There is nothing like the suspicious murder of a leading figure of the political opposition just feet from the Kremlin to focus the mind.
According to reports, Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who made global headlines by revealing the extent of the agency’s metadata collection and warehousing programs before fleeing to Russia to seek asylum, is ready to face the music back at home. Reports suggest that the notorious NSA leaker is in talks with American authorities in advance of his possible return to the United States.
“He is thinking about it,” said Anatoly Kucherena, the Kremlin-linked Russian attorney who is representing Snowden. “He has a desire to return and we are doing everything we can to make it happen.”
“Snowden is ready to return to the States, but on the condition that he is given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial,” he said.
The lawyer said Snowden had so far only received a guarantee from the US Attorney General that he will not face the death penalty.
He said that Snowden is able to travel outside Russia since he has a three-year Russian residency permit, but “I suspect that as soon as he leaves Russia, he will be taken to the US embassy.”
“There is a group of U.S. lawyers, there is also a group of German lawyers and I’m dealing with it on the Russian side,” Snowden’s Russian attorney added.
The chances are more likely that Snowden is seeking to negotiate an pre-trial agreement and does not merely aspire to have a soapbox from which to defend himself in the form of a criminal trial. If he only wanted to frame himself as martyred whistleblower defending the ideals of the Constitution, he would have surrendered to American authorities long ago. Instead, Snowden led a secluded and comfortable life in Moscow as a guest of Vladimir Putin.
Snowden’s supporters, many of whom are predisposed to view the government’s motives and actions with suspicion, are unlikely to judge any justice that Snowden receives short of full acquittal and exoneration as fair and impartial. But it is reasonable to assume that the federal government would not be eager to allow Snowden’s trial to devolve into an exercise aimed at litigating the legitimacy of the NSA’s domestic surveillance practices.
Or, perhaps Snowden is merely hoping to time his return to the United States to coincide with the promotional campaign for the Oliver Stone biopic loosely based on his ordeal… starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt!
Snowden was recently the subject of Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour, which picked up this year’s Oscar for best documentary. The plot of Stone’s film follows Snowden as arrives at his decision to reveal the extent of the NSA’s snooping to Poitras and former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto will play Greenwald, while Tom Wilkinson has signed on as the Guardian’s defence and intelligence correspondent Ewan MacAskill.
It’s hard to imagine what will be a bigger exercise in self-aggrandizement and the massaging of a persecution complex: Stone’s movie or Snowden’s trial. It is, however, safe to assume that both spectacles will be equally tedious.