The US is clearly trying the good ‘cop-bad cop tactic’ in its efforts to have the Russians hand Edward Snowden back to the US.
In the bad cop role, we have the usual idiots like Lindsey Graham issuing what seem like daily threats to the Russians that if they grant Snowden asylum, there will be repercussions like a US boycott of the Winter Olympics. That, of course, is never going to happen. But the US congress is introducing legislation mandating some sort of sanctions to any country that gives Snowden asylum.
While Russia clearly wants to have reasonably good relations with the US, there is not a chance that someone like president Vladimir Putin, who carefully nurtures a tough guy image, will want to be seen as caving in to American threats, especially since he and his government have said in pretty unequivocal terms that they will not hand him over.
In the letter Holder assures the Russians that the current charges against Snowden do not carry the death penalty and that even if other charges are added later, the Justice Department will not pursue the death penalty, and will follow the constitution and give him a prompt civilian public trial by jury, that he be allowed to have a lawyer, and that he will not be forced to answer questions.
This letter is remarkable for several reasons. For one, it is pathetic that the US has sunk so low in world opinion that it is reduced to publicly having to promise that it will obey its own constitution and carry out the basic requirements of due process of a civilized society.
Secondly, we have seen how ingenious the US government lawyers are at parsing language and can argue that black is white. In particular, we have seen how elastic is its definition of what constitutes torture where it is on record as saying that anything that does not cause organ failure leading to death is not torture. And even when organ failure occurs and people die because of the ‘not torture’, no one is punished for this. So the promise to not torture is particularly hollow.
Finally, we have a government that does not hesitate to flat-out lie when it serves its own interests and Holder himself has already demonstrated a willingness to engage in verbal gymnastics. So why should anyone take anything in his letter seriously?