Snowden Hired Lawyer to Negotiate a Plea Deal

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When Attorney General Eric Holder suggested in January that he'd be happy to negotiate with Edward Snowden on the criminal charges he's facing, if he'd like to plead guilty to something first, it sounded like he was speaking hypothetically. However, the New York Times reports that last summer, the NSA leaker, who is facing 30 years in prison, hired a prominent Washington defense lawyer to negotiate a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Lawyer Plato Cacheris has arranged plea deals for two U.S. officials convicted of spying for Russia, and Lawrence Franklin, a Pentagon analyst convicted of leaking classified information about Iran to pro-Israel lobbyists. In 2009 Franklin's sentence was reduced from 13 years in prison to ten months in community confinement.

Government officials said negotiations with Snowden's lawyers remained at an early stage, and it doesn't appear that there's any deal on the horizon. However, Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents Snowden, said he is still "interested in returning home" from Moscow, where he has temporary asylum. Wizner continued:

He is and always has been on America’s side. He would cooperate in extraordinary ways in the right circumstances. But he does not believe that the 'felon' label is the right word for someone whose act of conscience has revitalized democratic oversight of the intelligence community and is leading to historic reforms.

Prosecutors appear to have no interest in giving Snowden credit for the major changes at the NSA recently, so for the time being he's in for more awkward interactions with his Russian hosts.