In a bid to get his hands on Edward Snowden, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Russia promising not to torture or kill the NSA whistle-blower.

“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 promised, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Also, “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.”

Snowden’s quest for political asylum depends on the belief that he will be mistreated by his home government. The mistreatment of Bradley Manning, who was held under appalling conditions until public outcry forced his transfer, bolsters Snowden’s claim. So does the United States’ use of the death penalty, which is prohibited in many countries, including Russia (capital punishment in Russia is technically legal, but has been indefinitely suspended since 1996).

Holder’s letter is reassuring, but then it also requires that you trust a government that, as Snowden himself exposed, has been covertly spying on its people in violation of its most cherished and venerated principles.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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