Following on the heels of the Bradley Manning verdict, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was granted asylum from Russia on Thursday and has finally left the airport.
The whistleblower has been granted temporary political asylum in Russia, Snowden's legal representative Anatoly Kucherena said.
"I have just handed over to him papers from the Russian Immigration Service. They are what he needs to leave the transit zone," he added.
Kucherena showed a photocopy of the document to the press. According to it, Snowden is free to stay in Russia until at least July 31, 2014. His asylum status may be extended annually upon request.
With his newly-awarded legal status in Russia, Snowden cannot be handed over to the US authorities, even if Washington files an official request. He can now be transported to the United States only if he agrees to go voluntarily.
Snowden has been granted 1 year of asylum and his present location has not been made public, nor will it be disclose, said Kucherena.
Fox News adds, "Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that Snowden could receive asylum in Russia on the condition he stops leaking U.S. secrets. Kucherena has said Snowden accepted the condition. Kucherena said the material cited in The Guardian newspaper article was provided before Snowden promised to stop leaking.
"He is the most wanted person on earth and his security will be a priority," the attorney explained. "He will deal with personal security issues and lodging himself. I will just consult him as his lawyer."
Yuri Ushakov, presidential aide to Vladimir Putin, said that he didn't think this would affect Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Moscow. "We are aware of the atmosphere being created in the US over Snowden, but we didn't get any signals [indicating a possible cancellation of the visit] from American authorities."
This seems a bit odd seeing that Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder recently wrote to Justice Minister Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov asking Russia to hand Snowden over and that they would not seek the death penalty against him. It seems Russia knows better than anyone that you can't trust Obama or Holder as far as you can throw them. I think it will be even more awkward than Putin and Obama's previous meeting.
Snowden was first hiding out in Hong Kong when he first went public with NSA's spying on the Americans people. Snowden made it clear then that he believes the Constitution made warrantless government snooping illegal.
He flew to Moscow on June 23 due to pressure being placed on Hong Kong to hand him over for prosecution. It was believed that Moscow was a temporary stopover and that his destination was to be Ecuador or Cuba. He had applied to several Latin American countries hostile to the U.S. He then applied for asylum in Russia in July.
Snowden is now considering making Russia a permanent home.
Just days ago, Edward Snowden's father, Lon, blasted the Obama administration over their manhunt of his son. His legal counsel also aided in the writing of the letter, which followed the scrubbing of Obama's policies on protecting whistleblowers from his website.