But the treaty comes with important exceptions. Key provisions allow a request to be rejected if it is deemed to be politically motivated or that the suspect would not receive a fair trial. Beijing may also block an extradition of Chinese nationals from Hong Kong for national security reasons.
“The government could subject him to a 10 or 20 year penalty for each count,” with each document leaked considered a separate charge, Zaid said.
Snowden told the Guardian newspaper he believes the government could try to charge him with treason under the Espionage Act, but Zaid said that would require the government to prove he had intent to betray the United States, whereas he publicly made it clear he did this to spur debate.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” Snowden told the Guardian.
The government could also make an argument that the NSA leaks have aided the enemy — as military prosecutors have claimed against Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who faces life in prison under military law if convicted for releasing a trove of classified documents through the Wikileaks website.
“They could say the revelation of the (NSA) programs could instruct people to change tactics,” Zaid said. That could add more potential jail time to the punishment.
Snowden told the Post he was not going to hide.
“Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest,” he said in the interview published Sunday. Snowden said he would “ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy.”
Snowden told The Guardian he lacked a high school diploma and served in the U.S. Army until he was discharged because of an injury, and later worked as a security guard with the NSA.