Snowden willing to serve prison time for US return

American whistleblower Edward Snowden. © Andrew Kelly
Edward Snowden is willing to serve time behind bars as part of a deal with the US government that would see him able to return to the country, the National Security Agency whistleblower reportedly said in a new interview.

During an interview with BBC Panorama, Snowden said that “of course” he was ready to spend time in prison in exchange for a return to the US, according to the Guardian. He told the interviewer that, in fact, he himself had “volunteered” to submit to a jail sentence.

“I’ve volunteered to go to prison with the government many times,” he said in the interview, which is set to air on Monday evening. “What I won’t do is I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”

Despite Snowden’s apparent willingness to spend at least some time in jail, the former NSA contractor said the Justice Department has yet to respond to his proposal.

“We are still waiting for them to call us back,” he said.

Snowden first came into the national spotlight in 2013 after revealing the NSA’s massive electronic surveillance network, which targets the communications devices and online content of not only foreigners, but also American citizens. He fled the US for Hong Kong before making his way to Russia, where he has remained since.

In the same BBC segment, former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden was asked for this thoughts regarding Snowden’s fate.

“If you’re asking me my opinion, he’s going to die in Moscow. He’s not coming home,” he said.

The US has called on Snowden to return to America to face felony charges under the Espionage Act. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison. However, Snowden has resisted because trials under the Espionage Act do not permit the accused to mount a public interest or whistleblower defense in court. Any and all reasons related to why Snowden leaked details about the surveillance would be inadmissible in court, and the government would need only to prove that Snowden made classified information public.

Over the past year, Snowden and his lawyers have said that he would be willing to return to the US if he were given the opportunity to receive a fair trial.

“I’ve been working exhaustively with the government now since I left to try to find terms of a trial,” he said in March.

Alhhough Snowden’s revelations have spurred a large debate over government surveillance, particularly of other Americans, the White House insisted in June that Snowden should be prosecuted.

“The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest at the time. “The US government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them.”

However, former Attorney General Eric Holder, who led the Justice Department when the Snowden leaks began making headlines, suggested in July that the department could strike a deal with the whistleblower.

“I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists,” he said.