On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said that he would be open to negotiations with Edward Snowden's lawyers but only if the former NSA contractor pleaded guilty first.

Speaking at the University of Virginia, Holder again emphasized that clemency for Snowden was not an option. "We've always indicated that the notion of clemency isn't something that we were willing to consider," he said, according to the New York Times. "Instead, were he coming back to the U.S. to plead guilty, we would engage with his lawyers."

To some degree, Edward Snowden agrees, though he's unlikely to accept Holder's offer anytime soon. "Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself," Snowden said in an online Q&A yesterday.

"But it's unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself," he added. "The hundred-year old law under which I've been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there's no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury."

Snowden did express some hope for change, though, noting that "even the President now agrees our surveillance programs are going too far."

And Holder admitted that Snowden's disclosures have done some good. "I think the dialogue that we are engaged is in fact something that is ultimately going to be productive – it's healthy," Holder said, "but that doesn't necessarily excuse what he did."

[Image via AP]