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Snowden: U.S. won't respond to offers to serve prison time

By
Amy R. Connolly
NSA leaker Edward Snowden, center, called a meeting at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow in 2013 to deliver a statement and discuss his plans for asylum. He said he intended to stay in Russia until he could arrange safe travel to Latin America. Snowden told the BBC he has offered to face prison time in the United States as part of his return from exile in Russia. Photo by Tanya Lokshina/Human Rights Watch
NSA leaker Edward Snowden, center, called a meeting at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow in 2013 to deliver a statement and discuss his plans for asylum. He said he intended to stay in Russia until he could arrange safe travel to Latin America. Snowden told the BBC he has offered to face prison time in the United States as part of his return from exile in Russia. Photo by Tanya Lokshina/Human Rights Watch

MOSCOW, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told the BBC he has offered to face prison time in the United States in exchange for his return from exile in Russia.

Snowden, who has been living in Moscow since June 2013, said he is waiting for the U.S. government to respond to his multiple offers. In an appearance on BBC's Panorama, Snowden said, "so far they've said they won't torture me, which is a start, I think. But we haven't gotten much further than that."

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"I've volunteered to go to prison with the government many times. What I won't do is I won't serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations," he said in the interview in Moscow.

Snowden faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly stealing and leaking classified information about the NSA's practice of collecting America's domestic cell phone records. After the disclosure, former Attorney General Eric Holder led a crackdown on government leakers, including charging Snowden with three felony violations of the Espionage Act for turning over thousands of government documents to journalists.

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The United States has said it would be open to a plea deal with Snowden, but the opposing sides couldn't find common ground. In July, Holder said there was a possibility the Justice Department would cut a deal to allow Snowden to return to the states.

At the time, Holder, who stepped down in April, said, "I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with" to return Snowden from his current asylum in Moscow.

Snowden told the BBC he doesn't think the charges he is facing are fair and does not regret uncovering the information.

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"I regret I didn't come forward sooner, because the longer you wait with programs like this, the more deeply entrenched they become," Snowden said. "I have paid a price but I feel comfortable with the decisions that I have made. If I'm gone tomorrow, I'm happy with what I had. I feel blessed."

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