Congress began to react angrily to news that Russia granted temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden and allowed him to finally leave the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
“Americans in Washington should consider this a game changer in our relationship with Russia. Mr. Snowden has been charged with serious crimes and has put American lives at risk at home and abroad,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.
“Today’s action by the Russian government could not be more provocative and is a sign of Vladimir Putin’s clear lack of respect for President Obama,” he continued. “It is now time for Congress, hopefully in conjunction with the Administration, to make it clear to the Russian government that this provocative step in granting Snowden asylum will be met with a firm response.”
Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said “Edward Snowden is a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia.”
“Regardless of the fact that Russia is granting asylum for one year, this action is a setback to U.S.-Russia relations,” Menendez added. “Edward Snowden will potentially do great damage to U.S. national security interests and the information he is leaking could aid terrorists and others around the world who want to do real harm to our country. Russia must return Snowden to face trial at home.”
The Moscow Times reports that Snowden has abandoned any plans to seek refuge in Latin America or at Latin American embassies, and may go wherever he wishes in Russia — though for “security reasons” his whereabouts will be kept closely guarded.
A senior Kremlin official brushed off the Snowden decision as “relatively insignificant” in the context of U.S.-Russia relations.
We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle–now the war.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2013
(Photo via Russia Today’s Twitter feed)