Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who revealed US wiretapping

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday granted citizenship to Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about US surveillance programs and is still wanted by Washington on espionage charges.

The decree signed by Putin covers 72 foreigners, but Snowden is the most prominent. He fled the US in 2013 and was granted asylum in Russia.

Snowden, 39, who considers himself a whistleblower, was granted permanent residency in Russia in 2020 and has applied for a Russian passport without giving up his US citizenship, his lawyers said at the time.

His wife Lindsey Mills is now applying for Russian citizenship, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Monday. Mills joined Snowden in Moscow in 2014. They got married in 2017. Snowden tweeted Monday night that they are parents to two boys.

Kucherena said Snowden would not be subject to a partial military mobilization ordered by Putin last week to help Russia’s flag-waving war in Ukraine. Only men with previous military experience were to be called – and there are widespread reports that many more were summoned – and Snowden had not served in the Russian military.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre referred questions about his new status to prosecutors seeking his extradition. “We will direct you to the Department of Justice for any details on this because I believe there are criminal charges against him,” Jean-Pierre said.

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Snowden’s revelations, Published First The Washington Post and The Guardian were the most consequential intelligence breaches in American history. He revealed the NSA’s access to millions of Americans’ phone records, which was later found illegal by a federal appeals court and sealed.

He also revealed details of industry cooperation with NSA intelligence-gathering in a separate project. Those revelations greatly damaged the intelligence community’s relationship with the US technology industry.

In 2017, in a documentary produced by American director Oliver Stone, Putin said Snowden was “not a traitor” for leaking government secrets.

“Think what you will about Snowden and Russia,” wrote Jameel Zaffer, executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, in a tweet on Monday. “He did an enormous public service by exposing mass surveillance programs that many courts later found unconstitutional.”

The NSA, the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment Monday on Snowden’s new status. But Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence, said his acceptance of Russian citizenship “takes away any illusion of what he’s doing.” [through his disclosures] It was to help America.”

“I think it’s a very questionable decision,” he continued, “now that we know what Russia does to become a Russian citizen. I think it undercuts any patriotic argument he might have made then.

Snowden explained his decision to seek dual citizenship in 2020 on Twitter.

“After many years of separation from my parents, my wife and I do not want to be separated from our son. That is why, in this era of pandemics and closed borders, we are applying for dual US-Russian citizenship,” he wrote.

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“Lindsay and I will remain Americans and raise our son with all the values ​​of America that we hold dear — including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day I return to the States so the whole family can be reunited,” she said. was added.

Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper acknowledged Monday that “we should have been more transparent” about the bulk phone records collection targeting Americans.

“But he exposed a lot of damaging foreign intelligence capabilities that had nothing to do with so-called domestic surveillance,” Clapper said.

Clapper said: “What a great time to be a Russian citizen.”

Karen Deung contributed to this report.

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