For a very brief moment a top NSA official suggested that amnesty be extended to Edward Snowden in exchange for ceasing more document leakage past the 1% claimed by Snowden, reported the BBC Monday.
The White House quickly placed a cease to that thought process. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr. Snowden still faced felony charges for leaking classified data.
It came as a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s snooping on telephone calls is likely to be unconstitutional. US District Judge Richard Leon wrote that the program probably violated Americans’ right to be free of unreasonable searches.
Judge Leon stayed his own ruling pending an expected appeal by the government.
Richard Ledgett, who is head of the NSA’s task force investigating damage from Mr. Snowden’s leaks, discussed the possibility of an amnesty deal on the US television channel CBS.
‘I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high, would be more than just an assertion on his part,’ stated Ledgett.
An analogy put forth by, NSA Director Gen Keith Alexander also dismissed the idea when he spoke to CBS News. ‘This is analogous to a hostage taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10, and then say, ‘if you give me full amnesty, I’ll let the other 40 go’. What do you do?’
Carney was very clear and direct today that Mr. Ledgett’s personal opinions were just that and it was the Department of Justice’s call on Snowden and felony charges. No one is passing get out of jail passes on this situation.
The US has charged Mr. Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence. Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
The BBC released Monday a profile of Snowden and a video taken of a meeting in Hong Kong with him and some journalists.
Journalists who interviewed him at his secret location in Hong Kong described him as ‘quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing; A master on computers’.
Explaining why he decided to leave the US, he told the Guardian: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.’
Mr. Snowden is reported to have grown up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and later moved to Maryland, near the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade. A less than stellar student he never finished High School course for diploma.
He joined the Army in 2003 and began training in Special Forces but he broke both of his legs in a training exercise and was honorably discharged.
His first job with the NSA was as a security guard for one of the agency’s secret facilities at the University of Maryland. He then worked on IT security at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Despite his lack of formal qualifications, it is said that his computer wizardry allowed him to quickly rise through intelligence ranks.
By 2007, he was given a CIA post with diplomatic cover in Geneva. Mr. Snowden told the Guardian: ‘Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world. I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.’
Snowden told the journalists that he thought the situation would change after Obama became elected but it did not. Mr. Snowden admitted to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper that he joined the NSA in 2009 and took the job because he wanted to work on the Booz Allen group in order to gain access to classified documents to gather evidence.