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Ordinary Guy: Edward Snowden's Life in Russia After Leaking Classified Data

© AFP 2023 / Frederick FlorinNSA former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden
NSA former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Five years ago former US National Security Agency (NSA) officer, whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked online classified information revealing global surveillance programs run by US intelligence services in early June 2013, was granted temporary asylum in Russia.

Snowden's revelations could cost him as much as 30 years in prison in the United States, where he is wanted on charges of espionage and theft of government property.

After the documents' release, Snowden fled to Hong Kong, and on June 23, 2013, arrived from Hong Kong to Moscow. He remained in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport, which he was unable to leave, as his US passport had been revoked.

On June 30, 2013, WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison, presented to the consular department at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport requests for political asylum addressed to 21 countries, including Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.

© SputnikFormer NSA Contractor Edward Snowden
Former NSA Contractor Edward Snowden - Sputnik International
Former NSA Contractor Edward Snowden

On July 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that if Snowden wanted to be granted asylum in Russia, he would be required to stop his work aimed at "harming our US partners."

On July 5, it was reported that Snowden had requested asylum in another six countries.

READ MORE: 'Disappointed': Snowden Exposes Merkel's Hypocrisy as Germany Denied Him Asylum

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On July 7, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Venezuelan authorities, who had offered the former US defense contractor guarantees of asylum, were waiting for a response to their offer. Bolivian President Evo Morales also expressed his readiness to grant Snowden asylum if he officially requested it. Nicaragua also offered their assistance for asylum.

On July 11, Snowden emailed a letter to foreign human rights organizations working in Russia, the UN mission in Moscow, and several Russian lawyers, inviting them to meet him on July 12 in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport. After the meeting, it became known that Snowden would request temporary asylum in Russia.

On July 16, Snowden's new Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena filed an official request for temporary asylum in Russia to a representative of the Federal Migration Service. As part of the explanation for requesting asylum during the paperwork filing, Snowden explained that he feared for his life.

On July 31, Snowden was granted a one-year temporary asylum in Russia.

© Sputnik / Tatiana Lokshina / Go to the mediabankSnowden Requests Temporary Asylum in Russia
Snowden Requests Temporary Asylum in Russia - Sputnik International
Snowden Requests Temporary Asylum in Russia

On August 1, Snowden left the airport in a taxi, alone.

On August 6, Snowden was registered with the migration service. The decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum in Russia was made by a territorial section in the Federal Migration Service (FMS).

READ MORE: US Supreme Court ‘Avoided Main Issue' with Narrow Phone Privacy Ruling

In late August, FMS Moscow Directorate head Olga Kirillova claimed Snowden was not living in Moscow.

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On October 10, The Washington Post said that four US whistleblowers from Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence and WikiLeaks editor Sarah Harrison had met with Snowden in Moscow to present him with the Sam Adams Whistleblower Award "in symbolic recognition of his courage in shining light into dark places." Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, arrived in Moscow on the same day.

By October 15, Snowden had met with his father in Moscow but no details were provided.

On October 16, it was learned that Snowden’s father would return to the United States, planning to visit Russia again.

On October 17, The New York Times reported that Snowden had granted an interview to the paper, adding that he had arrived in Russia without classified materials. According to Snowden, all classified documents were transferred to reporters he had met in Hong Kong before flying to Moscow, and he had made no copies.

On October 31, it was reported that on November 1 Snowden would start working for a major Russian website.

READ MORE: There's No One in This World Trump Loves More Than Putin — Edward Snowden

The same day, Snowden met with Bundestag member Hans-Christian Stroebele in Moscow and handed him a letter addressed to the German government, parliament and the Prosecutor General’s Office. Stroebele, a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees German intelligence, and Snowden discussed the terms on which Snowden could testify as part of an investigation into US intelligence operations in Germany, including the monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone calls.

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On December 16, it was reported that Snowden was voted Euronews Person of the Year 2013, with 47 percent of viewers voting for him. Earlier, The Guardian, which was the first to publish Snowden’s controversial materials, and also voted Snowden Person of the Year 2013.

On December 24, in an interview with The Washington Post, Snowden said his mission had been accomplished.

