Edward Snowden’s prolonged layover in Russia just got extended.
The NSA whistleblower, who is wanted in America for leaking classified documents, has been granted a three-year residence permit to stay in Russia.
The news was reportedly announced by Snowden’s Russian lawyer, who told reporters that Snowden’s permit took effect on Aug. 1—the same day his temporary asylum concluded.
The Russian government has yet to grant Snowden political asylum.
Snowden departed from Hong Kong, where he had a cloak-and-dagger meeting with journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, in June 2013. He flew from Hong Kong to Russia, where he had planned to hop on another plane to Cuba, but was unable to do so because the US had revoked his passport.
That action by US officials prompted this response from Snowden:
“In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised—and it should be.
“I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.”
According to the Guardian, Snowden will now be permitted to travel outside of Russia, but for only three months each time he leaves the country. It’s unclear if he has any plans to travel.
In his first broadcast television interview since he disclosed massive surveillance at home and abroad, Snowden told NBC’s Brian Williams that he’d prefer to return home, but admitted that the current climate is unfavorable to him.
Snowden has been charged under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law. The Obama administration has charged more people under that law than all presidents combined.
Russia’s decision to allow Snowden to hang around for three more years may further harm its relations with the United States—which has already taken a hit since its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine and its support for Russian separatists there.
Snowden has been characterized by some top US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, as a traitor, claiming that his leaks have damaged national security.
“More importantly, much more importantly, what he’s done is hurt his country,” Kerry said after Snowden’s appearance on NBC. “What he’s done is expose, for terrorists, a lot of mechanisms which now affect operational security of those terrorists and make it harder for the United States to break up plots, harder to protect our nation.”
Some have even suggested that Snowden has worked with Russian spy agencies.
Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena denied that Snowden has any discussions with intelligence agencies in Russia, according to the Guardian.
“I have a good relationship with him and he asks me about most things, but there have been no questions from him about [intelligence] contacts or giving evidence,” Kucherena said. “He works in a profession in which he is a great expert, in technology, and he works on issues related to this. We’ve mainly discussed questions of his stay here, as well as his questions about human rights. He likes what he’s doing and he’s not engaged in any other activities.”