Russia is allegedly considering sending NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden back to the U.S. as a gift to President Donald Trump.
A senior U.S. official has analyzed sensitive intelligence reports that mention a possible handover of Snowden as one of several ploys to “curry favor” Trump, NBC News reports. Another source in the intelligence community confirmed the information.
Ben Wizner, Snowden’s ACLU lawyer, told NBC that “Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern.”
Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser, said Trump has to use caution before accepting any offers involving Snowden 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 told NBC. “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.”
Trump has previously called Snowden a “traitor and a disgrace” who “should come back and face justice.”
The White House did not comment on the report.
Snowden’s leave to remain in Russia was extended by three years in January, according to his lawyer, which gives him the legal right to apply for citizenship next year.