Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden granted Russian citizenship


President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has been in the country since 2013 and was granted permanent residency in 2020, local media reports said.

His name was included in a list of 72 foreigners who became citizens, RT reported, citing TASS news agency.

There was no comment on the decision from Snowden yet. His wife will also apply for citizenship, according to his lawyer.

Snowden, who fled the US in 2013, was stranded in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from Hong Kong to catch a connecting flight to Cuba after the US cancelled his passport mid-flight. He was reportedly en route to Ecuador, where he had lodged an asylum request.

The US is seeking Snowden to face espionage charges related to his 2013 leak of a mammoth cache of files revealing the NSA’s sprawling surveillance operations, which targeted American civilians to a far greater degree than previously known to the public. Rather than release the documents himself, he reached out to a small group of journalists and filmmakers asking them to curate and publish them as needed.

However, after the publication of a handful of revelations in a section of western media, and the purchase of the entire archive by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, only 10 per cent on the leaked files have been made public.

His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments, and prompted a cultural discussion about national security and individual privacy.

In 2013, Snowden was hired by an NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, after previous employment with Dell and the CIA. Snowden has maintained that he gradually became disillusioned with the programs with which he was involved, and that he tried to raise his ethical concerns through internal channels but was ignored.

On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman, and Ewen MacAskill.

Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and other publications.

On June 21, 2013, the United States Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property, following which the Department of State revoked his passport.

Two days later, he flew into Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, where Russian authorities observed the canceled passport, and he was restricted to the airport terminal for over one month.

Russia later granted Snowden the right of asylum with an initial visa for residence for one year, which was subsequently repeatedly extended.

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