After revealing the U.S. surveillance system PRISM in an interview to The Guardian newspaper, Edward Snowden fled to Russia. He recently received a three year extension on his asylum and will therefore remain in Russia. (Picture: Snowden in an interview with The Guardian in July 2013)
May 20, 2013, Edward Snowden left the the United States and headed for Hong Kong to seek asylum. Four days later he sent files about PRISM, a program that conducts surveillance over companies like Microsoft and Facebook, to The Washington Post, and requested that they publish this information. The Guardian also published information about PRISM and the U.S. government giving Verizon a court order to hand over millions of telephone records. June 23, Snowden’s passport was revoked by the U.S. government, and he had to remain in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Since then, Snowden has received asylum from Russia that expired after a year. However, he applied for an extension and in August 2014, his asylum was extended by the Russian government to last for three years. The terms of his asylum give him the right to travel freely, including going abroad for no more than three months at a time. Because of Russia’s willingness to help Snowden, the relationship between the US and Russia is strained. June 14, 2013, the United States requested his extradition to try him for charges of espionage and theft of government property.
Edward Snowden has criticized the United States and other countries for its alleged surveillance of citizens. In his “A Manifesto for Truth,” Snowden writes that “massive surveillance is a global problem and needs a global solution.” He is still critical of Russia’s track record on human rights and free speech. July 2013, Snowden criticized Great Britain for a bill that he said mirrored a bill the United States passed in 2007 in an exclusive interview with The Guardian. He questioned the change in importance of this bill for Great Britain and had concerns over the lack of public debate and discourse around this bill. The bill focused on emergency surveillance, and Snowden compared it to The Protect America Act, which was introduced by President George W. Bush.
Snowden is rumored to be working for a Russian website and continues to lay low besides his few interviews with The Guardian, NBC and The Washington Post. Snowden believes that returning to the United States is unlikely because of the current whistleblower laws and the public’s negative opinion of him. He remains concerned about government involvement with private citizens’ personal, electronic information.