National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden appears to be downright gleeful about a report that Russia might turn him over to the Trump administration as a kind of “gift.”
“Finally: Irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies,” Snowden tweeted. The tone was decidedly upbeat despite the threat of a grim future in a U.S. prison facing treason charges for leaking thousands of pages of classified documents in 2013 that uncovered the NSA’s massive surveillance programs.
Snowden tweeted his surprising reaction following a report by NBC on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was considering turning him in to American authorities as a kind of peace offering to friendly U.S. leader Donald Trump. NBC based its report on U.S. intelligence community sources. One told the network that Putin believes it would be a way to “curry favor” with Trump, who has said he thinks Snowden should be executed.
Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric asked Snowden his reaction in December when rumors first arose that Putin might turn him over to the Trump administration. His response then was similar. Snowden smiled and even laughed. “I’m actually kind of encouraged,” he said then from a Moscow hotel. “It wasn’t so many years ago that people said, ‘This guy’s a Russian spy.’ But countries don’t give up their spies.” He called it a “vindication of the fact that I’m independent, the fact that I have always worked on behalf of the United States.”
He conceded, however, that actually being turned over to U.S. authorities was definitely not something he wanted to occur. “That would obviously be something that would be a threat to my liberty and to my life,” he told Couric.
Snowden is particularly sensitive about claims that he is cooperating with the Russians and that he doesn’t speak out enough about human rights abuses in his host country.
A scathing House Intelligence Committee report in December attacked Snowden for seriously imperiling American troops abroad and for continuing to be “in contact” with Russian intelligence, though the report offered no firm details. Snowden shot back then: “After three years of investigation and millions of dollars, they can present no evidence of harmful intent, foreign influence, or harm. Wow.”
Snowden has said he would be willing to return to the U.S. if he could be assured that he would receive a fair trial.