U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday he would "engage in conversation" with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden in search of some sort of resolution for his case. But he stopped short of considering clemency, telling MSNBC that "would be going too far."
Holder's carefully phrased remarks come after both the New York Times and The Guardian published editorials in favor of granting Snowden clemency from the Espionage Act charges the Justice Department laid against him following Snowden's revelations last June about the NSA's widespread surveillance programs. Some members of Congress -- mostly liberal Democrats -- have also said they would welcome a deal.
But Holder also rejected the notion that Snowden is a whistleblower, stating "I prefer the term defendant. That's the most apt title."
President Barack Obama offered his own comments toward Snowden in a widely publicized speech announcing NSA reforms last Friday, in which Obama criticized the "sensational" way in which the former contractor disclosed classified information. Obama said he was "not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or motivations," but added that the nation’s defense "depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets."
Snowden has been holed up in Russia since June, after fleeing the United States to avoid prosecution for his leaks.