MOSCOW -- A day after President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Russian government clarified Wednesday the fate of Edward Snowden, the other main source of secrets about U.S. surveillance in recent years.
Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who was granted asylum in Russia in 2013, will be allowed to remain in that country for "a couple more years," Maria Zakharova, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said on Facebook.
Snowden and his supporters have been campaigning for a pardon from Obama, but the chances of clemency appear to be small given that his name did not appear on a list of pardons Tuesday.
Snowden found himself essentially stranded in Moscow four years ago after he was thwarted in his attempts to fly to Latin America after the publication of articles in The Guardian and The Washington Post. Those articles were based on information he provided and revealed extensive surveillance and data collection programs operated by the National Security Agency.
In response to a question about why Snowden and Manning were being treated differently, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Tuesday that the documents leaked by Snowden were "far more serious and far more dangerous" than those that Manning had disclosed.
Zakharova described her Facebook post as a rejection of an idea presented in a recent article in The Cipher Brief by a former acting CIA director, Michael Morell. He suggested that Russia should extradite Snowden to the United States as a signal of goodwill to Donald Trump's incoming administration.
Zakharova said Morell's suggestion of turning over Snowden would amount to "a gift" for the new U.S. leader.
"The funniest thing is that the former deputy director of the C.I.A. !!! does not know that Snowden's residence permit in Russia was just extended for a couple more years," Zakharova wrote.
"And seriously, the essence of what the C.I.A. agent is suggesting is an ideology of betrayal," she wrote. "You spoke, Mr. Morrell, and now it's clear to everybody that in your office, it's normal to bring gifts in the form of people, and to hand over those who seek defense."
In an interview with The Guardian in September, Snowden argued that his revelations about government surveillance were not only morally right but that they led to an overhaul of secrecy laws that benefited Americans.
"I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013, the laws of our nation changed," Snowden said. "Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures."
The Foreign Ministry did not specify how long Snowden's residence permit had been extended. But his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that it was valid until 2020.
Kucherena said Snowden would be eligible to apply for Russian citizenship next year, after having spent five years in the country, but he did not say if Snowden would apply.
Snowden is accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act and would face at least 30 years in prison if convicted.
Some privacy advocates have lionized Snowden as a whistleblower, while his opponents and government officials have cast him as a defector, particularly in light of his seeking asylum in Russia.
Snowden has taken pains to portray his exile as comfortable. He spends time with his girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, according to posts on social media, and he recently took a break from posting on Twitter for what he described as a vacation, presumably in Russia.
A Section on 01/19/2017
Print Headline: Russia extends Snowden's stay by 3 more years