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June 25th, 2013
07:24 PM ET

Experts: With Snowden, U.S. is getting a taste of its own medicine from Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor responsible for one of the biggest intelligence leaks in U.S. history is in Moscow. Russia will not turn him over to the U.S.

According to Putin, Snowden is in the transit area of the Moscow airport, and has not officially crossed the border into Russia.

Some are questioning whether any U.S. president could handle this awkward situation any differently.

"It could be handled differently if not for two words: Viktor Bout," said The New Republic's Julia Ioffe, referring to the Russian arms smuggler who was captured in Thailand and taken to the U.S. for trial. Bout is currently in prison in the U.S.

"The Russians were about as mad at that as we are about Edward Snowden. And we did not extradite him as Russia asked. I think maybe the Americans would have been able to get a better deal before Victor Bout," said Ioffe.

"The Russians are looking for the best deal here, what's going to benefit Russia the most, whether dragging this story out, making Obama look bad, or get at the information he already has," said former CIA officer Peter Brookes.

Snowden walked into Russia with three computers packed with intelligence information. Ioffe said there is no chance that the Russians do not possess every giga byte on those machines.

The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but the White House said there is a clear legal basis to expel Snowden. His passport has reportedly been revoked and he is facing espionage charges.

"We are asking the Russian government to take action to expel Mr. Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement cooperation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing," Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement.

"I think Snowden's going to stay in Moscow," said Ioffe. "I don't think he's going to make it to Ecuador... He has so much knowledge that's valuable to the Russians and he has revenge potential for the Russians. Just keeping him there while we keep Viktor Bout, must taste so good to the Russians."

If Snowden does that, his status would change from whistelblower to spy, said Brookes, who added he does not think Snowden will stay in Russia.

"It lowers his status significantly if he goes to a country like North Korea, or Cuba, or Venezuela or Ecuador or Russia, or somewhere along those line," said Brookes.

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