Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former U.S. intelligence contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Approved on Monday, Sep. 26, the decree includes Snowden’s name among a list of 70 other foreign nationals.
A former employee for both America’s CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, Snowden left America and flew to Hong Kong after leaking thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists and gave controversial interviews to several Western publications.
His illegal disclosures brought to light multiple global surveillance programs being run by American intelligence agencies with the help of telecommunication companies and European governments, sparking a heated debate about the impact of national security on individual privacy.
Shortly after the leaks, the U. S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden that included two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. With his passport revoked, Snowden dodged prosecution by flying from Hong Kong to Moscow, where he was granted the right of asylum, his visa being repeatedly extended until he was granted permanent residency in Russia in October 2020 – and now permanent citizenship.
Snowden has divided opinion. He has been labelled a “champion of freedom of speech” by some and “a traitor” by others, for releasing the sensitive material.
Back in March 2014 when the leaks were first made, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee: “The vast majority of the documents that Snowden … exfiltrated from our highest levels of security … had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities. The vast majority of those were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures.”
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