Yes, that headline is for real. Judging by what happened this week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, I’m almost positive that the Obama Administration is ready to negotiate with Edward Snowden.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, asked Ms. Yates about recent reports that the U.S. government was in talks with Mr. Snowden and his attorneys over a possible deal that would give him minimal prison time in exchange for returning to the United States and cooperating with U.S. officials.

Mr. Snowden leaked large amounts of records about secret U.S. spy programs beginning in 2013, sparking a large public debate about whether there should be curbs on government surveillance.

“Mr. Snowden needs to return to the United States and face justice,” Ms. Yates said in response to Mr. Cornyn’s question. She didn’t indicate whether or not the Justice Department was in talks with Mr. Snowden over a plea agreement, though it would have been unusual for her to make such an admission before Congress.

The Committee is right to push on this. A few days ago, former AG Eric Holder (miss him yet?) said in an interview with Yahoo! News that the possibility of a plea bargain is more realistic than you would think:

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said today that a “possibility exists” for the Justice Department to cut a deal with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that would allow him to return to the United States from Moscow.

In an interview with Yahoo News, Holder said “we are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures” and that “his actions spurred a necessary debate” that prompted President Obama and Congress to change policies on the bulk collection of phone records of American citizens.

Asked if that meant the Justice Department might now be open to a plea bargain that allows Snowden to return from his self-imposed exile in Moscow, Holder replied: “I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists.”

A “basis for resolution?” This coming from the man who sailed around Washington cracking the skulls of leakers like it was his job (strike that—that was one part of his job that he actually did) even as libertarian and hacker-friendly activists screamed for more transparency in government.

Snowden’s legal team is twisting this into a preliminary win for their client:

But his remarks to Yahoo News go further than any current or former Obama administration official in suggesting that Snowden’s disclosures had a positive impact and that the administration might be open to a negotiated plea that the self-described whistleblower could accept, according to his lawyer Ben Wizner.

“The former attorney general’s recognition that Snowden’s actions led to meaningful changes is welcome,” said Wizner. “This is significant … I don’t think we’ve seen this kind of respect from anybody at a Cabinet level before.”

As far as Holder is concerned, at this point, it doesn’t make much of a difference how he feels about the prosecution that he initiated. The real problem here is a complete lack of consistency in how the Obama Administration is choosing to handle the trial of the most high-profile leaker in recent memory.

They’ve completely lost control of the situation. Snowden managed to turn his wrongdoing into a three ring media circus that fed off of the idea that somehow, his three major violations of the Espionage Act were the fault of everyone except Snowden.

Consider this AG’s office hacked.

You can read Legal Insurrection’s coverage of the Snowden scandal here.