In a week that saw Russia grant temporary asylum (and clean clothes) to Edward Snowden, it’s come to the attention of the The New York Times that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Russian Minister of Justice, Aleksandr V. Konovalov, assuring him that the United States would not seek the death penalty against Mr. Snowden now, or in the future.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden to be issued a U.S. passport

In addition,  Mr. Holder’s letter made it clear that the United States would immediately issue him a passport for a return back to the United States. Snowden, despite reports that he had been granted temporary asylum in Russia and was free to leave the airport that he has been holed up in for over a month, remains in the transit area of an airport. Clearly we travel differently. I find six hour layovers and bar prices off-putting, never mind a month.

The move was certainly made with the United States’ interests in mind believing that the letter would negate the conditions that Snowden laid out in his asylum request. Now that asylum has been granted it reads a little hollow, yet, scary in parts.

“We believe these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise,” Mr. Holder said in the letter.

“Despite the revocation of his passport on June 22, 2013, Mr. Snowden remains a U.S. citizen,” Mr. Holder said. “He is eligible for a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States. The United States is willing to immediately issue such a passport to Mr. Snowden.” That’s sweet.

Holder assured that Edward will not be tortured

Back to the scary, Mr. Holder also assured Mr. Konovalov that Mr. Snowden would not be tortured. Has the United States standing as a bastion of freedom dipped so low that this needs to be said? And to the Russians no less? What a difference a few decades make.

When news of the letter broke, Dmitri S. Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, restated Russia’s refusal to extradite Mr. Snowden, citing the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries. “We have never surrendered anyone,” he said in a statement reported by the Interfax news agency, “and we will never do so in the future.”

The letter may prove to show how far the nations are apart on the issue and may jeopardize President Obama’s planned trip to Moscow in the coming weeks.