CHICAGO, May 30 (UPI) -- Edward Snowden's revealing of documents about U.S. surveillance programs was a public service but he must still face punishment, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.
"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made...Now I would say that doing what he did, and the way he did it, was inappropriate and illegal. I think he harmed American interests," Holder, who served as attorney general from 2009 to 2015, said.
"I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk, relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromised. He's broken the law, in my view. He needs to get lawyers, come on back and ... see what he wants to do: go to trial, try to cut a deal. I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done. But, I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate."
The podcast, released Monday, is a segment of "The Axe Files," produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
In 2013 Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, disclosed details of surveillance conducted by the United States. Charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property, he sought asylum in Russia, where he currently lives. The incident touched off discussion in the United States about the relationship between national security and citizens' right to privacy.
In an interview with the BBC in 2015, Snowden said he "volunteered to go to prison" but added he had not received a response from the U.S. government.