Three months after Russian President Vladimir Putin granted the American whistleblower citizenship, Edward Snowden, the former United States intelligence contractor who leaked classified security documents, is a full-fledged Russian after vowing fealty to the Kremlin and receiving his Russian passport on Thursday.
Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s attorney, confirmed the reports on state-run TASS. American Lindsey Mills — Snowden’s wife of five years with whom he shares two children – is also applying for Russian citizenship, Kucherena told the media outlet.
Though it’s not confirmed whether or not Snowden has officially renounced his U.S. citizenship, Snowden’s American passport was revoked almost a decade ago, leaving the intelligence expert stranded in Moscow, and preventing him from traveling to his final destination of Ecuador in Latin America.
The spokesman for the State Department, Ned Price, said the agency isn’t surprised by the news.
“Mr. Snowden has long signaled his allegiance to Russia, this step would only formalize that,” Price told reporters according to the Associated Press.
The former CIA technical assistant publicly disclosed a trove of top-secret National Security Agency documents, believing, as he claims, that he was doing a public service – alerting the American people to overreach by the federal government that included the NSA’s collection of data.
Snowden chose not to hide his identity, saying “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” The Guardian reported.
“I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon, and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
Though maintaining he did nothing wrong by handing over sensitive and top-secret materials, Snowden packed his bags and fled the U.S. after doing so.
Working at the NSA office in Hawaii, Snowden made copies of one last set of classified materials before telling his NSA bosses that he would be taking a few weeks off. Kissing his girlfriend goodbye, the former Army Special Forces recruit hopped on a plane to Hong Kong, and then Moscow, where he eventually had no choice but to stay put as a man without a country.
The rogue American spent 40 days in the Moscow airport trying – and failing – to negotiate asylum for himself in multiple foreign jurisdictions. The self-proclaimed martyr would be denied by at least 27 countries before the Kremlin took him up on his offer. After years in the former Soviet Union, Snowden was eventually granted permanent legal residency in 2020.
While Snowden maintains he was doing the right thing by exposing the confidential practices of the federal government and its intelligence agencies, the U.S. government saw it otherwise.
The U.S. claims that the whistleblower violated the Espionage Act – the same statute that ex-president Donald Trump is currently under investigation for after removing hundreds of classified and top-secret materials from the White House and improperly storing them at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate when the twice-impeached failed businessman left office in January 2021.
In 2019, NPR reported that Snowden expressed surprise that the United States would cancel his passport and claimed he had no intention of cooperating with the Russian government.
“I didn’t cooperate with the Russian intelligence services — I haven’t and I won’t,” he says. “I destroyed my access to the archive. … I had no material with me before I left Hong Kong because I knew I was going to have to go through this complex multi-jurisdictional route.”
The Russian news agency, Interfax, posted on its Telegram channel that Kucherena said Snowden is grateful that he is now a full-fledged citizen.
Kucherena said that Snowden can no longer be extradited to a foreign state.
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