Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says Edward Snowden performed "public service"

Speaking to David Axelrod for CNN, Holder said he believed Snowden needs to return to the US to face the charges against him

Eric Holder, Edward Snowden,

Image: Andrew Harnik / AP/Press Association Images

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that Edward Snowden performed a public service, but must still face some form of penalty for the leaking of classified documents. 

Speaking on The Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod, Holder said that what Snowden had done opened up an important debate on surveillance and intelligence services in the world at large as well as the United States

"I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in," said Holder "and by the changes that we made."

However, Holder noted that  his actions also had very real repercussions for both agents in the field and the government as a whole. 

"I know there are ways in which certain of our agents were put at risk," added Holder "relationships with other countries were harmed, our ability to keep the American people safe was compromised. There were all kinds of re-dos that had to be put in place as a result of what he did, and while those things were being done we were blind in certain really critical areas. So what he did was not without consequence."

Holder added that he believed that Snowden should return to face charges in the United States, but his contribution to the larger discussion on the issue was worth consideration. 

"I think that he's got to make a decision. He's broken the law in my view. He needs to get lawyers, come on back, and decide, see what he wants to do: Go to trial, try to cut a deal. I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done.

"But I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate."