Eric Holder: Snowden Won't Face Death Penalty

Endeavoring to persuade Russia against granting Edward Snowden asylum or refugee status, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to Russian counterpart Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov saying Snowden would not face the death penalty in the United States.

Holder's letter says Snowden's grounds for seeking asylum "are entirely without merit." The letter continues to promise that Snowden would not face the death penalty or be tortured, if returned to the United States.

"First, the United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States. The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes," Holder wrote.

Snowden is charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national-defense information, and willful communication of classified communications to an unauthorized person. Although none of these charges carry the possibility of the death penalty, it is normal for the United States to guarantee individuals who are sought in other countries won't face it. Even the country's closest allies won't turn over suspects if they believe it is a possibility.

Holder also wrote that Snowden is eligible for a limited validity passport, only good for direct return to the United States. U.S. officials said Russia had yet to formally respond to the letter.

Snowden remains difficult for everyone to reach. His father, Lon Snowden, said on the Today Show Friday morning that although he has had no direct contact with his son, he has been able to communicate with him through intermediaries.

Lon Snowden predictably did not disclose who these intermediaries are. He did, however, make a statement defending his son's actions, urging Americans to defend him. “He did what he knew was right. He shared the truth with the American people. What we choose to do with it is up to us as a people,” he said.