Snowden Granted Political Asylum in Russia For One Year

Posted: Aug 01, 2013 11:00 AM

It seems as though Mr. Edward Snowden will not be headed to Latin America, after all:

MOSCOW, Russia - NSA leaker Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and has left the Moscow airport where he has been stranded for more than a month, his lawyer said.

An airport representative told Reuters that the former intelligence contractor had already crossed through the immigration line and left the airport.

Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said he wouldn't disclose the fugitive's whereabouts for security reasons.

Snowden’s lawyer confirms he has indeed left the airport:

A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden says the National Security Agency leaker has received asylum in Russia for one year and left the transit zone of Moscow' airport.

Anatoly Kucherena said he handed over the papers to Snowden on Thursday. He said Snowden left Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport where he was stuck since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23.

Kucherena said that Snowden's whereabouts will be kept secret for security reasons.

The U.S. has demanded that Russia send Snowden home to face prosecution for espionage, but President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the request.

Putin had said that Snowden could receive asylum in Russia on condition he stops leaking U.S. secrets. Kucherena has said Snowden accepted the condition.

So what happens now? Well, he can’t stay in Russia forever. Yes, he’s been granted political asylum in no less than three countries, so perhaps he’ll move to Bolivia, Nicaragua or Venezuela when his temporary visa expires. But the good news for Snowden, I think, is that a year from now -- given the modern day news cycle -- the political pressure on the U.S. government to actually Do Something about him will probably subside a bit. So if all goes according to plan, perhaps in a year or so more countries will be willing to grant Snowden permanent asylum. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.

Meanwhile, more than half of Americans support bringing criminal charges against the elusive whistleblower. But that seems unlikely to happen anytime soon, especially since he’s probably smiling and celebrating somewhere as he escapes into the Russian countryside. At the same time, only about a third (I’m using Quinnipiac’s findings from a few weeks ago) think he’s a traitor. A majority sees him as a whistleblower. And while Uncle Sam desperately wants to get his hands on him, I doubt there will be riots in the streets now that the leaker-turner-refugee has “escaped.”

It’s also worth pointing out that one of the conditions for the Russian government granting Snowden temporary status is that he can’t release any more U.S. secrets. That’s good news for the DOJ and the NSA in the short-term, but what happens when his visa expires and he presumably enters another country? Will he release more leaks then? Don’t forget, either, that he’s sent encrypted codes of “sensitive information” to his political allies. Any way you slice it, this is a political and national security nightmare for the current administration. And the problem isn’t going away.

I’ll leave you with this. Edward Snowden's new favorite jam:

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