In comments made to the Guardian newspaper on Friday, former U.S. Secretary of State and likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should return home and face charges levied against him by the U.S. government.
"If he wishes to return knowing he would be held accountable and also able to present a defense, that is his decision to make," Clinton told the newspaper during an interview conducted over video stream.
Snowden, whose disclosures have led to global uproar surrounding U.S. government surveillance on the world's population, remains in Russia where has received asylum status. Both his lawyers and the former intelligence contractor himself have said that because he has been charged under the Espionage Act he would be denied protections afforded whistleblowers which would prevent him from arguing that his decision to leak the classified information was made in the name of the public interest.
According to the Guardian:
When Clinton was asked if she believed the Espionage Act – passed in 1917 – should be reformed in order to allow Snowden a defence, she claimed not to know what the whistleblower had been charged with as they were "sealed indictments".
"In any case that I'm aware of as a former lawyer, he has a right to mount a defence," she said. "And he certainly has a right to launch both a legal defence and a public defence, which can of course affect the legal defence.
"Whether he chooses to return or not is up to him. He certainly can stay in Russia, apparently under Putin's protection, for the rest of his life if that's what he chooses. But if he is serious about engaging in the debate then he could take the opportunity to come back and have that debate. But that's his decision."
As independent journalist and commentator Kevin Gosztola remarked, Clinton's response indicated the Democrat Party's most likely next presidential candidate "appears to know nothing about whistleblower cases or leak prosecutions."
In a pair of tweets, journalist Glenn Greenwald, a key journalist when it come to reporting on the revelations contained in the Snowden documents, made his feelings known about Clinton's remarks:
Dear Ed: You should come back to US just because I want there to be a real & healthy debate. With sincerity, Hillary— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 4, 2014
Given the facts of the Espionage Act, decide for yourself if Hillary Clinton's comments make any sense whatsoever— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 4, 2014
And poet and writer Djelloul Marbrook, responding on Twitter, also took issue with Clinton's comments, saying:
The question is not whether Edward Snowden is serious about engaging in discourse—he started the discourse—the... http://t.co/oP5xpOb5O7— Djelloul Marbrook (@DelMarbrook) July 4, 2014
Ben Wizner, an ACLU attorny who represents Mr. Snowden, said: "The laws would not provide him any opportunity to say that the information never should have been withheld from the public in the first place.
"And the fact that the disclosures have led to the highest journalism rewards, have led to historic reforms in the US and around the world – all of that would be irrelevant in a prosecution under the espionage laws in the United States."
In an interview with NBC News' Brian Williams that aired in May, Snowden himself said that he would gladly return to the United States but not simply to walk into a prison cell.
"I'm not going to give myself a parade," Snowden said of his possible return. "But neither am I going to walk into a jail cell — to serve as a bad example for other people in government who see something happening, some violation of the Constitution and think they need to say something about it."