On December 25, Snowden wished the British a merry Christmas and urged them to consider the dangers of mass surveillance currently propagated by many governments and other organizations. The message, recorded in Russia, was Snowden’s first TV appearance since receiving asylum in Russia. Snowden sent his Christmas Message to the British an hour after the queen’s Royal Christmas Message. His message was broadcast by Channel 4.

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On January 26, Snowden gave his first TV interview during his stay in Russia. He met with journalist Hubert Seipel on conditions of deep secrecy. During the interview, Snowden said he chose to reveal the scale of Western intelligence surveillance after watching a statement by Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper, who, he asserted, was lying under oath to Congress.

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On February 18, 2014, it was reported that Glasgow University students had elected Snowden an honorary rector.

On March 10, Snowden addressed attendees of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Technology Conference in Austin, Texas, by teleconference. Snowden said that he had leaked top-secret information about illegal US intelligence programs in order to uphold the law.

On April 7, The New York Times said Snowden had been awarded the Ridenhour truth-telling Prize.

READ MORE: Snowden: New CIA Head Might Face Arrest in EU Over Role in Torture Program

On April 8, Snowden addressed a meeting of the PACE legal affairs committee by teleconference, saying in part that the international community must develop new standards of conduct to prevent mass surveillance programs.

Snowden also spoke about a US intelligence program called Fingerprints, which enabled analysts not only to trace individuals but also analyze their actions on the Internet.

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On April 17, Snowden asked a question in English during the annual call-in show with Vladimir Putin. He asked whether Russia intercepted, stored and analyzed information about the conversations of millions of people and whether the president considered mass surveillance fair and justified. Putin said Russian special services used special surveillance and monitoring equipment only by a court ruling, strictly in accordance with the law, and not practiced on a mass scale.

On May 21, Snowden gave his first interview to US television from a Moscow hotel. The interview lasted about four hours.

READ MORE: ‘Triple-Pounder Nothing Burger': Democrats' FBI Surveillance Memo Underwhelms

On May 29, Snowden was reported to be planning to ask Russian authorities to extend his asylum in Russia.

On August 1, 2014, after a year in Russia, Snowden received a three-year residency permit.

On September 24, Snowden was awarded Sweden's Right Livelihood Honorary Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

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On October 24, Snowden participated in the Freedom Festival 2014 in Brussels by teleconference. He said he would like to return to his home country and continue working there.

On October 27, Snowden was awarded a commemorative medal "90th birth anniversary of Alexander Zinoviev."

On November 23, Snowden was awarded the Stuttgart Peace Prize.

On December 1, Snowden was awarded the Right Livelihood Award 2014.

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On December 10, Snowden participated in a video conference between Moscow and Paris organized by Amnesty International. He confirmed he had destroyed all the classified materials in his possession.

On December 14, the International League for Human Rights awarded Snowden the Carl von Ossietzky Medal for his unique revelations of human rights violations.

On February 13, 2015, Snowden spoke with Laura Poitras, the director of a film about him, and journalist Glenn Greenwald by teleconference.

A chair is pictured on stage as former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is awarded the Bjornson prize Molde, Norway, in this September 5, 2015 file photo - Sputnik International
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On February 23, Snowden congratulated Poitras, whose film, Citizenfour, an inside look at his life, won an Academy Award for best documentary.

On March 27, Snowden met with representatives of the Swedish parliament. to receive, for the first time, a parliamentary delegation.

On June 2, Snowden participated in a video conference organized by Amnesty International in London, saying he had sent asylum requests to 21 countries and was still awaiting a response.

On June 5, Snowden met with President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Moscow.

On June 23, the Kazakhstan Journalists’ Union awarded Snowden a Union Prize in the "investigative journalism" category.

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On June 25, French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said French authorities might decide to offer asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Snowden following the leak of Washington’s snooping on the last three French presidents, including the incumbent Francois Hollande.

On July 28, US President Barack Obama’s Assistant on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said the US government would not pardon Snowden, who endangered US security. Monaco stressed he should return to the United States to face trial.

