Screenshot / YouTube

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder now admits that whistleblower Edward Snowden performed a “public service” for starting the debate over government surveillance, yet Holder reiterated that Snowden should face punishment. Holder believes the way Snowden started the debate was “inappropriate and illegal.”

The Guardian reports:

Though Holder said Snowden should return to the US to face trial, he added that any judge who tried him should account for his contribution to the debate about mass surveillance.

“I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate,” Holder said.

Snowden has said repeatedly that he would return to the US if he could get a fair trial.

“But, as I think you’re quite familiar, the Espionage Act does not permit a public interest defense,” Snowden told [via video from Russia] a University of Chicago event earlier this month. “You’re not allowed to speak the word ‘whistleblower’ at trial.”

Snowden, who was a contractor for the NSA, has lived in Russia in the years after the leaks. Russia first granted him temporary asylum, then in 2014 gave him a three-year residency. …

The frontrunners in the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have said Snowden should be punished, though they disagree in how serious that punishment should be.

In a Democratic debate in October, Clinton said Snowden should return and be put on trial. Bernie Sanders, now the only other Democratic contender, agreed, though he said he thought Snowden “played a very important role in educating the American public”.

In 2013, Trump implied that Snowden should be executed. In March, he said the U.S. should get Snowden back from Russia because he is a spy. The Kremlin said it would not entertain such a plan.

Others have argued that Snowden had no choice but to blow the whistle in the fashion he did. Another former NSA official and whistleblower, Thomas Drake, was punished after going through “proper channels,” and no changes were put in place after he exposed NSA malfeasance.

In response to Holder’s statement, journalist Glenn Greenwald responded on Twitter by writing, “People so often become honest and candid only once they leave government.”

— Posted by Donald Kaufman.

Your support matters…

Independent journalism is under threat and overshadowed by heavily funded mainstream media.

You can help level the playing field. Become a member.

Your tax-deductible contribution keeps us digging beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that unearths what's really happening- without compromise.

Give today to support our courageous, independent journalists.