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Edward Snowden’s tricky path to justice


The following ran on the June 10, 2013, edition of Law professor Anthony Colangelo provided expertise for this story.

June 11, 2013

By Reid J. Epstein and David Nather

The National Security Agency contractor who admitted to what officials have called one of the worst leaks in American history faces a complicated path to U.S. courts.
Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee, said in a Guardian interview published Sunday that he is staying at a hotel in Hong Kong and hopes to win asylum in a country like Iceland.

While Snowden may be hoping for a life forever on the run, he’ll have to navigate a labyrinthine international legal system with little precedent for Americans accused of committing political crimes.
But for all the harm that government officials have warned of, legal experts expect that the charges he’d face would carry maximum penalties of 10 years apiece.

Snowden’s situation is different from that of Bradley Manning, the army private now on trial at Fort Meade, Md. Manning faces life imprisonment for the huge data dump he provided to WikiLeaks, but as a member of the military, he’s being tried via court-martial. And Snowden didn’t sell the secrets or give them to a foreign power, so he won’t be subject to the huge penalties of the espionage laws, as Robert Hanssen or Aldrich Ames were when they were caught spying.
The Justice Department can charge Snowden, indict him and leave the charge sitting out there — but to go beyond that, he would need to be brought back to U.S. soil....

“They can go get him and bring him back and it doesn’t matter how he gets before the court,” said Anthony Colangelo, an expert in extraterritorial jurisdiction at Southern Methodist University’s law school. “It doesn’t matter at all how you get somebody, if you get him back you can subject him to judicial process.”...

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