By Jordan Fabian
The expiration of provisions of the Patriot Act has not changed the White House’s view that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden should face prosecution.
“The fact is that Mr. Snowden committed very serious crimes,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. “The U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them.”
Snowden revealed the controversial NSA program that collected Americans’ phone records, the same program which lapsed after the Senate failed to reauthorize parts of the Patriot Act before a Sunday deadline.
The lapse will likely be temporary — the Senate is expected to pass a bipartisan bill to reform the program this week. But some lawmakers have credited, or blamed, Snowden for the contentious debate that has surrounded the nation’s spying powers.
Federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage in 2013 after he leaked details of the metadata program. But he evaded arrest by fleeing from Hong Kong to Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum.
A Russian lawyer for Snowden said in March he was in discussions to return to the United States. Snowden has previously demanded assurances that he would receive a fair trial, and that he could use a so-called “whistleblower defense.”
Earnest would not comment directly on Snowden’s offer to return, but he criticized the former NSA contractor for “releasing details on the Internet” rather than using pre-existing whistleblower protocols for national security programs.
“We believe Mr. Snowden should return to the United States, where he will face due process and have the opportunity … to make that case in a court of law,” Earnest said.