An attorney for Edward Snowden said the exiled National Security Agency leaker wants to return to the United States — but not if the move would result in a life behind bars.
"Sure he would come back to the United States. He hopes to come back to the United States," Ben Wizner, Snowden's legal adviser and director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.
"If there's one thing that we all should agree on is that Edward Snowden shouldn't be in Russia," he said.
Snowden, who fled the U.S. earlier this year after leaking classified information to the media regarding NSA surveillance programs, faces charges of espionage and felony theft of government property. Russia granted him temporary asylum about five months ago.
But Wizner said the World War I-era espionage charge that Snowden faces doesn't make exceptions if the leaked information is deemed in the public interest. "And I think we can all agree that some of this information [Snowden leaked] has been profoundly in the public interest," he said.
"If the law allowed him to come here and say 'look at all the good this has done', if the law allowed the government to say he hasn't proved any harm from this disclosures, sure, he would face trial in that kind of system," Wizner said. "But for now, he doesn't believe, and I don't believe, that the cost of his act of conscience should be a life behind bars."
Wizner said he has regular contact with Snowden through "encrypted channels" and expects his client to continue speaking out in 2014.
"It's very possible he will emerge a little bit" in the New Year, he said. "He's been called a narcissist in a lot of corners but … people have been trying to give him money for book deals and movie deals, and he prefers to stay out of the limelight. But I do think we can expect to see him engage a little bit more in the public debate."