THE GUARDIAN by PAUL OWEN & ADAM GABBATT
Edward Snowden leaves airport: ‘In the end the law is winning’ – live updates
• Snowden granted one-year asylum in Russia
• Leaves Moscow airport in taxi with Wikileaks lawyer
• Wikileaks: Snowden heading to ‘safe, confidential place’
• Timeline: Snowden and the NSA files
theguardian.com, Thursday 1 August 2013 13.59 EDT
Amnesty International has called for the focus to switch from Edward Snowden’s asylum plight to the “sweeping nature and unlawfulness” of the US government’s surveillance programs.
Widney Brown, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty said in a statement:
Now that Edward Snowden has left the airport and has protected status in Russia, the focus really needs to be on the U.S. government’s surveillance programs. Snowden would not have needed temporary asylum but for revealing the sweeping nature and unlawfulness of a massive system of domestic and international surveillance by the United States government.
“We’re very disappointed, extremely disappointed in Russia’s decision to provide temporary asylum to Mr Snowden,” Carney says when asked about President Obama’s personal level of disappointment.
“We made clear both privately and publicly that there was ample legal justification for his expulsion from Russia and return to the United States, that’s a discussion we’ve had with Russia as well as with other countries that might have been considering providing asylum to Mr Snowden.”
The Russian government did not let the Obama administration know that it was going to grant Snowden asylum, Carney says.
Let’s be clear Mr Snowden has been, since he left the United States, in possession of classified material in China and in Russia. Simply the possession of that kind of highly sensitive classified information outside of secure areas is both a huge risk and a violation. As we know he’s been in Russia now for many weeks. I can’t get into further detail about what he possesses or what kind of disclosures there may be or have been, but there is huge risk associated with, as anyone in this building and handles classified information knows, removing that information from secure areas. You shouldn’t do it, you can’t do it, it’s wrong.
White House ‘extremely disappointed’
White House press secretary Jay Carney is giving a briefing in Washington.
Question: “Jay, what do you think the Russians are up to?”
Carney says he is “not going to ascribe motives” to Russia.
“We are obviously extremely disappointed with this development,” he says – the first White House comment on Snowden being granted asylum.
Updated at 6.04pm BST
Vladimir Putin’s decision to grant Snowden asylum is a “humiliating, wounding rebuff to America’s attempts to ‘reset’ relations with Russia”, writes my colleague Luke Harding, former Moscow correspondent for the Guardian:
In theory Snowden has been allowed to stay for one year. In reality he is learning Russian and ploughing his way through Doystoyevsky. Snowden’s stay in Russia could be indefinite.
Among other things, the Snowden story has exposed the impotence of twenty-first century US power. With no US-Russia extradition treaty there is little the White House can do to winkle Snowden out. It can, of course, express displeasure. Obama is likely to cancel a trip in September to Saint Petersburg for Russia’s forthcoming G20 summit.
The irony, as Senator John McCain was quick to point out, is that Moscow’s record on human rights and freedom of speech is far worse than Washington’s. While Snowden was stuck at the airport, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny got five years in jail. (Navalny was promptly bailed following his provincial show trial, apparently amid Kremlin in-fighting.)
Since returning for a third time as president, Putin has moved to crush mass protests against his rule. They began in late 2011-2012. He has introduced a series of repressive new laws against human rights organisations, selectively arrested leading critics, and jailed the feminist punk combo Pussy Riot.
Russia’s treatment of its own whistle-blowers, meanwhile, is grim and awful. (Think Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in Moscow in 2006, or Natalia Estemirova, kidnapped in Chechnya’s capital Grozny in 2009 and murdered.) Last month (July 11) Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who exposed massive interior ministry fraud, was himself convicted of crimes. Magnitsky was an unusual defendant: he was already dead.
Luke has plenty of experience of the intricacies of being allowed, or not being allowed, into Russia. It’s worth reading his full piece, which will be published shortly.
Updated at 5.52pm BST
Senator Udall takes to the lectern.
It’s “impossible to judge” whether decisions being taken are constitutional “when we have a secret programme overseen by a secret judge making secret decisions”.
He says there is concern when you have “only 11 out of 34,000 requests turned down by the FISA court”.
“The reform effort is going to be a difficult one,” Udall says, “But i think “we’re going to be able to get this done for the American people.”
Updated at 6.00pm BST
The fallout from Edward Snowden’s disclosures continue. On Capitol Hill in Washington, Senator Richard Blumenthal, of the Senate judiciary committee, is launching proposed reforms to the secretive foreign intelligence surveillance court (usually known as the Fisa court) today, along with Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Senator Tom Udall, of Colorado.
