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Snowden granted one-year asylum

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NSA leaker Edward Snowden attends a news conference at Moscow's  Sheremetyevo Airport with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks last month.

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NSA leaker Edward Snowden attends a news conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks last month.

MOSCOW -- National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has a place to live in Russia after being granted temporary asylum, but he still hasn't decided what he wants to do next, his lawyer said Friday. The big question may be how much choice he actually has.

Russia granted a year of asylum to Snowden on Thursday, allowing him to quietly slip out of the Moscow airport where he had been holed up for almost six weeks as he evades charges of espionage in the United States. Authorities have suggested he will have wide freedom to work, but Kremlin watchers believe his moves are likely being closely controlled by Russian intelligence.

Snowden "is in a safe place," but the location will remain secret out of concern for his security, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russian news agencies.

The systems analyst who revealed himself as the source of reports in the Guardian newspaper of a vast U.S. Internet surveillance program needs time after his ordeal in airport limbo to figure out his next steps.

He was seen only once in his weeks in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport. Despite troops of photographers and reporters camped out inside and outside the airport, no one apparently saw him leaving, except for someone who snapped a photo of Kucherena talking to blurry figures who the attorney later said were Snowden and Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks staffer who has been advising him.

Kucherena said he expects Snowden to speak to journalists soon. "As soon as he decides what he will do, I hope he will announce it himself," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted the lawyer as saying.

The move to grant Snowden asylum infuriated the Obama administration, which said it was "extremely disappointed" and warned the decision could derail an upcoming summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul on Friday met with Putin's foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov to discuss matters including Snowden, the U.S. Embassy said on its Twitter account. There were no further details.

The asylum decision gives Russia cover to depict itself as a defender of human rights, pointing a finger to deflect criticism of its own poor record on rights including free speech.

But the secrecy that surrounded Snowden's time at the Moscow airport and his unwillingness so far to talk to the press indicates he is being controlled by Russian intelligence, Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist who co-authored a book on the Russian intelligence services, said.

"Does he have independent sources of information and communication? My impression is that he has none, which means he's not his own master," Soldatov said.

He said Kucherena's statements about concerns for Snowden's safety do not hold water.

"We are all perfectly aware that Snowden, who has just received asylum, does not face any danger in Russia," Soldatov said. "American intelligence does not kidnap or assassinate people in Russia, that's a fact. This is a just a pretext."

Putin has denied that Russia's security services have worked with Snowden, either before or after he arrived in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 A20

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