National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is considering making his stay in Russia permanent, a lawyer connected to the fugitive said on Wednesday, shortly before the news broke that Russian authorities have given Snowden the documents necessary to leave the airport where he has been trapped for a month.
“He’s planning to arrange his life here,” lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russia Today. “He plans to get a job.”
Snowden applied for asylum in Russia a week ago, in what was supposed to be a temporary measure as he made arrangements for safe travel to a sympathetic South American state such as Bolivia or Venezuela. Those plans have grown more and more unlikely as the days have passed, especially after a flight containing Bolivian President Evo Morales was forcibly grounded in Austria on July 2 because Snowden was suspected of being on board.
With his sights shifting to Russia, Snowden’s hopes had been fixed this past week on the Russian Federal Migration Service — the government body that processes asylum requests.
If his requests were denied, Kucherena said Snowden would “go to court and appeal against the decision” on the grounds that Snowden “fears for his health and his life. He’s afraid that if he’ll be handed to the U.S., torture can be used against him down to death penalty.”
Kucherena’s concerns were evidently unfounded, however, as numerous reports out of Russia on Wednesday morning said that Snowden had finally been cleared to leave the international terminal of Moscow’s Sheremtyevo Airport and officially enter Russia.
Since arriving from Hong Kong a month ago, Snowden had been unable to pass through customs because the United States government has revoked his passport in their attempts to punish him for making the extent of the NSA’s surveillance programs public.
Before the news emerged that Russia had granted Snowden asylum, Kucherena acknowledged that his client’s plans were still very much up in the air, even as he remains grounded.
“It’s hard for me to say what his actions would be,” Kucherena said. “Understand that security is the No. 1 issue in his case. I think the process of adaptation will take some time. It’s an understandable process as he doesn’t know the Russian language, our customs, and our laws.”
In the U.S., Snowden’s revelations have provoked outrage from politicians and public figures concerned that the NSA programs are an unconstitutional breach of the privacy of American citizens. On Monday, Republican Rep. Justin Amash proposed an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill being debated in the House that would defund implementation of the NSA programs.
Leadership of both parties in the House condemned the amendment, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said Amash was trying “to hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools.”
The White House has yet to comment on the news of Snowden’s escape from international judicial limbo.