Suppose the government of the United States gets its hands on Edward Snowden and brings him to trial. Have you wondered what happens then?
I've predicted that no jury of Snowden's peers will convict him, regardless of how clear it is that he broke laws. I would be highly disappointed in my fellow citizens if they sided with the perpetrator (the government) over the victims (themselves) and decided to screw the whistleblower (Snowden) who is on their side. But let's consider the alternative.
If Snowden gets convicted, many of the citizens of the United States will go all Egyptian and take to the streets. It was bad enough that the government was collecting all of our private communications. But convicting the guy who blew the whistle? That's throwing a match on the gasoline. So I believe the government doesn't want to see him convicted, or at least the top people don't. It's too risky to the system.
On the other hand, the government has an absolute legal obligation to pursue criminal charges against Snowden. Society doesn't work if people think they can break laws whenever they have good reasons.
We also know there is big money involved in domestic surveillance. And while I'm late to the party on this, all evidence suggests that the government is controlled by corporate interests. So one presumes the government needs to punish the whistleblower to satisfy its corporate overlords and to keep the domestic surveillance cash cow mooing.
This puts the government in the awkward position of trying to avoid some sort of accidental competence that ends up convicting a martyr and sparking a popular uprising. They need to put Snowden on trial to satisfy their corporate sponsors. But they need to fail in getting a conviction to satisfy the public.
I think there is a 100% chance that some dark department of the government, along with its foreign proxies, is planning an "accident" for Snowden before he reaches the United States. Putin would probably do it in return for secret concessions. He might need some of his own spies freed, for example. In the end, I don't think the U.S. government will authorize a hit on Snowden because it would be too obvious. But you know they discussed it. That much seems certain.
If I were President Obama, I would start seeding the media with the idea of a trial and conviction followed by a presidential pardon. You'd want to float that idea and see what the public thought of it. A conviction and a pardon are as close as you can get to a "tie" in this situation, and that would be the best case scenario for the public. We want to know that lawbreakers are dealt with, but we also appreciate justice.
If Snowden gets a lot of attention during a trial, and somehow gains his freedom at the end, I wouldn't be surprised to see him run for President in a few years. This is the sort of situation that gives a person instant legitimacy. If Snowden ran on a platform of exposing corporate control over the government and preserving individual privacy he'd be a credible player on day one.
Things will get interesting when Snowden reaches our shores, and I'm fairly sure that will happen.