"... in exchange for the extensive document trove the whistleblower took from the agency."
So the message is: If you take enough, you can get away with it simply by giving it back.
This is a variation on the big lie ("a lie so 'colossal' that no one would believe that someone 'could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously'"). Go big enough, and you can get away with what the small time liars/cheats/thieves/monsters must pay for.
Or what was it Donald Trump — I think it was Donald Trump — said? The bank turns down people who ask for small loans, but if you ask for a yoooge enough loan, they don't say no. Can't find the precise thing I'm looking for, but I did find:
"As long as you are going to be thinking anyway, think big."
Back to Snowden. I thought when he first took it on the lam, he said that there were copies distributed to various persons for safekeeping, so that if he were killed, it would all come out. How is the NSA to know whether all those copies are called back?
ADDED: Meade, reading this out loud, helping me proofread, said: "'a lie so colossal that no one would believe that someone could have the impudence'.... how about the audacity?"
I'm irritated for a second by his discontinuity and say "It's a quote," as if I think Meade is offering me writing advice and there's a better word than "impudence," and then I realize that Meade is gesturing at Obama — "Audacity of Hope" — and the colossal Lie-of-the-Year lie that Obama told.
"You do realize that's a Hitler quote?" I ask, unnecessarily.