U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a “gift” to President Donald Trump — who has called the NSA leaker a “spy” and a “traitor” who deserves to be executed.
That’s according to a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations and who says a Snowden handover is one of various ploys to “curry favor” with Trump. A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration.
Snowden’s ACLU lawyer, Ben Wizner, told NBC News they are unaware of any plans that would send him back to the United States.
“Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern,” Wizner said.
Snowden responded to NBC’s report on Twitter and said it shows that he did not work with the Russian government.
“Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel,” Snowden said. “No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next.”
Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, reacted to the report with dismay.
“There are no reasons to extradite Edward Snowden to the U.S.,” Kucherena said, according to TASS, the state-owned news agency. “This is some kind of speculation coming from so-called US special service sources. I think this topic was and remains on the political plane in the U.S., but it’s American special services that are puppeteering this story with sporadic information plants.”
“There is not the slightest reason to raise or discuss this topic in Russia,” Kucherena said.
Russia, he said, does not sell people. “The Snowden issue cannot be a bargaining chip on any level, neither political nor economic,” he said, according to the news agency.
Former deputy national security adviser Juan Zarate urged the Trump administration to be cautious in accepting any Snowden offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“For Russia, this would be a win-win. They’ve already extracted what they needed from Edward Snowden in terms of information and they’ve certainly used him to beat the United States over the head in terms of its surveillance and cyber activity,” Zarate said.
“It would signal warmer relations and some desire for greater cooperation with the new administration, but it would also no doubt stoke controversies and cases in the U.S. around the role of surveillance, the role of the U.S. intelligence community, and the future of privacy and civil liberties in an American context.
“All of that would perhaps be music to the ears of Putin.”
Source: nbcnews .com