National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer announced Thursday the former intelligence contractor has been granted three additional years of asylum in Russia.
“On the first of August he received a three-year residence permit,” Snowden’s Russian lawyer lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told reporters Thursday, according to RT.
The ex-intelligence contractor’s one year of temporary asylum expired on August 1, but was expected to be renewed according to Russian officials because his “life is endangered.”
However Russia’s reasons for letting Snowden stay run much deeper, according to independent defense analyst Pevel Felgenhauer.
“As a consultant on how the NSA works, he is very useful,” Felgenhauer told Novaya Gazeta, according to Business Insider.
“To a foreign intelligence service, Snowden is priceless,” consultant and former Navy assistant command security manager Robert Caruso told the publication. “He can be exploited again and again.”
Though Snowden’s former employers at NSA and CIA can contain the damage his leaks have caused by modifying programs, relocating agents and activities, the leaker’s intimate first-hand knowledge of the agencies’ inner workings would still be applicable and useful to Russian intelligence, according to Caruso.
Per Snowden’s new agreement, he’ll be able to travel freely throughout Russia, and go abroad for up to three months — any additional time spent out-of-country would result in his residency being revoked.
According to the leaker’s lawyer, Snowden cannot apply for full citizenship until he’s lived in-country for five years, and he did not request political asylum.
“By all means he is homesick,” Kucherena said, explaining Snowden had yet to decide whether he wanted to apply for citizenship. “It was hard for him to find himself far from home, especially for the first time. Of course, in the future Edward will make up his mind on whether to stay in Russia and apply for citizenship or to leave for the U.S. He hasn’t done this yet.”
Snowden has himself stated on numerous occasions he would like to return, but does not believe he would receive a fair and open trial.
Snowden was granted one year of asylum on Aug. 1, 2013 after leaking a cache of classified NSA intelligence documents to reporters, flying out of Hong Kong and landing Russia. After identifying Snowden as the leaker, the U.S. State Department canceled his passport, stranding him in Moscow.
Snowden’s lawyer said the leaker plans to hold a press conference discussing the news soon.