National Security Agency (NSA) agent Rick Ledgett said he would consider giving whistle blower Edward Snowden amnesty — as long as the leaks stop. Snowden, who was charged with espionage after releasing classified NSA documents, is currently in Russia where he has asylum.
The whistle blower allegedly stole 1.7 million private NSA documents, but only released 58,000 of them to the press.
Ledgett, head of the NSA task force investigating Snowden’s leaks, said on “60 Minutes,” “My personal view is, yes, [amnesty is] worth having a conversation about.”
In order to consider amnesty, Ledgett said Snowden would need to return his stolen, extensive document stash. Ledgett said, “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”
But General Keith Alexander, NSA chief, does not agree — giving Snowden amnesty would set a dangerous precedent, he argued.
Also appearing on “60 Minutes,” Alexander said, “This is analogous to a hostage-taker taking 50 people hostage, shooting 10 and then say ‘You give me full amnesty and I’ll let the other 40 go.'” He said that if Snowden got amnesty, other individuals could become encouraged to release classified information and put US security at risk.
General Michael Hayden, former NSA chief, agrees with Alexander. He said, “I wouldn’t do it. That simply motivates future Snowdens.”
Amnesty would need to be approved by the Justice Department, which has not commented on the situation.
The “60 Minutes” special is a part of the NSA’s large effort to re-brand itself and rebuild its reputation in the wake of Snowden’s leaks. As a part of this attempt, government agents have been traveling to academic institutions around the country, asserting that surveillance is necessary to keep Americans safe.