Edward Snowden’s temporary asylum authorization from Russia expired yesterday, a development that puts him in a “precarious” position according to Amnesty International. Available information indicates that Snowden currently has “temporary leave to remain” while he waits for the Russian government to approve his request for an extension of asylum status for another year. The US government revoked Snowden’s US passport last year, leaving him in “legal limbo,” Amnesty reports.
The Washington Post points out that Snowden questioned Russian President Vladimir Putin last April about Russian surveillance, a possible motive for Putin to slow-walk asylum approval. But, there are bigger things on Putin’s plate at the moment. Benjamin Wittes, writing at Lawfare, asks “Is Putin Selling Out Edward Snowden?” The author cites Russian news coverage and statements by German and U.S. officials as possibly indicating that Snowden has become a pawn in tense negotiations with the US over the crisis in Ukraine.
To be sure, all of these events—or some of them—may be unconnected, and to the extent they are related to one another, they might well not add up to anything so dramatic as Snowden’s having to leave Russia. But I would give a 20 percent likelihood that something like the following is taking place: Putin has hinted at the possibility of passively (by not permitting him to stay) forcing Snowden’s return as a way of easing tensions with the United States. Germany, aware of this, has made clear that it does not provide an alternative safe harbor. And the United States is signalling that its hand is getting stronger in any negotiation with the fugitive. (Wittes)
Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Thematic Issues at Amnesty International, called on the world’s governments to facilitate Snowden’s travel and “process any asylum application he should file.”