Edward Snowden has received over $200,000 in speaking fees in the past year while living in exile in Russia, according to a new report. Several of those speaking fees were paid for by public colleges subsidized with taxpayer funds.
Snowden hasn’t left Russia since 2013, when he fled there after leaking up to 1.7 million documents taken from an NSA server he had access to as a contractor. Despite his exile, Snowden has repeatedly made “public” appearances digitally at all kinds of events, from San Diego’s Comic-Con to a European music festival. Unsurprisingly, colleges have been particularly fertile ground for appearances. According to Yahoo News, three of Snowden’s speaking appearances since September, 2015, were held at public colleges, namely the University of Iowa, the University of Arizona, and the University of Colorado.
These appearance, arranged by the American Program Bureau (APB), didn’t come cheap. A Feb. 16, 2016, joint appearance at Colorado by Snowden and journalist Ron Suskind cost $56,000. The Arizona appearance cost $20,000, while the Iowa one was just $3,000. (RELATED: Snowden Tweets About Hillary’s Email Server)
All three appearances involved paying money to Snowden through APB as an intermediary, even though Snowden is currently wanted by the U.S. government on multiple felony charges related to theft and espionage.
Emails published by Yahoo indicate the university employees at both Colorado and Iowa became concerned their payments could violate federal law restricting how money is paid out to foreigners or those wanted for crimes. In the former case, Colorado was won over after assurances its money would go to a separate LLC rather than Snowden himself, while in the latter, Iowa happily learned that an executive order placing financial sanctions on those posing a cyber-threat to the United States didn’t explicitly apply to Snowden.
When contacted by Yahoo, Iowa justified paying Snowden thousands of dollars on diversity grounds.
“The University of Iowa values intellectual debate and believes in providing students the opportunity to hear from speakers with diverse viewpoints,” the school said.
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