AG Holder tells Russians Edward Snowden would not be executed or tortured

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Eric Holder - Caricature

Attorney General Eric Holder has written the Russian government to allege that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is not entitled to asylum.  In a July 23 letter, Holder was dismissive of fears that Snowden would be tortured or executed.

“We also understand from press reports that Mr. Snowden has filed papers seeking temporary asylum in Russia on the grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and face the death penalty. These claims are entirely without merit.”

Holder assures Russian officials that Snowden “will not be tortured,” and adds, “Torture is unlawful in the United States.”

I picture Holder dictating this with a devlish grin and crossed fingers behind his back. Of course, torture is illegal in the US–but, as everyone knows, it’s only illegal if US officials call it torture in lieu of labeling it something else, like “enhanced interrogation” in the case of terrorism suspects or “suicide prevention” in the case of Army whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Holder’s letter uses linguistic gymnastics to accuse Snowden of misleading Russian authorities about his status, including his ability to travel to a country that would offer him asylum.

“We understand from press reports and prior conversations betwen our governments that Mr. Snowden believes that he is unable to travel out of Russia and must therefore take steps to legalize his status. That is not accurate; he is able to travel . . . He is eligible for a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States.”

Basically, Holder is telling Snowden, “Of course you can travel–you can go to hell, with my blessing.”

Having veiled the truth of these matters behind deceptive language, the Attorney General concludes:

“We believe that these assurances eliminated these asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum.”

It’s hard to imagine that Holder believed the Russians would buy into his dodgy propaganda. In fact, Russian officials said today that they will not extradite Snowden to the United States.  More likely, Holder issued the letter as a perfunctory step in the process of authorizing retaliatory trade sanctions against Russia and/or any other country that grants Snowden asylum.  But, the nasty-grams from US officials to the rest of the world could backfire. Other countries, fed up with the bullying, could one day decide to impose sanctions on the US.  Considering how much the US imports these days from overseas, that could be a humbling experience.

Image from DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons.

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