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US senator: A few years in prison would be enough for Snowden if he were to return home

January 06, 2014, 6:56 UTC+3 WASHINGTON
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WASHINGTON, January 06, 6:37 /ITAR-TASS/. A few years in prison would be a sufficient penalty for former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden if he were to return to the US, Republican Senator Rand Paul said Sunday.

In an interview with ABC America, Mr. Paul said he does not think that Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison for the leaks. This is what threatened him and this is why he is on the run, Mr. Paul said. He believes that the only way to secure Snowden's return to the US is to offer him a fair trial with a reasonable punishment.

Edward Snowden, a former contractor of the National Security Agency (NSA), who was granted a temporary asylum in Russia, had leaked information to the media about programs aimed at gathering data on phone conversations and on exchanges of information via the Internet worldwide. It is reckoned that only a fraction of hundreds of thousands of documents he had taken from the NSA is disclosed so far.

In December last year senior NSA official Richard Leggett, who is the head of the NSA task force on Edward Snowden, said he would be ready to grant Snowden an amnesty in exchange for his promise to discontinue a further disclosure of American intelligence secrets.

However, the White House said afterwards that the Barrack Obama administration's stand on the case did not change. From the viewpoint of the US government, Snowden had committed a crime and should be arraigned for trial in the USA. Mr. Paul remarked in this connection that he personally believes that Snowden would have, probably, returned to the US in exchange for "a few years in prison". Explaining his stand, Mr. Paul said he does not regard as normal the national secrets' disclosure which may put people's life in jeopardy. However, the lawmaker said, the information leaked by Snowden is indicative of the government's unlawful activities, which is now confirmed by courts.

Senator Paul is one of the sponsors of a bill which stiffens control over the government programs for electronic surveillance. The bill is aimed at protecting ordinary Americans from an intrusion into their private lives. In particular, the document bans the gathering of information on the phone conversations of US citizens and makes an exception only in cases concerning persons suspected of terrorist activity or spying.

In recent days, Mr. Paul announced an intention to file a collective suit against the US government with a view to recognizing as unlawful the program for a mass snooping on the population. He said hundreds of thousands of citizens, who believe that their phone conversations should not be listened in without a court sanction, may accede to the suit.

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