U.S.: We Promise Not to Torture, Kill Edward Snowden

PHOTO: Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, in Hong Kong, June 9, 2013.

America's top prosecutor has promised Russian officials that the U.S. would not torture Edward Snowden, nor would it seek the death penalty for the former National Security Agency contractor should he be handed over to U.S. custody.

"We… understand from press reports that Mr. Snowden has filed papers seeking temporary asylum in Russia on the grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and would face the death penalty," Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to his Russian counterparts today. "These claims are entirely without merit."

As for the death penalty, Holder wrote that the espionage-related charges Snowden faces "do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes." Holder also wrote that torture is "unlawful in the United States."

Holder said that Snowden would be provided all the protections the law provides, should he return to face the charges against him.

"We believe that these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden's claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise," Holder said.

DOWNLOAD: Holder's Letter to Russian Officials Re: Snowden (PDF)

Snowden is believed to still be holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport, despite early indications Russian officials were prepared to grant him temporary asylum. A local lawyer who is advising Snowden told reporters Wednesday that immigration officials were still deliberating about his request and said Snowden "intends to stay in Russia, study Russian culture."

FULL COVERAGE: Edward Snowden

Snowden, who fled the U.S. for Hong Kong with a trove of NSA documents on vast secret surveillance programs, was believed to have originally intended to go through Moscow on his way to sympathetic countries in South America. But there are no direct commercial flights from Moscow to the nations in question and the U.S. has demanded that any country in which Snowden lands should hand him over.

Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said that Snowden has committed no crimes in Russia and would be permitted to stay, so long as he stops leaking information that damages America. Snowden publicly argued that he never intended to damage America and that he's already given all the information he has to give to various journalists – essentially, he has nothing left to leak. The reports based on his information, however, are not expected to stop, according to The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who told ABC News he's not even half done writing about what he's learned from Snowden.

Still, today a spokesperson for Putin's office said he has "no doubt" Snowden will stop leaking information if he is given temporary asylum.

"I have no doubt this is how it will be, no matter how the situation develops," the spokesperson said, according to Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti.

CLICK HERE to return to The Investigative Unit homepage.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Salvager Eric Schmitt was combing through the wreckage of a convoy of Spanish ships that sank off the coast of Florida in 1715 when he discovered a missing piece from a gold Pyx.
Courtesy 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels, LLC
Lisa Kudrow
Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library | Getty Images
PHOTO: Motorists were startled when an axe from a dump truck in front of them flew at their windshield.
Massachusetts State Police/Facebook
PHOTO: In this April 26, 2013 photo, a large home intended for the family of Warren Jeffs is seen in Hildale, Utah.
Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune/AP
PHOTO: Zac Efron seen at BBC Radio One, April 24, 2014, in London.
Neil P. Mockford/GC Images/Getty Images