Snowden slips out of Moscow airport as Russia gives him temporary asylum
NSA leaker Edward Snowden has left the Moscow airport where he has been holed up for more than a month and is now in a "secure" location somewhere in Russia, reports Reuters:
A Russian lawyer who has been assisting Snowden said the American, who is wanted in the United States for leaking details of secret government intelligence programs, had gone to a secure location which would remain secret.
After weeks staying out of sight from hordes of reporters desperate for a glimpse of him, Snowden managed to slip away in a taxi without being spotted. Grainy images of his passport showed he had been granted asylum for a year from July 31.
"He is the most wanted man on planet Earth. What do you think he is going to do? He has to think about his personal security. I cannot tell you where he is going," his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Reuters.
"I put him in a taxi 15 to 20 minutes ago and gave him his certificate on getting refugee status in the Russian Federation," he said. "He can live wherever he wants in Russia. It's his personal choice."
He said Snowden was not going to stay at any embassy in Moscow, although three Latin American countries have offered to shelter him. Snowden was well, he added.
Snowden was accompanied by Sarah Harrison, a representative of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which confirmed he had left the airport.
"We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle - now the war," WikiLeaks said on Twitter.
Snowden, 30, arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23. Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela have offered him refuge but there are no direct commercial flights to Latin America and he was concerned the United States would intercept his flight to prevent him reaching his destination.
Snowden's case has caused new strains in relations between Russia and the United States which wants him extradited to face espionage charges.
The White House has signaled that President Barack Obama could consider boycotting a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in early September.
Even as Snowden was preparing to leave the airport, the administration unleashed a document dump on the telephone surviellance program that gives an outline of how the program works, and some insights into what kind of cooperation was given by big telephone companies. But this was countered by another damaging leak showing the extent to which the NSA could snoop on American's online activities.
President Obama will probably not cancel the summit in September. There are too many issues of bi-lateral concern to allow this distraction to derail talks on everything from Syria, to a nuclear Iran, and trade issues. But Obama is likely to keep Putin guessing for a while as he goes on vacation.