But the idea of granting Snowden clemency "where we say no harm, no foul," the attorney general said, goes "too far."
Asked whether he considers Snowden a whistleblower, Holder said "I prefer the term defendant. That's the most apt title."
He made the comments in an interview with MSNBC's Ari Melber scheduled to air Thursday afternoon.
A spokesman for Holder clarified Wednesday afternoon that Snowden accepting responsibility would entail pleading guilty.
Meaning plead guilty MT @JesseRodriguez: Holder: US willing to 'engage in conversation' w/ Snowden's lawyers if he accepts responsibility
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) January 23, 2014
This post has been updated.