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Russia grants temporary asylum to Snowden

August 1, 2013

For much of the last two months, former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has been on the run from U.S.law enforcement. After publicly leaking the details of various domestic spying programs maintained by the U.S. National Security Agency, he first hid out in Hong Kong and then flew to Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, Russia, where he remained in the international transit zone for over five weeks. The Washington Post reports that on August 1, Russia officially granted the leaker a temporary offer of political asylum.

The reaction to this news among those discussing it on phone calls using prepaid phone cards will likely be mixed. Some will be grateful Snowden is free and was able to expose the NSA's initiatives, while others consider him all but a traitor for his actions.

According to the news source, Snowden left the transit zone in the afternoon shortly after the asylum was granted. His whereabouts are unknown - Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden's attorney, characterized the leaker as "the most wanted man on the planet," and as such gave no indication as to where he might be headed. 

Lon Snowden, Edward's father, who has publicly defended his son's actions in interviews with media outlets, is making arrangements with Kucherena to see his son when he establishes a safe residence. "If he comes back to the United States, he is going to be treated horribly," Lon said to the Post. "He is going to be thrown in a hole. He is not going to be allowed to speak."

Under the terms of Snowden's current asylum documents, he has the freedom to live and work in the country for one year. Russian officials are weighing whether or not to grant him a permanent status as a political refugee. The likelihood of this happening is unclear. U.S. lawmakers, including President Barack Obama, have said that any aid given to Snowden would be met with serious repercussions to the relations between the two countries. 

In a recent statement, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who serves as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that the information Snowden had released "could aid terrorists and others around the world who want to do real harm to our country. Russia must return Snowden to face trial at home."

According to RIA Novosti, other senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), viciously criticized Russia and Snowden. Coburn said, "[Snowden's] undoubtedly in my mind a traitor to our country and probably most of what he knows, the Russians already know."

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