Though the Obama administration remains firmly opposed to offering NSA leaker Edward Snowden any kind of amnesty, Attorney General Eric Holder said today that he'd allow the Justice Department to speak to Snowden's lawyers about a possible plea deal.
Holder told MSNBC's Ari Melber he would "engage in conversations" with Snowden's lawyers should they come to him with a proposal for a deal. Clemency, though, is a non-starter.
"He broke the law, he caused harm to our national security – I think he has to be held accountable for his actions," Holder said.
A plea deal would, of course, require Snowden to plead guilty and admit to doing something wrong. He doesn't appear at all willing to do so, based on his live chat today. CNN's Jake Tapper asked him what would have to happen for him to return to the United States.
Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it's unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself.
The hundred-year old law under which I've been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there's no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.
Maybe when Congress comes together to end the programs the PCLOB just announced was illegal, they'll reform the Whistleblower Protection Act, and we’ll see a mechanism for all Americans, no matter who they work for, to get a fair trial.
Holder didn't say what plea conditions he'd accept for Snowden to return, but CNN's resident Snowden hater Jeffrey Toobin said he "can't conceive" of the Justice Department agreeing to anything short of jail time.
The attorney general did admit to Melber that Snowden's revelations did some good, saying: "I think the dialogue that we are engaged is in fact something that is ultimately going to be productive – it's healthy."
"But that doesn't necessarily excuse that which what he did."