The Fisa court grants the legal authorities to secret surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, some of which have been revealed by Snowden’s leaks.
Orders issued by the court are secret and are rarely published. The court is non-adversarial: the government presents its case, and the judge (almost always) grants the order.
At the press conference. Blumenthal says the Fisa court is an “anomaly” in an open and democratic government
The senators are proposing “a special advocate whose client will be the constitution”.
“The idea of the special advocate is one that should appeal on a bi-partisan basis,” Blumenthal says – we’ll see about that – because “decisions are made better when both sides of the argument are represented”.
The special advocate would raise independent questions about the government’s case.
Updated at 5.27pm BST
In its statement WikiLeaks said Snowden had left the airport with WikiLeaks adviser Sarah Harrison, who has accompanied him at all times “to protect his safety and security”. They headed off in a taxi to a “secure, confidential place”, the organisation said.
WikiLeaks said the Russian certificate of temporary asylum allowed Snowden to live in and travel around Russia for one year. “He can now plan his next steps in safety,” the organisation said.
The organisation also sheds light on why Snowden did not immediately depart for Cuba when he arrived in Moscow, as had been expected:
Mr Snowden and Ms Harrison have been staying in the airport for almost six weeks, having landed on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong on the 23rd June. They had been booked on a connecting flight the following day. Mr Snowden intended to request asylum in Latin America. However, after Mr Snowden’s departure was made public, the United States government cancelled his passport, which rendered onward travel impossible.
The statement added that although Snowden has accepted Venezuela’s offer of asylum “ultimately US interference has, at least for the time being, prevented its practical acceptance”.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said:
This is another victory in the fight against Obama’s war on whistleblowers. This battle has been won, but the war continues. 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. Whistleblowers will continue to appear until the government abides by its own laws and rhetoric.
WikiLeaks has published comments by Edward Snowden. The whistleblower said:
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. I thank the Russian Federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations.
Alex Luhn has been speaking to Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who told him the whistleblower had been reading Russian literature, including Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and learning the Russian language.
Kucherena said the circumstances were similar to “house arrest, only not at home,” noting the psychological pressures of remaining confined indoors in a legal no man’s land:
I wouldn’t have held out for 24 hours with him in the airport. What is the transit zone? It’s a sterile zone. There are constant loudspeaker announcements every day, ‘A flight from Washington has arrived,’ ‘A flight from London has arrived,’ ‘A flight from Barcelona has arrived.’ I heard them for hours when I was there. If a person is there indefinitely, it can drive him to psychosis.
He also talked about Snowden’s motives and convictions:
On the inside, Edward is absolutely independent, he absolutely follows his convictions. As for the reaction, he is convinced and genuinely believes he did it first of all so that Americans and all people would find out that they are spying on us.
We’ll have the full story from Alec up shortly.
The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes, documents leaked to the Guardian by Edward Snowden reveal. The papers are the latest to emerge from the cache Snowden leaked to the newspaper.
Snowden’s father has thanked Russia and Vladimir Putin for granting his son a year’s asylum. Lon Snowden told Russian state TV:
I am so thankful to the Russian nation and President Vladimir Putin.
Rory Carroll writes from the Black Hat conference in Vegas, where the company FileTrek has a cut-out of Snowden at its booth (see below) and is inviting attendees to vote on whether he is a hero or villain.
You might think that a conference of hackers would support a fellow uber-geek but so far the vote is ‘a dead heat’, a company rep told me. A few uncertain souls asked if there was a middle option between hero and villain. A few paranoid souls declined to vote on the grounds they were being watched. Hollywood may need to update its depiction of hackers as rebels.
The White House has not yet publicly commented on Russia’s decision to grant Snowden asylum, although a statement is expected later.
Meanwhile Obama is meeting a group of members of Congress at the Oval Office today, report Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman in Washington, as an increasingly embattled White House seeks to contain growing anger over the surveillance tactics employed by the National Security Agency:
Both Republican and Democrats have been invited to the meeting, just 24 hours after the Guardian revealed details of another National Security Agency surveillance programe which, according to documents, allows analysts to to search through huge databases of emails, online chats and the browsing histories without prior authorisation.
Hours after details of the XKeystone were published, the White House press spokesman, Jay Carney, declined to say whether the administration had informed Congress about the programme, saying: “I don’t know the answer to that.” He claimed there were “false claims” in the Guardian article but did not specify what they were.
The delegation of legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives meeting the president reportedly consisted of leaders of the intelligence committees and some of the administration’s most vocal critics.
Almost two months on from the initial NSA disclosures in the Guardian and Washington Post, based on documents leaked by Snowden, the White House appears to have entered a new phase as it seeks to head off criticism.
