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Snowden Leaves Moscow Airport, Gets One-Year Asylum In Russia

Edward Snowden

After more than a month, Edward Snowden has finally left the Moscow Airport’s transit area:

After a month holed up in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor wanted by the United States for leaking details of surveillance programs, has received temporary refugee status in Russia and left the airport, his lawyer said Thursday.

The movement from the airport’s international transit zone marked a significant change in Mr. Snowden’s status for the first time since he left the United States and began leaking details of the National Security Agency’s surveillance.

The refugee status in Russia marks the first formal support from another government for Mr. Snowden, 30, and seems likely to elicit strong objections from the United States.

The temporary refugee status allows Mr. Snowden to move freely within the country and is valid for one year, Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer assisting Mr. Snowden with the asylum request, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Snowden has left the airport, Mr. Kucherena said, but declined to say where he had gone. “Yes, it is true he is out,” he said, but declined to disclose details.

Mr. Snowden had lived in the international transit zone of the airport since he arrived on June 23, one step ahead of an extradition request filed by the United States in his first stopover in Hong Kong.

For reasons that were unclear, the Russian Federal Migration Service delayed for longer than the typical week the processing of his temporary asylum application.

While the bureaucratic process has unfolded slowly, Russian officials, including President Vladimir V. Putin, have made clear that they have no intention of extraditing him to the United States — a position that has infuriated the Obama administration.

The question, of course, is whether Snowden will stay in Russia or whether he’ll move on to one of the Latin American nations that has purportedly granted him asylum. Given the fact that the Russians have made clear that they’d really rather not have him in the country at all, one suspects that they will be encouraging him to move along quickly.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Eric Florack says:

    discussion starter…

    there seems to be a lot of line drawing, these days between the legality and the morality of various acts. in keeping with that, then….
    .
    ignoring the legalities, at this stage…. is there a difference between this case and Elsberg, from a moral perspective?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Davebo says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Yes Bithead. Ellsburg (two L’s) leaked information that wasn’t already widely disseminated to the public.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  3. Mark Ivey says:

    I hear the FSB has a IT job lined up for him in Siberia. Enjoy Russian asylum Snowden..

    :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. James Pearce says:

    The question, of course, is whether Snowden will stay in Russia or whether he’ll move on to one of the Latin American nations that has purportedly granted him asylum.

    Nah, the question is whether Snowden will live the rest of his life as a fugitive or whether he’ll be brought back to the US to face the music.

    My money’s on the latter….

    There are, after all, plenty of countries that would amuse themselves with embarrassing the US. But there are few that have the stones to continue doing that indefinitely. Snowden better hope he finds one of those and that they don’t ever need, at some point in the future, a bit of US goodwill.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Mark Ivey:

    They will certainly attempt to find out everything he knows, but they have to be at least, twice. maybe three times, more stupid than were to give that guy a hob in their own programs. He wants to be famous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Pearce:

    Nah, the question is whether Snowden will live the rest of his life as a fugitive or whether he’ll be brought back to the US to face the music.

    They are sort of the same thing. I’ll lay 10 to 1 in agreement with Doug that Russia doesn’t want him and would ideally like to shed the problems that his being in the country create. So he is likely to be trundled along to somewhere else.

    Which entails a lifetime of hiding and not being able to travel, at least not through any countries with which we maintain extradition. The second he hit their soil, even in transit to a different final destination, he’d be subject to arrest and extradition.

    I can’t help but think that his own eventual sense of melancholy and loss (once the notoriety dies down and nobody cares about him any longer, and he’s living in some place that isn’t and never will be home) could drive him to return.

    We retain the ability to bring him to trial pretty much indefinitely. This one is an off the cuff analysis, but while the McCarran Internal Security Act defined the statute of limitations for violations of the Espionage Act (sections 792 to 794 anyway) at ten years, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 changed that, specifically:

    ESPIONAGE —Section 794(a) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking the period at the end of the section and inserting ‘‘, except that the sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury or, if there is no jury, the court, further finds that the offense resulted in the identification by a foreign power (as defined in section 101(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) of an individual acting as an agent of the United States and consequently in the death of that individual, or directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information; or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy.’’.

    There is no statute of limitations for offenses which can potentially be subject to the death penalty, even if that penalty is not sought by the prosecution. The bottom line is that we literally have forever to bring him to trial depending on which section of the Espionage Act we choose to charge him under. We just have to wait for him to either slip up and put himself within our reach, or grow so weary of hiding that he chooses to return. Regardless, he’ll never be free. His life just became a de facto prison.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    discussion starter…

    there seems to be a lot of line drawing, these days between the legality and the morality of various acts. in keeping with that, then….
    .
    ignoring the legalities, at this stage…. is there a difference between this case and Elsberg, from a moral perspective?

    3 thoughts:
    (1) Both Ellsberg and Snowden appear to be self-absorbed and narcissistic, with a strong sense of righteousness – and we certainly are a nation of millions of such people on the right and left.

    (2) Difference in their cause and purpose? Not that I can see. Snowden has at the very least forced us (at least I hope so) to have an open and honest discussion about the issue of privacy in the electronic/digital age. Ellsberg disclosed materials that most Americans should have been aware of and he pushed Americans into learning about our post-WW2 involvement in Vietnam.

    (3) Ellberg was mature and faced the consequences and his situation went to trial, Snowden however is immature and has run from consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. bill says:

    i could really care less about this guy but it’s really a slap from putin to obama and the rest of our country. maybe he dies of a drug overdose or something, just to save face.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0