Edward Snowden’s asylum in Russia seems to have been extended. Snowden was granted a year of political asylum in August following his exodus from the United States. Aleksei Pushkov, a member of Russia’s Parliament, stated at this week’s World Economic Forum that his country would not send Snowden away and accused the U.S. of creating a ‘Big Brother’ system. Currently, the U.S. government wants Snowden extradited back to his homeland where he faces numerous espionage charges.
The former Nation Security Agency (NSA) contractor became world-renowned after he leaked documents illustrating the NSA’s vast metadata collection program. The whistle-blower has lived in Russia since August and continues to expose further evidence of what he believes are unnecessary intrusions into the personal lives of millions of people around the globe. He has received worldwide support including that of prominent members of the Brazilian and German governments, however he has yet to receive permanent asylum from any country.
Even as Snowden’s asylum in Russia seems to have been extended, his future remains unclear. Snowden has expressed his desire to return to the United States but stated that he won’t under current circumstances. The United States Justice Department has ruled out clemency for Snowden but has hinted it would be willing to negotiate a plea bargain. Snowden’s lawyers do not expect him to receive a fair trial in the United States and have articulated concern’s over their client’s safety. Apparent death threats by Pentagon officials against Snowden were revealed last week giving his lawyer’s claims as to why political asylum is necessary further legitimacy.
The United States government maintains that Snowden’s revelations were damaging to national security. Many within the government are outraged that Russia granted the former contractor asylum and have accused Snowden of assisting the intelligence organizations of foreign countries, a charge he fiercely denies. Others make note of the possibility that foreign agencies will be able to extract information from Snowden without his knowledge. According to House Intelligence Committee, the leaks have been harmful to U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, cyber crime, human trafficking, and weapons proliferation.
Nevertheless, Snowden’s leaks have resulted in policy change. In an address to the nation, Barack Obama recently instituted a series of reforms to the NSA metadata collection program. Changes included further oversight over the collection of information, the way in which the information is stored and accessed, and an immediate halt on the wiretapping of foreign leaders. However, Obama defended the U.S. intelligence community praising their dedication to America’s security. In regards to Snowden, the President insisted the sensational way in which the revelations came to light were indeed harmful towards the United States.
Since he has been seemingly given an extension of asylum in Russia, Snowden is no longer in a desperate race against the clock. He has promised to continue working on exposing classified information he believes ordinary people have a right to know. Because the United States’ government is unwilling to let Snowden return unpunished, it seems unlikely he will have a homecoming anytime soon. However more time may help Snowden in his mission to find permanent asylum.
By Peter Grazul