he comes in and moves off this idea, 'I'm entitled to a medal.'" Litt's plea bargain idea was not meant to go public and supposedly does not represent the government's position.

Former NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden claimed to be "quite stunned that we would be considering any return of Snowden to this country other than to meet a jury of his peers, period."

Snowden's attorney Ben Wizner said Holder's statement was "significant," but Litt's unofficial plea deal proposition – and any plea deal that lands Snowden in prison – was unacceptable. "Our position is he should not be reporting to prison as a felon and losing his civil rights as a result of his act of conscience." In other words, even after two years in Moscow, it looks like Snowden won't be leaving Moscow to return home to the USA anytime soon.

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