Russia is reportedly considering returning Edward Snowden as a gift to the US to “curry favour” with Donald Trump.
Mr Trump previously called Mr Snowden a “spy” and a “traitor”, who deserved to be executed.
Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower had leaked thousands of classified documents in 2013 revealing the vast US surveillance of private data put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He later found asylum in Russia.
He planned to fly to Ecuador to take refuge from U.S. extradition efforts, but he was held up at a Moscow airport because the U.S. canceled his passport. Snowden was granted a three-year extension of his asylum by the country’s Foreign Ministry in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency.
He has been living in exile in Moscow since 2013 and is still wanted in the United States to face trial on charges brought under the tough Espionage Act of 1917.
Snowden tweeted on Sunday that he is “not afraid” of being handed over to the U.S. Snowden reacted sharply to the report, saying that it proved he never spied for Russia because “no country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next.”
The White House did not comment on the US intelligence report but the Justice Department said it would welcome the return of Mr Snowden.
The Kremlin has denied the allegations and said the possibility of Mr Snowden’s handover was “nonsense”.
Snowden’s American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Ben Wizner said he is not aware of any such plans by Russia as stated in the NBC News report.
“Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern,” he said.
In March 2016, during his presidential campaign, Trump said of Snowden: “I said he was a spy and we should get him back. And if Russia respected our country, they would have sent him back immediately, but he was a spy. It didn’t take me a long time to figure that one out.”
However, Russia rejected the allegations that Snowden was spying for their nation.