Russia Extends Edward Snowden’s Asylum

A day after President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Russian government clarified on Wednesday the fate of Edward J. Snowden, the other main source of secrets about United States surveillance in recent years.

Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who was granted asylum in Russia in 2013, will be allowed to remain in the country for “a couple more years,” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Facebook.

He and his supporters have been campaigning for a pardon from Mr. Obama, but the chances of clemency appear to be vanishingly small given that his name did not appear on a list of pardons on Tuesday.

Mr. Snowden found himself essentially stranded in Moscow four years ago after he was thwarted in his attempts to fly to Latin America following the publication of articles in The Guardian and The Washington Post, based on information he provided, revealing extensive surveillance and data collection programs operated by the N.S.A.

In response to a question about why Mr. Snowden and Ms. Manning were being treated differently, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that the documents leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor were “far more serious and far more dangerous” than those Ms. Manning had disclosed.

Ms. Zakharova described her Facebook post as a rejection of an idea presented in a recent article in The Cipher Brief by a former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael J. Morell. He suggested that Russia should extradite Mr. Snowden to the United States as a signal of good will to the incoming Trump administration.

Ms. Zakharova said that Mr. Morell’s suggestion of turning over Mr. Snowden would amount to “a gift” for the new American leader.

That is apparently a gesture that Russia is not prepared to make, however, even though President-elect Donald J. Trump has spoken admiringly of Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin.

“The funniest thing is that the former deputy director of the C.I.A. !!! does not know that Snowden’s residence permit in Russia was just extended for a couple more years,” Ms. Zakharova wrote.

“And seriously, the essence of what the C.I.A. agent is suggesting is an ideology of betrayal,” she wrote. “You spoke, Mr. Morrell, and now it’s clear to everybody that in your office, it’s normal to bring gifts in the form of people, and to hand over those who seek defense.”

In an interview with The Guardian in September, Mr. Snowden argued that his revelations about government surveillance were not only morally right but that they also led to an overhaul of secrecy laws that benefited Americans.

“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013, the laws of our nation changed,” Mr. Snowden said. “Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures.”

The Foreign Ministry did not specify how long Mr. Snowden’s residence permit had been extended. But his lawyer, Anatoly G. Kucherena, told the state-run RIA news agency that it was valid until 2020.

Mr. Kucherena said that Mr. Snowden would be eligible to apply for Russian citizenship next year, after having spent five years in the country, but he did not say if his client would apply.

Mr. Snowden is accused of violating the Espionage Act in the United States and would face at least 30 years in prison if convicted.

Some privacy advocates have lionized Mr. Snowden as a whistle-blower, while his opponents and government officials have cast him as a defector, particularly in light of his seeking asylum in Russia.

Mr. Snowden has taken pains to portray his exile as comfortable. He spends time with his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, according to posts on social media, and he recently took a break from posting on Twitter for what he described as a vacation, presumably in Russia.

Edward J. Snowden speaking to an audience in Massachusetts during a live video webcast in 2016. Credit Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

Russia extends Edward Snowden's asylum to 2020

Edward Snowden's leave to remain in Russia has been extended until 2020, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has confirmed to CNN.

Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media.

On Tuesday, Zakharova announced an extension of a "couple of years" in a Facebook post that criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as "the perfect inauguration gift" to President-elect Donald Trump.
Snowden settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. The Russian government granted him asylum soon after.

In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year extension to his leave to remain in Russia. That extension was due to expire this year.

In the final weeks of the Obama administration, more than a million supporters have petitioned the White House to pardon Snowden.

However, the White House said Tuesday that Snowden had not submitted official documents requesting clemency. He is accused of espionage and theft of government property.

Also Tuesday, Snowden thanked President Barack Obama in a tweet for his decision to commute the sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing and disseminating 750,000 pages of documents and videos to WikiLeaks.

Edward Snowden's asylum in Russia extended

Edward Snowden, the US intelligence contractor turned whistleblower, can stay in Russia awhile longer. The Russian government on Wednesday extended his asylum for another three years.

Snowden arrived in Russia in 2013 after disclosing evidence of mass surveillance by the US and UK. The Russian government granted him asylum, with his permission to remain in the country due to expire this year.

The US has charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property after he leaked secret materials he discovered while working for the National Security Agency. Despite a petition signed this month by a million supporters, it appears unlikely he will be pardoned by outgoing President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, Obama commuted the sentence of another whistleblower, Chelsea Manning. Snowden tweeted his thanks for that decision.

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