Snowden: US attorney general promises not to torture me if I return to US

Reason posted a transcript of Nick Gillespie's satellite link interview with national security whistleblower Edward Snowden, still exiled in Russia. Gillespie asked Snowden, "What would be the conditions under which you would voluntarily return to the United States?"

Snowden: It's evolved quite a bit. Originally, I volunteered myself for prison, but I said that I wouldn't allow myself to be held up as a deterrent to other people who are trying to do the right thing.

And that was fundamentally contrary to what the government wanted to do. They wanted to nail a scalp on the wall as a warning to the others. It was Daniel Ellsberg—who leaked the Pentagon Papers, the secret classified history of the war in Vietnam in 1971 that showed the government had not only lied us into the war, but they kept lying to us to keep us in it despite the fact that they knew there was no way to win—he told me that this was a mistake. Eventually he convinced me. To what do we owe our first loyalty? To law or to justice? To submit ourselves to a government that is intentionally trying to deter the political beliefs and political acts of other people merely on the basis of law, as though that were a substitute for morality or superior to morality, is a very dangerous precedent to set.

Most people might be surprised by this, but I'm still fairly more trusting in the value of government and institutions than Daniel Ellsberg, who has just been an extraordinary crusader and a true radical in the best way for more than a generation now.

I've told the government that I will return if they guarantee a fair trial where I can make a public-interest defense of why this was done, and allow the jury to decide if it was right or wrong in the context of both legality and morality. And the United States responded with a letter from the attorney general saying they promise they would not torture me. I'm not kidding. So it's still kind of a work-in-progress, but we'll see where it goes.