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