Edward Snowden says he’s offered to go to prison if it means returning to the United States, but he hasn’t heard back from the U.S. Justice Department.
“I’ve volunteered to go to prison with the government many times,” Snowden told the BBC in an interview scheduled to air Monday night. “What I won’t do is I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”
“We are still waiting for them to call us back,” he added.
In January, then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that Snowden’s actions had “spurred a necessary debate” that forced the government to change its policies concerning mass surveillance. The “possibility exists,” Holder said, that the DOJ would offer Snowden a plea agreement. “We are still waiting for them to call us back,” he said.
“…I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”
Snowden has resided in Russia for more than two years. In August 2014, the Russian government granted him a three-year residency permit. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years for a charge of theft and two charges of espionage in the United States. And being a “whistleblower” is not an acceptable defense under the 1917 Espionage Act.
“If you’re asking me my opinion, he’s going to die in Moscow,” former NSA Chief Michael Hayden reportedly told the BBC. “He’s not coming home.”
Snowden’s supporters have called on President Barack Obama to pardon the 30-year-old fugitive in light of the numerous legislative changes forced by his disclosure of top-secret documents. In May a federal appeals court ruled that the National Security Agency’s telephone metadata collection program was illegal under the Patriot Act.
The DOJ is investigating how the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency utilized intelligence obtained through NSA mass surveillance.
In June, a U.K. tribunal found that Britain’s surveillance agency had illegally spied on human rights groups—information also brought to light by Snowden. The tribunal had previously ruled that the U.K. government had violated the human rights of its own citizens through its partnership with the NSA.
Illustration by Max Fleishman