Let’s start with the obvious. Edward Snowden doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in Moscow or even Ecuador, Brazil or the other havens he has unsuc­cess­fully pur­sued. He wants to come back to America—and we need him here. The Obama admin­is­tra­tion cringes at his every public appear­ance, and the intel­li­gence com­mu­nity has quite a few ques­tions that only he can answer.

Forget the pos­turing talk of treason and par­dons, of trans­parency and lib­erty. Snowden knows that no matter how much he arguably served the public interest, he com­mitted serious crim­inal offenses and will have to be pun­ished. And the gov­ern­ment knows that unless he is treated kindly, he’ll be the go-​​to com­men­tator for world media so long as global sur­veil­lance is linked to national secu­rity and the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity remains dis­turbed by reports of Amer­ican eaves­drop­ping of for­eign dignitaries.

So they need to make a deal. It’s the Amer­ican way.

After all, plea bar­gaining dom­i­nates our crim­inal jus­tice system. Pros­e­cu­tors largely con­trol the process; they decide whether to make an offer and the con­di­tions of that offer. Risk-​​averse defen­dants all too often take these deals, fearful of the “trial tax,” the prospect of receiving a stiffer sen­tence after losing at trial. Many view this plea bar­gaining process as deeply flawed at best and coer­cive at worst.

Read the article at The Nation →