A top NSA official told CBS’s 60 Minutes that he thinks the U.S. should consider granting Edward Snowden amnesty in exchange for securing the sensitive information he took from his employer.
Robert Ledgett, who heads the NSA’s task force responding to the leaks, said that allowing Snowden to return to the United States without prosecution is “worth having a conversation about.” But there would be conditions, he said: “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”
NSA director Keith Alexander and the State Department have rejected the idea. Alexander said on the program that granting Snowden amnesty “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.’”
On Sunday, State Department spokesman Marie Harf said, “Our position has not changed. Mr. Snowden is facing very serious charges and should return to the United States to face them.” She added that Ledgett was merely expressing a personal opinion.
Another wrinkle: Snowden has said that he left the documents with journalists before flying to Russia, where he now resides, to keep the files from falling into others’ hands. If he can’t return the documents, talk of amnesty might be short-lived.