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On September 5, Snowden received the Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression’s Bjornson prize in absentia. He did not come to Norway out of fear of being extradited to the United States, but he participated in the ceremony via a video link.

On September 9, Kucherena said US diplomats had offered to recover Snowden's passport only to have him deported back to the United States.

On September 29, Snowden created a Twitter account.

READ MORE: Snowden Defends Indian Journo Facing Prosecution for Exposing Aadhar Data Breach

On October 14, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a nationally televised debate that Snowden should not be allowed to return to the United States, as he broke the country's laws.

On October 29, members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging EU countries "to drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender" by 285 votes to 281.

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On January 29, 2016, Snowden revealed that US and UK intelligence services had been hacking Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) signals to spy on military operations in Gaza.

On February 21, Snowden confirmed that he would return to the United States if Washington guaranteed him a fair trial.

On March 4, then US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that Russia should have sent Snowden back to the United States if Moscow respected Washington.

On March 7, Snowden was awarded the Norwegian PEN prize for raising awareness and sparking debate over international government surveillance. Norwegian PEN invited him to receive the award in Oslo on November 18.

On March 14, Snowden said the Spanish authorities were spying on the country’s residents through their phone calls, text messages and browsing history, as well as the use of bank cards.

READ MORE: Snowden Denounces 'Lie, Cover-Up' in New Zealand After Latest Spying Revelations

On April 21, Snowden filed a petition with the Norwegian government to secure safe passage to obtain the Norwegian PEN award.

On June 1, the whistleblower criticized the double standards of the US authorities since then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's email controversy had not led to any form of prosecution unlike his instance of the classification rules violation.

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On June 27, Snowden's lawyer Ben Wizner said that the whistleblower's legal team would seek a US presidential pardon for its client.

The same day, the Oslo City Court spokesman Markus Iestra said the court might be obliged to review the decision to dismiss Snowden's request for legal guarantees he would not be extradited to the United States while in the country to receive the PEN prize, if the court of appeal due to examine the case decides so.

On July 21, Kucherena reaffirmed Snowden had no plans of leaving Russia.

On July 25, Snowden posted documents revealing the US intelligence community allegedly authorized the hacking of foreign political parties.

No Chances for Mercy

After Snowden's revelations, the administration of then President Barack Obama named the former NSA officer traitor and demanded his extradition to the United States for a trial. Russia denied the US request since there was no agreement between Moscow and Washington on mutual extradition of citizens.

After Donald Trump assumed the US presidential office in January 2017 and media reports about Russia's alleged meddling in the US election emerged, there were rumors that Moscow might extradite Snowden to the United States "as a gift."

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In early 2017, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a great opportunity to present Trump with a gift on the occasion of the latter's inauguration and extradite Trump to the United States. According to Morell, that could benefit Russia and improve personal relations between Putin and Trump and would make the world consider Russia as an equal partner of the United States. However, that never happened.

In June 2018, there were some media reports ahead of the first full-fledged meeting between Putin and Trump on July 16 suggesting that Snowden's fate might be discussed during the event.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in turn, said, answering a question about whether Snowden's case would be on the agenda of the Russian-US summit, that the issue had never been discussed with Trump's administration.

"We respect [Snowden's] rights and cannot just extradite him simply because he arrived in Russia even without a US passport as it was canceled during his flight from Hong Kong," Lavrov said.

READ MORE: Assange Wouldn't Apply for Asylum in Russia Due to Political Situation

The US White House then refused to answer Sputnik's question about whether Snowden case was discussed during the summit between Putin and Trump and what is the official position of the current US administration on the issue.

Ordinary Life in Russia

Snowden’s whereabouts in Russia are a closely-guarded secret. According to reports, Snowden rents an apartment works in IT as a company adviser and moves around Moscow on the metro. His life is described as normal; he goes shopping, buys food and other essentials and maintains a diverse itinerary.

Snowden is said by his Russian lawyer to be under constant surveillance, moving around the city under the protection of a private bodyguard. Snowden's girlfriend periodically stays with him in Moscow.

Snowden does not use an iPhone for security considerations, as this phone has programs that can be activated without the owner's knowledge and can pass on information about the user.

Edward Snowden is known to speak a little Russian.

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