A frame grab made from AFPTV footage, reportedly taken on October 9, 2013, shows US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden speaking during his dinner with a group of four retired US ex-intelligence workers and activists at a luxurious room in an unidentified location. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
An NBC News report citing U.S. intelligence sources says Russia may consider handing over Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, to the United States as a favor to President Trump.
NBC News, the only major news outlet to report the development at this point, wrote that “highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations” suggest Russia is mulling over sending Snowden back to the U.S. as a favor to Trump. NBC News reported it is one of several tactics Russia could use to cozy up to the president.
Snowden called the report “irrefutable evidence” that he wasn’t colluding with Russians, despite allegations from U.S. House members.
Snowden, who faces espionage and theft charges over intelligence leaks revealing two secret surveillance programs under the NSA, has lived in Russia since 2013. He planned to fly to Ecuador to take refuge from U.S. extradition efforts, but he was held up at a Moscow airport because the U.S. canceled his passport. Snowden was granted a three-year extension of his asylum by the country’s Foreign Ministry in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC News that the organization didn’t know about any plans to return Snowden to the U.S.
Some hail Snowden as a whistleblower — a White House petition calling for Snowden’s pardon got more than 1 million signatures in 2015 — yet others see him as a traitor who released sensitive information compromising national security.
Snowden told an internet conference in Stockholm after the U.S. presidential election that he’s not afraid of the Trump administration boosted efforts to arrest him, The Guardian reported.
“The reality here is that yes, Donald Trump has appointed a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency who uses me as a specific example to say that, look, dissidents should be put to death,” Snowden said. “But if I get hit by a bus, or a drone, or dropped off an airplane tomorrow, you know what? It doesn’t actually matter that much to me, because I believe in the decisions that I’ve already made.”
The White House did not comment, NBC News reported. The Justice Department said it would welcome Snowden’s return.
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