The president has directed intelligence officials to find ways to make the NSA programs “as transparent as possible”, while senior administration officials have testified before Congress that they are open to reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which issues orders for surveillance. On Wednesday, the administration voluntarily declassified previously top-secret documents in a bid to mollify critics.
Updated at 4.24pm BST
Here’s a summary of what we know so far.
• Edward Snowden has left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and has entered Russia, according to his lawyer and WikiLeaks, which has been helping him.
• Anatoly Kucherena, lawyer for the whistleblower – whose leaks to the Guardian about US surveillance caused shockwaves around the world – said Snowden had been granted temporary asylum for one year. It is unclear whether Snowden is planning to stay in Russia permanently, as his lawuer hinted recently, or will attempt to move on to one of the Latin American countries he said last month had offered him asylum: Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador. WikiLeaks said: “We have won the battle – now the war”, perhaps hinting at a further asylum claim to come.
• Kucherena declined to provide details about where Snowden would be staying in Russia. “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,” he said. Snowden would choose his own place of residence, but it would not be an embassy, he said. Snowden left the airport by taxi.
• In the US, senator Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, said Snowden was a “fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom” and said the episode had damaged US-Russian relations. US senator John McCain tweeted to point out – as many have done – an apparent contradiction between Snowden’s ideals and the actions of the Russian government. But a senior Kremlin official said ties between Russia and the US would not suffer because of the “relatively insignificant” Snowden case.
• Snowden’s lawyer said he would speak to the media after a day or so acclimatising. WikiLeaks said it would release a statement by Snowden on the Bradley Manning whistleblowing case – which has been compared to his own – later today.
• Two new photographs said to be of Snowden emerged: one showing him getting out of a car, one showing the documents issued for him by Russia. Very few photographs have emerged of the whistleblower since he revealed his identity in June.
• Kucherena pointed out that yesterday’s Guardian story revealing a top secret National Security Agency programme allowing analysts to search with no prior authorisation through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals was based on documents given to the paper before Snowden agreed to stop leaking – a key condition of his asylum offer from Russia. Vladimir Putin had previously said he would be welcome only if he stopped “his work aimed at bringing harm” to the United States – “as strange as that sounds coming from my mouth.”
Updated at 3.19pm BST
In the US, senator Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, has said Snowden is a “fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom” and said the episode damaged US-Russian relations:
Edward Snowden is a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia.
Regardless of the fact that Russia is granting asylum for one year, this action is a setback to US-Russia relations.
Edward Snowden will potentially do great damage to US national security interests and the information he is leaking could aid terrorists and others around the world who want to do real harm to our country.
Russia must return Snowden to face trial at home.
Here’s the tweet from WikiLeaks earlier announcing an upcoming statement from Snowden on the Bradley Manning case.
Alec Luhn in Moscow has more on what lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told journalists at Sheremetyevo airport this afternoon.
Kucherena said that the Federal Migration Service had granted Snowden temporary asylum for one year. He said that he had passed documents confirming this status from the migration service to Snowden, who left the airport for a “safe place”.
“This is a certificate that gives him the right to temporary asylum on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Kucherena said, holding up a copy of the document.
A security official said Snowden had crossed the border at about 3.30pm, and a source at the airport confirmed he had left the airport, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
According to Kucherena, the whistleblower left the airport alone in an ordinary taxi. He declined to provide details on where Snowden was located, citing safety concerns.
“Since he is the most hunted person in the world, he will address the question of security today,” Kucherena told journalists.
The former National Security Agency employee will himself choose his place of residence and forms of protection.
Although Snowden had originally said he intended to eventually move on to South America, more recently he had indicated that he wants to stay in Russia for the long term. Kucherena has previously said Snowden had been reading classic Russian literature and learning the language. In an interview today with Rossiya 24 television, he said Snowden had “no plans” to leave Russia for another country.
The whistleblower’s father Lon Snowden had reportedly been planning to visit his son, and Kucherena said yesterday that he was sending an invitation to the elder Snowden so he could obtain a Russian visa. Kucherena told Rossiya 24 television Thursday that he would be speaking to Lon Snowden later that day to arrange his visit.
WikiLeaks announced that Snowden would make a statement Thursday about whistleblower Bradley Manning, who was found guilty of espionage Wednesday.
Edward Snowden got temporary asylum in Russia, lawyer says (mercurynews.com)
Edward Snowden’s father says FBI asked him to fly to Moscow (theguardian.com)
National Security Brief: NSA Leaker Snowden Leaves Moscow Airport (thinkprogress.org)
Snowden Has Been Granted Temporary Asylum In Russia And Has Left Airport (businessinsider.com)
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