It is a measure of the contempt in which Russian leader Vladimir Putin holds U.S. officials that he made the announcement he did on Monday. Throughout the world, Putin's comment must have had professional spies shaking uncontrollably with laughter.
Here in the U.S., however, Edward Snowden is no laughing matter.
Snowden is the former National Security Agencycontractor who last month revealed widespread surveillance of tens of millions of Americans' phone records and Internet communications. He fled this country to avoid arrest for espionage.
With him, Snowden took four laptop computers containing other U.S. intelligence agency secrets.
At last report, Snowden was being housed at the Moscow airport and was seeking asylum in Ecuador or Russia.
On Monday, with a perfectly straight face, Putin said Snowden will have to stop leaking U.S. secrets if he wants to stay in Russia.
Yes, he really did say that.
Rest assured, Russian agents already are working hard to extract information from Snowden, and will continue to do so.
This is a world in which everyone spies on everyone else. Putin, by even suggesting American officials might believe him, delivered a slap in the face to them. The only way Snowden will be sent back here is if the U.S. can find a way to put real pressure on Putin.