National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has received a reprieve from the Russian government.
As of August 1, Snowden has been given a three-year extension on his asylum in Russia, his lawyer announced at a press conference Thursday. The deal means Snowden will not be forced to leave Russia for that period.
Snowden became a household name last year when the former government contractor leaked thousands of classified documents that included information about the previously unknown extent of the US government's global and domestic surveillance efforts. As the leaks became public, Snowden tried to head to a country that did not have an extradition agreement with the US. He ended up stuck in the Moscow airport after the US revoked his passport. After weeks of staying in the international section of that airport, Snowden was given asylum by the Russian government for a period of one year. His asylum expired July 31.
That Snowden now has three more years to stay in Russia is undoubtedly beneficial to him. The US has charged him with violations of the Espionage Act and wants him returned to the US to face prosecution.
Snowden is a controversial figure, if nothing else. His leaks have been damaging to the US surveillance efforts and to its reputation. Some favor his work, calling him a patriot who deserves commendation, not prosecution. Others argue that he is a traitor who has hurt US anti-terrorism efforts. Snowden has argued from the beginning that his efforts are altruistic and reflect his desire to increase freedom and privacy.
Snowden's attorney did not say what his client has planned for the next three years he will spend in Russia.