Edward Snowden, the intelligence whistleblower on the run from the U.S. government, has reportedly accepted a top job with investment banking giant Goldman Sachs.
In a related development, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will drop all charges against him, and President Barack Obama has promised to pardon him if ever convicted.
The Wall Street firm confirmed in a statement that Snowden, 29, will join its Services Technology division, where he will oversee the implementation and oversight of new computer security programs for protecting the firm’s employees and clients.
“Mr. Edward Snowden has demonstrated an impressive array of skills, knowledge and talent throughout his career,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement. “Mr. Snowden has one of the most impressive resumes we have ever seen, with a rapid career rise into the ranks of U.S. intelligence agencies and its independent contractors.
“Goldman Sachs seeks only the best and brightest employees. We believe Mr. Snowden will be a valuable asset to this company.”
The surprise announcement came as Snowden, a former defense contractor and CIA technical worker, had been on the run from the U.S. government after he leaked classified documents revealing that a top intelligence agency was secretly collecting web and phone data from U.S. and foreign citizens. The U.S. government demanded his immediate extradition and arrest.
The government's sudden backtrack, however, could mean that Snowden will be able to return to the United States and resume his life, this time as a high-paid Wall Street employee.
Too Big to Jail
Goldman Sachs enjoys a close relationship with the Obama administration, being one of its top donors and having several former employees in and out of high-level government jobs.
Goldman Sachs has been no stranger to controversy itself since the 2007-08 financial collapse and recession, in which it allegedly defrauded clients during the mortgage bubble. The U.S. Justice Department has repeatedly declined to investigate much of the firm’s financial dealings, even as it boasted record profits during the recession.
Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs’ chairman and chief executive, said he was unconcerned that Snowden’s hiring would provoke the wrath of the U.S. government.
“I’d like to see them try and do something about it,” Blankfein said. “I can be on the phone to the Justice Department and the White House in seconds to have Snowden pardoned for any crime.
“Remember that we’re Goldman Sachs. We can do whatever the hell we want and the government won’t even touch us.”
Legal analysts say Snowden’s hiring by Goldman Sachs was the best move he could have made.
“What better place to hide from the United States government than Wall Street, where we know nobody will go after him?” said Ben Stone, a professor of law at Harvard Law School.
“It is somewhat of a shame that Mr. Snowden took the job,” he added. “I thought the guy had ethics and principles of justice.”