NSA leaker Edward Snowden has left Sheremetyevo Airport after receiving his paperwork today approving temporary asylum in Russia.
FLASH: Edward Snowden has successfully acquired refugee status in Russia and will shortly leave the airport.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2013
From the NY Times:
After a month holed up in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, 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 was 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 was 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.
Kucherena, who also sits on the public council of the Federal Security Service (FSB), told state broadcaster Russia 24, “I have just seen him off. He has left for a secure location.” He described Snowden as “the most wanted man on the planet” and said he “needed time to adapt to Russian realities,” according to the Washington Post.
President Vladimir Putin previously said the NSA leaker is not welcome in Russia unless he ceased his work “aimed at harming our American partners.”
But Snowden already passed off documents and information to various news outlets before ever arriving in Russia, and new reports continue to surface.
Just yesterday, The Guardian released a fresh dump from that trove, revealing the existence of a program called XKeyscore. That report alleges that XKeyscore “allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”
The Washington Post also reported that arrangements are being made for Snowden’s father Lon to visit his son in Russia.
The lawyer said arrangements are being made for Snowden’s father to visit him in Russia, the Associated Press reported. In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Lon Snowden said he was eager to speak with his son but had refused an FBI offer to fly him to Moscow while his son was trapped at the airport, because U.S. authorities could not guarantee that the two would be able to meet.
“If he comes back to the United States, he is going to be treated horribly,” Lon Snowden said. “He is going to be thrown into a hole. He is not going to be allowed to speak.”
In a letter to Russia’s Minister of Justice last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said that Edward Snowden would not face the death penalty or be tortured if he returned to the United States. He also tried to offer assurances that rather than a military court, Snowden would be tried in a civilian court with the full protection of US law.
But Lon Snowden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper the other night on his AC360 program that he has no faith in Eric Holder and does not believe his son would receive a fair trial in the United States.
“We’ve attempted to work with the Justice Department and both the people investigating this, and I just do not believe that that collaboration, that the good faith exists anymore. So I’m very very disappointed and we’ve attempted to get assurances that Ed would receive a fair trial. I have absolutely no faith in Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States. None.”
Through his attorney Bruce Fein, Lon Snowden also sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to “dismiss the outstanding criminal complaint against Edward, and to support legislation to remedy the NSA surveillance abuses he revealed.”