17 Jul 2013

Snowden seeks temporary asylum in Russia

9:31 pm on 17 July 2013

Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia

Russia's Migration Service confirmed that Mr Snowden completed the relevant paperwork at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where he has been since flying in from Hong Kong on 23 June.

He is wanted by the US for leaking details of government surveillance programmes and has not risked taking any flight that might be intercepted by the United States.

His American passport has been cancelled, so with no travel documents he has been unable to take up asylum offers from a number of Latin American states.

Mr Snowden said on Friday he would seek refuge in Russia only until he can travel to one of the three Latin American countries ready to give him political asylum - Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Unlike political asylum, granting Mr Snowden temporary asylum would not require a decree from President Vladimir Putin, who may hope it is the best option for minimising the damage to US ties without looking weak in the eyes of Russians, Reuters reports.

The White House said Mr Snowden should be expelled and returned to the United States to face trial on espionage charges.

"He is not a human rights activist, he is not a dissident. He is accused of leaking classified information," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that bilateral relations with the US are more important than "squabbles between special services". The BBC reports Mr Putin said Edward Snowden had been warned against any "activity that harms Russian-American relations".

Lawsuit aims to stop US surveillance

A lawsuit has been filed against the United States government by a coalition of rights groups from across the political spectrum to try to halt its electronic surveillance programme.

The lawsuit argues that the collection of phone records is an illegal and unconstitutional programme of electronic surveillance. It demands that the US government return and destroys all telephone communication it has.