Russia extends Snowden stay by two years

Russian authorities have extended US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden’s Russian residency permit by two years, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

The former National Security Agency contractor shook the American intelligence establishment to its core in 2013 with a series of devastating leaks on mass surveillance in the US and around the world.

The announcement came as outgoing US President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of army private Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for handing classified US documents to WikiLeaks.

Snowden was not on Obama’s list of commutations or pardons.

“Snowden’s residence permit has just been extended by two years,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.

His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, could not be reached on Wednesday morning to confirm Zakharova’s statement.

Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since 2013, where he ended up after spending weeks in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

He was initially granted permission to stay in Russia for one year amid the rapid deterioration in Moscow’s relations with Washington.

The revelations from the documents he leaked sparked a massive row over the data sweeps conducted by the United States domestically and in allied nations, including of their leaders.

Snowden welcomed the action on Manning’s sentence, writing on Twitter: “Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama.”


Source: AFP

Obama says he can’t pardon Snowden, even though he could

President Barack Obama suggested in an interview last week that he won’t pardon Edward Snowden because the former NSA contractor “hasn’t gone before a court,” though Snowden’s advocates have disputed his reasoning, pointing to historical precedent.


“I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves, so that’s not something that I would comment on at this point,” Obama said in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel and public broadcaster ARD. “I think that Mr. Snowden raised some legitimate concerns. How he did it was something that did not follow the procedures and practices of our intelligence community. If everybody took the approach that I make my own decisions about these issues, then it would be very hard to have an organized government or any kind of national security system.”


“At the point at which Mr. Snowden wants to present himself before the legal authorities and make his arguments or have his lawyers make his arguments, then I think those issues come into play.”


The interview, published on Friday, marks the first time that Obama has commented on Snowden since the launch of a campaign in September calling for him to be pardoned. Snowden, who faces charges under the Espionage Act for leaking thousands of classified NSA documents in 2013, has said that he should be pardoned because the leaks benefited the public. In 2014, Obama acknowledged that the ensuing debate over national security and privacy “will make us stronger.”

Noa Yachot, director of the Pardon Snowden campaign, questioned Obama’s reasoning in a blog post published Friday, pointing out that other presidents — including Obama — have pardoned people who were indicted but did not stand trial.


“Richard Nixon hadn’t even been indicted when Gerald Ford issued a ‘full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in’ over the course of his presidency,” Yachot wrote. “Nor had the thousands of men who had evaded the Vietnam War draft, who were pardoned unconditionally by Jimmy Carter on his first day in office.” Yachot notes that in January, Obama himself pardoned three Iranians who had been charged with sanctions violations as part of the Iran nuclear deal.


“In pardoning Snowden, President Obama would be helping to secure his legacy while sending a powerful message on his way out – that standing up to government abuse is a tradition we should treasure and take with us into the next four years,” Yachot added.


If Obama remains unsympathetic to Snowden’s plea, his chances seem unlikely to improve under a Donald Trump administration. Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, whom Trump has selected to run the CIA, has called Snowden a “traitor” and said that he should be executed.