Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is "The World." If NSA Leaker Edward Snowden was looking for clemency, it doesn't look like he's getting any. Both White House and congressional officials are rejecting the notion. Some though Snowden was asking for clemency in a letter he wrote to Germany's parliament in which he stated, "Speaking the truth is not a crime." Bruce Vine was deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration. He was also, until recently, the lawyer representing Edward Snowden's father Lon Snowden. Bruce, what do you make of this letter? Are you one of those who thought it was a plea for clemency?
Bruce Vine: I don't think so. That's a stretch, but it's very unclear given the lack of direct access to Mr. Snowden. You know, who was the intermediary? Did he write the letter? Did somebody else write the letter? And so it leaves open to speculation exactly the bonefiedies of any such statement given the fog in which he's enshrouded.
Werman: Right. So just lay it out for us. What is Snowden's legal situation as far as ever coming back to the US is concerned?
Vine: I think that number one: there are several options that could happen, that the President could just unilaterally decide that since Edward Snowden stimulated the national conversation that he said was urgent. Therefore, it's a matter of projectoral discretion, even though he's also disclosed and packed even more interceptions, foreigners who have no protection under the fourth amendment and, by no stretch of the legal imagination could be illegal, that he would nevertheless decide that he would drop the prosecution. Then you have an option. He could try to seek asylum elsewhere than in Russia when Mr. Snowden was in Hong Kong with Van Greenwald, he was quite explicit that he wanted asylum in a place like Iceland that protected and honored human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of association and whatever else you can say about Russian Vladimir Putin. They do not honor freedom of speech, freedom of dissent, any of the things that Ed said that he stands for. Indeed, Mr. Putin really locks up everybody who voices a dissent from his decrees and his desire to maintain limitless power. Now there is another option.
It's one that I would encourage Ed to consider. And that is to seek to obtain assurances through a lawyer in the United States that if he returned, he would be protected fully by the Constitution of the United States. He's have an impartial venue that he would not be treated like Bradley or Chelsea Manning before trial. He'd have a fair opportunity to present his case and have access to his lawyers, basically not pre-trial detention like Daniel Elsberg charged with the same espionage act violations was not detained prior to trial, but basically come back and make his case to the American people. Indeed, that it what Edward Snowden said his decision to make these disclosures was all about. And I do believe that staying in Russian under the thumb of Mr. Putin really distracts attention from the goal that Edward Snowden himself said was the mission of his particular endeavor.
Werman: I've got to say, Bruce Vine, there's a very different feel to the Edward Snowden saga now since when it all began back in May. I mean,the story's moved well beyond the US spying on its citizens. How do you see the changes in the story since it began?
Vine: Well I agree with you in that it shows, I suppose, a question of judgement about Mr. Snowden and those who are publicizing initially, you know, the wrongdoing which was focused on spying on American citizens, protected by the fourth amendment, protected by our Patriot Act, keeping the secret from Americans who have a right to know what their government is doing in order to change the law. And now it's just sort of sprawling into, you know, just any kind of spying is bad, and the whole preoccupation now is these melodrama, the cellphone of Angelo Merco or the president of Brazil or the things that are really trivial if not irrelevant to the law of the United States, and they now capture the headlines, which in my judgement is most unfortunate. It shows a gross misconception of what the evils were that Mr. Snowden was disclosing in part.
Werman: Bruce vine, deputy assistant to the Attorney General during the Reagan administration. Thank you for your time.
Vine: Thank you.
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