Edward Snowden, the former contractor who blew the lid on the US intelligence apparatus’ PRISM and XKeyscore systems for monitoring ordinary internet users’ activities has been granted a year’s asylum in Russia as a refugee.
It is understood that Snowden has left Moscow’s Scheremetyevo airport and has entered Russia.
It is not clear whether Snowden will remain in Russia for the year or will attempt to make his way to Latin America where Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador have offered hi asylum.
Snowden fled the US last month and caused uproar when he leaked documents about the workings of the US cyber intelligence apparatus to a number of newspapers, including The Guardian and the New York Times.
In particular he highlighted the hitherto unknown existence of a system called PRISM that could access the servers of tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, the UK’s GCHQ’s Tempora system and in recent hours XKeyscore, which can gather metadata on the internet activity of any person in the world, just using their phone number or email address as a starting point.
It is likely Snowden’s activities will have ramifications for the next decade to come and will lead to serious debate about what constitutes protection and what constitutes invasion of privacy in this digital age.
According to The Guardian, Snowden left the airport hotel where he has been holed up for over a month at 3.30pm local time by taxi.
Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said Snowden’s location will be kept a secret because he is “the most wanted man on planet earth.”
Kucherena went on: “He has to think about is personal security.”
The chair of the Senate foreign relations committee senator Robert Menendez has said that the incident has damaged US-Russian relations and said that Snowden belongs in a US courtroom.
Wikileaks said today that Snowden will issue a statement about the other US whistleblower Bradley Manning who was found guilty of espionage on Wednesday.