Russia could handover Edward Snowden to US to 'curry favour' with Donald Trump, report suggests
Russia is reportedly considering returning Edward Snowden to the US to “curry favour” with Donald Trump.
Mr Trump previously called Mr Snowden a “spy” and a “traitor”, who deserved to be executed.
Senior US officials have analysed a series of sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations, which state handing over the whistleblower as a “gift” is one tactic to “curry favour” with the US President, NBC News reports.
Mr Snowden has used the report of him being “a gift” from the Russians to the US President as evidence that he is not a spy.
“Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russia intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next,” he tweeted.
The report by US intelligence has been confirmed by two sources in the intelligence community with notes and conversations being gathered since the inauguration, according to NBC.
Mr Snowden's ACLU lawyer, Ben Wizner, told NBC News they are unaware of any plans that would send him back to the United States.
"Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern," Mr Wizner said.
Mr Snowden he leaked thousands of classified documents in 2013 revealing the vast US surveillance of private data put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He later found asylum in Russia.
He has been living in exile in Moscow since 2013 and is still wanted in the United States to face trial on charges brought under the tough Espionage Act of 1917.
The White House did not comment on the US intelligence report but the Justice Department said it would welcome the return of Mr Snowden.
The Kremlin has denied the allegations and said the possibility of Mr Snowden’s handover was “nonsense”.
Last December, in an interview with Yahoo News, Mr Snowden responded to rumours of his handover to the Trump administration.
“It wasn’t so many years ago that people were saying this guy is a Russian spy. But countries don’t give up their spies and if my recent criticism of the Russian Government internet policies, criticism of their human rights record have been so severe that even my greatest critics in the intelligence community are now saying ‘oh yeah, he is a liability they want to get him out of there‘ - that’s a vindication.
“[A vindication that] the fact that I’m independent, the fact that I have always worked on behalf of the United States and the fact that Russia doesn’t owe me,” he said.
The former National Security Agency contractor also said being returned to the US would be “a threat to my liberty and to my life”.
In April 2014, Mr Trump tweeted: “Snowden is a spy who has caused great damage to the US. A spy in the old days, when our country was respected and strong, would be executed.”
Independent News Service