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U.S. says whistleblower Snowden won't face death penalty, torture

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The death penalty, or information extracted by duress, also known as torture, does not await NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden upon his return to the United States. IN a new letter, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is hoping to persuade Russia not to grant him asylum or refugee status.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Holder, in a letter to Russian counterpart Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov, says that Snowden's grounds for seeking asylum in Russia "are entirely without merit."

Holder gives written assurances to Russia in order to deny Snowden's appeal for temporary asylum.

"First, the United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States. The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes,"  Holder writer.

A former contractor for the NSA, Snowden disclosed secret details of sweeping government surveillance programs to news organizations and has been hiding from U.S. authorities. He was first hiding out in Hong Kong and is believed still holed up at a Moscow-area airport.

Holder's letter notes that press reports from Russia indicate that Snowden sought asylum in part based on claims he could be tortured or killed by the U.S. government.
The attorney general also disputed Snowden's claims that he can't travel, but said he can only come back to the U.S. to face criminal charges.

"He is eligible for a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States. The United States is willing to immediately issue such a passport to Mr. Snowden."

Snowden has been charged in a criminal complaint with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national-defense information and willful communication of classified communications to an unauthorized person. None of those charges carry the possibility of the death penalty.

The U.S. typically promises not to seek capital punishment against individuals being sought in other countries, because even America's closest allies won't turn over suspects if they believe that person might be executed.

U.S. officials say that Russia has yet to formally respond to the letter from Holder, who laid out in detail that Mr. Snowden would face a standard American court if he returned to the U.S.

"Mr. Snowden would promptly be brought before a civilian court . Mr. Snowden would receive all the protections that United States law provides to persons charged with federal criminal offenses," Holder wrote, noting he would have a right to an attorney, a public trial, and a right to testify if he so chose.

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