NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been given permission to remain in Russia for three more years.
The decision extends the temporary asylum Snowden was granted last year when he became stranded at Moscow airport after the US canceled his travel documents in the wake of leaked details about US intelligent agencies’ surveillance programs, facilitated by documents taken by Snowden.
Snowden’s initial year-long leave in Russia expired at the end of July but the BBC reports Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, confirming that a request for an extension has been accepted — giving him “a three-year residence permit” to remain in the country.
This is not permanent asylum but rather an extended period of ‘temporary leave to remain’ — although it does apparently allow for Snowden to travel abroad, should he choose to do so.
Critics of Snowden have attacked his decision to accept temporary asylum from Russia and called for him to return to the US to face trial, where he faces charges under the Espionage Act.
However, being as Snowden was a contractor for the NSA at the time he stole data with the intention of leaking it, he has argued that he is not protected by legislation designed to protect whistleblowers.
Arguably, from a privacy campaigning perspective, Snowden can be far more effective and visible by remaining at relative liberty in Russia, where he has been able to take part in various conferences and other public debates via videolink, for instance, rather than risking legal uncertainty and indefinite incarceration by returning to the US.
Speaking via videolink at the Hope X conference in New York last month Snowden also revealed that he is working on developing privacy protecting technology himself — another activity that would be off limits to him if he was locked up in a US prison.