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Edward Snowden Gets Russian Citizenship09/27 06:12

   

   MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia on Monday granted citizenship to former American 
intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who fled prosecution after he revealed 
highly classified U.S. surveillance programs to capture communications and data 
from around the world.

   A decree signed Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin listed Snowden as 
one of 75 foreign citizens listed as being granted Russian citizenship. After 
fleeing the U.S. in 2013, Snowden was granted permanent Russian residency in 
2020 and said at the time that he planned to apply for Russian citizenship 
without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

   Ties between Washington and Moscow are already at their lowest point in 
decades following Putin's decision to launch what the Kremlin has dubbed a 
"special military operation" in Ukraine.

   While Snowden, 39, is considered by supporters to be a righteous 
whistleblower who wanted to protect American civil liberties, U.S. intelligence 
officials have accused him of putting U.S. personnel at risk and damaging 
national security. He currently faces charges in the United States that could 
result in decades in prison.

   "Our position has not changed," State Department spokesman Ned Price said 
Monday. "Mr. Snowden should return to the United States where he should face 
justice as any other American citizen would."

   Snowden becomes a Russian citizen as Moscow is mobilizing reservists to go 
to Ukraine. In Russia, almost every man is considered a reservist until age 65, 
and officials on Monday stressed that men with dual citizenship are also 
eligible for the military call-up.

   Snowden, however, has never served in the Russian armed forces, so he is not 
eligible to be mobilized, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told the Interfax news 
agency. Having previous combat or military service experience has been 
considered the main criterion in the call-up.

   Kucherena told Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti that Snowden's wife, 
Lindsay Mills, an American who has been living with him in Russia, will also be 
applying for a Russian passport. The couple has two children.

   "After two years of waiting and nearly ten years of exile, a little 
stability will make a difference for my family," Snowden tweeted Monday. "I 
pray for privacy for them -- and for us all."

   Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist known for his exposs of 
Moscow security services, said that "strictly speaking, (Snowden) could be 
drafted, strictly in theory." But that would be bad PR for the Kremlin so it 
won't happen, said Soldatov, who is on Russia's wanted list for "spreading 
false information." Russian authorities have also frozen his bank accounts and 
he lives in exile.

   Snowden, who has kept a low profile in Russia and occasionally criticized 
Russian government policies on social media, said in 2019 that he was willing 
to return to the U.S. if he's guaranteed a fair trial.

   Snowden has become a well-known speaker on privacy and intelligence, 
appearing remotely at many events from Russia. But he has been sharply 
criticized by members of the intelligence community, and current and former 
officials from both U.S. political parties say he endangered global security by 
exposing important programs. A U.S. damage assessment of his disclosures is 
still classified.

   James Clapper, who served as U.S. director of national intelligence at the 
time of the disclosures, said Snowden's grant of citizenship came with "rather 
curious timing."

   "It raises the question -- again -- about just what he shared with the 
Russians," Clapper said in an email Monday.

   Snowden has denied cooperating with Russian intelligence and was traveling 
through Moscow when the U.S. revoked his passport.

   Snowden leaked documents on the National Security Agency's collection of 
data passing through the infrastructure of U.S. phone and internet companies. 
He also released details about the classified U.S. intelligence budget and the 
extent of American surveillance on foreign officials, including the leaders of 
U.S.-allied countries.

   Snowden says he made the disclosures because he believed the U.S. 
intelligence community had gone too far and wrongly infringed on civil 
liberties. He also has said he didn't believe the administration of former 
President Barack Obama, which was in office when Snowden leaked the records to 
journalists, would act had he made an internal whistleblower complaint instead.

   His decision to turn against the NSA came when he used his programming 
skills to to create a repository of classified in-house notes on the agency's 
global snooping and as he built a backup system for agency data, he wrote in 
his 2019 book "Permanent Record."

   Reading through the repository, Snowden said he began to understand the 
extent of his government's stomping on civil liberties and became "cursed with 
the knowledge that all of us had been reduced to something like children, who'd 
been forced to live the rest of their lives under omniscient parental 
supervision."

   Snowden was charged in 2013 with unauthorized disclosure of U.S. national 
security and intelligence information as well as theft of government property. 
The three charges each carry a maximum 10-year penalty.

   The Justice Department also sued to stop Snowden from collecting profits on 
his memoir, saying he had violated his nondisclosure agreements with 
intelligence agencies.

   The White House on Monday referred comment on Snowden's citizenship to the 
Justice Department, citing the pending criminal charges.

 
 
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