- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2019

Edward Snowden believes he would “die in prison” if he returns to the U.S., the fugitive and former National Security Agency contractor said in a recent interview.

“There is certainly no question by any legal expert or even political opinion-maker that what I face in the United States is an extraordinary process of what I believe internationally is well-recognized as persecution rather than prosecution,” Mr. Snowden said from Moscow in an interview arranged via video link to an award ceremony in Sweden.

“The potential sentence and the likely sentence for telling the truth, which the government does not contest is what happened here, is that I would die in prison,” Mr. Snowden asserted.

Mr. Snowden, 36, was charged by the Department of Justice in 2013 in connection with leaking classified NSA documents to the media detailing the agency’s surveillance operations. He was out of the country when the criminal charges were unsealed and has not returned in the more than six years since.

“We have gone from the United States government’s war on whistleblowers to now a war on journalism with the indictment of Julian Assange for what even the government itself admits was work related to journalism. And this I think is a dangerous, dangerous thing, not just for us, not just for Julian Assange, but for the world and the future,” Mr. Snowden told interviewer Amy Goodman.

“If we allow developed democracies to imprison their political critics and dissidents, the people who call into question the legality, the propriety, the morality of their policies and the prosecution of their wars, we will embolden the most authoritarian regimes on earth. And we will be the ones who our children question when they ask how the world that they were inheriting came to be,” Mr. Snowden said.

Mr. Snowden has been charged with violating the U.S. Espionage Act for leaking and publishing classified U.S. government material. He faces the possibility of spending decades in federal prison if put on trial in the U.S. and convicted.

“He is accused of leaking classified information and there is no question his actions have inflicted serious harms on our national security,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi told The Washington Times. “He should return to the United States and face the charges filed against him.”

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