U.S. tells Russia that Snowden won't face death penalty

In a letter to Russia, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also says Edward Snowden would receive the full protection of the U.S. civilian court.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden Guardian/Screenshot by CNET

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to Russia assuring the government that if Edward Snowden is turned over, he'll be protected.

In a letter sent to Russia and obtained by CBS News, Holder wrote that Snowden, who faces charges of espionage by the U.S. government, would not be put up for the death penalty or be tortured if he were extradited to the U.S.

Snowden is currently holed up in the transit area in a Moscow airport. He has argued in his bid to receive temporary asylum from the Russian government that if he were to be extradited to the U.S., he would face torture and the death penalty. The letter sent by Holder, which was dated July 23, assures the Russian government that Snowden will receive the full protection of the U.S. civilian court system.

The U.S. has been urging Russia to extradite Snowden for weeks, but so far, President Vladimir Putin has brushed off those requests. In a statement before Russian news outlets today, the government confirmed that it had received Holder's letter and is still firmly against extraditing him to the U.S.

Since Snowden leaked classified U.S. National Security Agency information, his passport has been revoked. For him to obtain his full asylum in one of several South American countries that have offered it to him, he needs temporary asylum from the Russian government. So far, Russia has not made a decision on whether he will be granted that asylum.