Edward Snowden has reportedly been granted temporary asylum for 12 months in Russia and has left Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.
“Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning,” he said. “I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.”
The move comes less than 24 hours after The Guardian exposed the National Security Agency’s XKeyscore program, said to be the agency’s “widest-reaching” system for gathering information from the Internet.
Former NSA employee Snowden has been holed up in Moscow airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. He is responsible for leaking documents and sensitive information about wide-reaching data surveillance programs operated by both the NSA and GCHQ, including PRISM and Tempora.
The US justice department has filed formal criminal charges against Snowden for theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence. Russia has rejected appeals from the US government to extradite Snowden though because until now, he hadn’t crossed the Russian border.
In a statement, Wikileaks thanked the Russian government for granting Snowden temporary asylum.
“This is another victory in the fight against Obama’s war on whistleblowers,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said. “The United States can no longer continue the surveillance of world citizens and its digital colonization of sovereign nations. The public will no longer stand for it. ”
A Russian official confirmed in July that Snowden has applied for asylum in 15 different countries. He then applied for temporary asylum in Russia, although it’s widely believed that the 30-year-old eventually wants to travel to a country in Latin America.