NSA Official: Snowden Amnesty for Documents Is 'Worth a Conversation'

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Friday, 13 Dec 2013 06:48 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A senior NSA official says granting amnesty to spy secrets leaker Edward Snowden in exchange for the trove of classified documents he still holds is "worth having a conversation about," CBS News reports.

In an interview with "60 Minutes" set to air Sunday, Rick Ledgett, the National Security Agency official leading a leaks investigation, said making a deal with Snowden makes some sense — though NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander is opposed to the idea.

Snowden may still hold 1.5 million classified documents he's not yet leaked, CBS News reported Thursday. The ex-NSA contractor is now living in Moscow under temporary asylum.

Getting him back in the United States — and the classified documents back in the NSA's hands — is worth conserving, Ledgett said.

"So my personal view is, yes, it's worth having a conversation about. I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high," he said in the "60 Minutes" interview.

"It would be more than just an assertion on his part."

But, Ledgett concedes, his opinion is "not unanimous."

Alexander said such a deal would be "analogous to a hostage-taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10, and then say, 'If you give me full amnesty, I'll let the other 40 go.'"

Snowden, he insisted, must be held "accountable."

"Because what we don't want is the next person to do the same thing, race off to Hong Kong and to Moscow with another set of data, knowing they can strike the same deal," he said.

Snowden's leaks have revealed extensive — and previously unknown — spying on phone, email, and social media communications by the NSA and allied agencies, straining diplomatic ties between Washington and its allies and sparking civil liberties debates in the United States and Europe.

An oversight panel is now readying new restrictions and guidelines for the NSA, The Hill reported, with an expected delivering to President Obama this weekend. The report would make changes to the agency's practice of collecting records on all U.S. phone calls, The Hill reported.

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