The administration wants Snowden back badly enough that it has let this singular aspect cloud its judgement. Obama recently stated he won’t be meeting with Putin, stating Russia’s harboring of Snowden as a factor (rather than Russia’s multiple issues with human rights). Rather than engage in the debate Obama claimed he “welcomed,” the administration is circling the wagons, as evidenced in the petty statement it issued in reference to Rep. Justin Amash’s NSA-defunding amendment. Don’t govern angry, as they say.
There are plenty of people who believe Snowden is a hero. Many others believe the opposite. The problem is the middle ground is pretty much nonexistent. Allowing Snowden to go free would appease the former, but allow him to continue exposing the NSA’s surveillance programs. Locking him up wouldn’t do much either, other than allow the government to avenge its embarrassment. It won’t stop the leaks, however, at least not if Snowden’s “dead man’s switch” works as intended. The Guardian is already in possession of thousands of documents. Capturing Snowden will only hasten their release.