Edward Snowden, a computer professional and former employee of CIA, also an ex-contractor for the NSA, United States, was granted asylum in Russia in June 2013, following the exposure of his involvement in the leaks of NSA’s thousands of sensitive and classified information to the media.
Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s legal representative in Russia since July 2013 revealed in a statement that his temporary residence permit had been extended until 2020. He also spoke about Snowden’s eligibility to apply for Russian citizenship.
Mr Kucherena told the RIA Novosti news agency:
“In effect, he now has all grounds to receive citizenship in the future, over the course of a certain period, since under the law we have a period of residence on Russia soil of not less than 5 years.”
“Now he has already been living on Russian territory for nearly four years, he does not violate the law, there are no complaints about him. That’s one of the reasons his residency permit was extended,” Kucherena added.
Snowden left his last job as an NSA contractor, having worked for Dell and the CIA before, and flew to Hong Kong on May 20, 2013. In June 2013, he made public thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill.
The story gathered international momentum when the details of the leaks were reported in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel, an English Language international edition of the German news source.
He had provided details of covert global surveillance operations conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the “Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance” between Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States to the media.
The same month, on the 21st, the U.S. Department of Justice found him guilty on two counts: breach of the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property following which Snowden fled to Moscow, Russia, to seek political asylum on June 23, 2013. Ever since he has been residing in Russia but his whereabouts in the country has remained a secret thus far.
According to a report in late August of 2013, published by the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Snowden had been living at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong before he flew to Russia for seeking asylum.
The Kommersant report was rejected in January 2014 by Snowden’s legal adviser, Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer saying it was fake news, “every news organization in the world has been trying to confirm that story. They haven’t been able to because it’s false.”
Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s legal representative in Russia, also rubbished the Kommersant report stating that Snowden “did not enter into any communication with our diplomats when he was in Hong Kong.”
Ironically, the asylum extension announcement came the day after President Barack Obama granted clemency to Chelsea Manning who has been serving a 35-year imprisonment sentence for a similar offense – leaking thousands of classified information and documents to Wikileaks in 2010. The clemency will allow her freedom effective May this year.