Russia Hints It Could Protect NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden
The Russian government has said that it would consider granting asylum to the person who leaked documents exposing the National Security Agency’s surveillance, The Guardian reports.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson told a Russian newspaper that “if such an appeal is given, it will be considered. We'll act according to facts.” A Russian Member of Parliament added, “that would be a good idea.”
The comments are a way to needle the U.S. from a country often criticized for human rights abuses. But Russia treats its own whistleblowers harshly. As Miriam Elder of The Guardian noted, "Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who revealed a multimillion-dollar corruption scheme involving officials from the interior ministry and tax police, was arrested and later died in jail after being refused medical attention. His body also showed signs of torture."
Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, had fled the U.S. and was last in Hong Kong, though his current whereabouts are unknown.
Over the weekend, he told The Guardian that his “predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values,” such as Iceland. That country has a tradition of protecting free speech, dissent and people from the U.S. have successfully sought asylum there. One Icelandic lawmaker has called on her country to grant Snowden asylum. But as the Washington Post's Max Fisher writes, "not everyone in Iceland is eager to harbor Snowden and there are reasons to suspect that the NSA leaker might not be necessarily win asylum in the country. Iceland’s government shifted to the right just a few weeks ago, empowering leaders who may be less eager to anger Washington."
Snowden also could seek asylum from Hong Kong, but the territory has an extradition treaty with the U.S.