Get ready for another year of hand-wringing over Edward Snowden’s Russian residency.
The fugitive leaker will likely have his expiring asylum status renewed as soon as next week, according to a Russian immigration official.
“I do not see any problems in extending his temporary refugee status. His circumstances have not changed,” said an official of Russia’s migration service, according to the Interfax news agency. “His life is still in danger, so the Federal Migration Service has every reason to extend his status.”
Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, applied earlier this week to renew his temporary asylum, which expires at the end of July, according to his Russian lawyer. He has lived in Russia since last summer, when his globe-trotting hunt for safe harbor from U.S. authorities took him from Hong Kong — where he handed over classified intelligence secrets to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras — to Russia.
Snowden has said he had hoped to fly on to Cuba or another place in Latin America, but the U.S. froze his passport, leaving him marooned for weeks at an airport in Moscow. Russia eventually granted Snowden’s one-year asylum request, which further deteriorated the country’s already-strained relations with the U.S.
U.S.-Russian relations have only worsened since then, and an extension of Snowden’s asylum, while not unexpected, is likely to further frustrate the Obama administration. Russian President Vladimir Putin has on occasion used Snowden as a sort of diplomatic prop, once answering a question from the computer technician during a live town hall to claim the Kremlin does not spy on its citizens in any fashion resembling the NSA’s intelligence-gathering activities.
Snowden, 30, has long said a return to the U.S. was not possible under current espionage law. Despite calls from his critics and several prominent lawmakers and officials to “come home and face the music,” he has repeatedly insisted that he would have “no chance” of earning a fair trial.
Snowden has adopted a relatively hermetic lifestyle in Russia but has shown an eagerness to be more visible in recent months. His leaks have now fueled more than a year’s worth of investigative reports in major publications around the world, the fallout from which continues to have a global impact. The disclosures have forced President Obama and Congress to take steps toward reforming aspects of the NSA’s spying programs.