Russian news channel Rossiya 24 provides an image of Edward Snowden's refugee document. (Source: Reuters)
The nigh-endless circus over Edward Snowden's flight from the United States following the release of several secret documents related to the National Security Agency reached another point today, and will likely hamper the already tenuous relations America has with Russia. Today, the Federal Migration Department of the Russian government issued temporary asylum to Mr. Snowden, allowing him to leave the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow. Anatoly G. Kucherena, Snowden's lawyer, delivered to him a temporary refugee document for Mr. Snowden this afternoon local time. From this point forward, Mr. Snowden is a free man, and thus left the airport at 3:30 PM local time. Along with his lawyer, Snowden was accompanied by Sarah Harrison, his liaison to the whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks. Some have questioned his release being timed with the release of information regarding the NSA XKeyscore program, but Kucherena denied any relation.
FLASH: We can now confirm that Edward Snowden's welfare has been continuously monitored by WikiLeaks staff since his presence in Hong Kong.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2013
Snowden's current plans remain vague at the moment. Based on the document's standing, he is allowed to live anywhere in the country. However, it remains uncertain if the Russian government will extend him any further courtesy than that. Based on current information, it is likely that WikiLeaks has lent Mr. Snowden some support in the form of accommodation in Russia, likely through Ms. Harrison. Mr. Snowden will also be able to work in Russia, and given its more computer-friendly culture, he is unlikely to have a shortage of work. In fact, Mr. Snowden has already received a job offer: Mark Zuckerberg's Russian equivalent, Pavel Durov, offered Snowden a position on the "all-star security team" of popular Russian social network VKontakte. Snowden has also expressed interest in reuniting with his father, Lon, as well as his girlfriend, Lindsey Mills, who herself felt "betrayed" by Snowden's sudden departure.
For America's part, they are understandably miffed by Snowden's asylum, which means that they cannot do anything at this point to extradite him to stand trial for espionage. In today's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration is "extremely disappointed" at the news concerning Snowden. Carney also said that, while no scheduling changes are planned, President Obama is currently re-evaluating the upcoming bi-lateral summit with Russia next month, saying, "We are evaluating the utility of the summit in light of this."