Former US Attorney General Eric Holder seems to have mixed feelings about Edward Snowden, CNN reports. The NSA whistleblower who leaked classified documents about US surveillance techniques performed a "public service," says Holder, who insists Snowden still needs to come home and "go to trial." Speaking on David Axelrod's podcast "The Axe Files" (hear it here or the CNN link), Holder explains that "we can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made." Still, Holder adds, "he harmed American interests."
"I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk, relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromised," says Holder. He concludes that Snowden should return, get lawyers, and try to "cut a deal," but adds that in sentencing him the judge "could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate." It's a turnaround for Holder, who as attorney general said Snowden would have to plead guilty to even speak with US authorities, the Verge recalls. Snowden recently reiterated his willingness to come home if he could get "a fair trial," but says the Espionage Act doesn't allow for public-interest defenses where the word "whistleblower" can be spoken.