National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is talking to the U.S. government about a possible plea deal on charges that he stole some 1.7 million top-secret documents, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Snowden’s Washington-based lawyer, Plato Cacheris, recently spoke with the Justice Department’s National Security Division, according to the publication. Snowden is in Russia after being granted asylum but has said previously that he would be open to negotiating a deal with the United States. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment to the Free Beacon.
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According to the Free Beacon's Bill Gertz, Snowden would plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for returning the massive cache of documents he stole and later leaked to media outlets. He is charged with conveying classified information to an unauthorized party, disclosing communications intelligence information, and theft of government property. Each charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.
The plea discussions purportedly took place between the Justice Department's security division and Cacheris. Attorney General Eric Holder has said previously that the United States would be willing to discuss a plea deal, but that a pardon, or clemency, was out of the question.
"We’d do that with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty," Holder said in January, according to Politico
. "We’ve always indicated … that the notion of clemency was not something we were willing to consider. Were he to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers."
Cacheris has represented several U.S. spies who reached plea bargains rather than go to trial, the Free Beacon reported.
For the time being, Snowden is planning to extend his stay in Russia, if the country will extend his asylum past August, according to his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, the Free Beacon reported. Snowden told a Brazilian television reporter that he would be interested in relocating there if that country would offer him asylum.
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