Official: U.S. not surprised Snowden got asylum
August 1st, 2013
09:48 AM ET

Official: U.S. not surprised Snowden got asylum

By Evan Perez and Barbara Starr

U.S. law enforcement officials said Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden wasn’t a surprise, since Russian authorities had signaled their plans in previous public statements.

The FBI and its counterparts at Russia’s FSB security agency have held talks in recent weeks on the former National Security Agency contractor, who left the main Moscow airport on Thursday after a month in diplomatic limbo.

But U.S. law enforcement officials said they never expected the lower-level talks would decide Snowden’s status in Russia or lead to his return to the United States to face espionage charges.

Snowden has admitted leaking secret documents to media outlets that detailed NSA anti-terror telephone and e-mail surveillance. Some people view him as a patriot who exposed government over-reach while others say he should be prosecuted.

“We were under no illusions that the discussions would be the final word. This was always going to be something that people higher-up in both governments will have to decide,” a senior U.S. law enforcement official said.

U.S. officials said that while they expected the possibility for Russia to grant some form of asylum to Snowden, they were not given any advance notice from Russian officials before the announcement.

In recent weeks, the Obama administration and Russian officials appeared to prepare for the expected asylum decision, removing it from the context of a personal standoff between President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Russian officials tried to portray Snowden’s fate as something better left to law enforcement.

The Obama administration released a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Russian officials promising that Snowden wouldn’t face a death sentence, if convicted, and wouldn’t be tortured if he were turned over to face U.S. criminal charges.

Other parts of the two governments are still working to limit any damage to broader relations.

The United States and Russia are still on track to hold a top-level meeting in Washington next week in preparation for the upcoming G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, in September, according to a U.S. official.

But the White House said on Thursday that it was reconsidering a planned summit between Obama and Putin in Moscow ahead of the G-20.

"We are evaluating the utility of a summit," presidential spokesman Jay Carney said.

Key topics on the overall U.S.-Russian agenda include missile defense, nuclear arms reductions and the crisis in Syria, the official, who spoke on the condition of not being identified, said.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said there are times when “we strongly disagree” but the two sides have a “broad agenda that we do talk to the Russian government about.”

Separately, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters that “we obviously want to maintain our relationship with the Russian military.” But he also emphasized that he had no “announcement” on any upcoming meetings with the Russians.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Minnie Gallentine

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  3. lois suttles

    How do i contact Mr Evan Perez,cnn justice reporter?

    August 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  4. April

    I was thinking–Snowden says the NSA can get around all the encryption codes of any computers in the country --Then that means they can get into the centers that collect the information from the electronic voting machines–hmmmmmmmm

    August 10, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
  5. George patton

    why just asylum, make him a citizen to Putin, we don't need him.

    August 1, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      I have a better idea, Phunnie boy. Let's drop all charges against this young man since he did us Americans a great service by exposing what those goons were doing by hacking into our privacy. Don't you agree?

      August 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Reply
      • George patton

        To make myself clear Phunnie boy, I was talking about those goons at NSA who were spying on the rest of us. These are the guys who need to be prosecuted, not Edward Snowden!!!

        August 1, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  6. George patton

    Good posting, Navyvet8192. Thank you very much! I get so sick and tired of reading all these anti-Russian, anti-Snowden posts here. Just what do these people do for brains anyway? Did any of them ever finish grade school? It doesn't appear that way!!!

    August 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  7. ArmyVer

    You are crazy my friend ...get a life.

    August 1, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
  8. Navyvet8192

    I for one say Congrats to Mr. Snowden, and Thank You to Russia for having the courage to accept and approve his asylum request. I know it is for only 1 year, but maybe if he sufficiently learns the Russian language and history along with demonstrating a job skill that would make him a beneficial citizen to the country he could apply for citizenship there and get a true fresh start. What more could a parent want for a son who made such a sacrifice to shed light on the wrong doings of the US Intelligence apparatus against it's own citizens. Again Congrats Mr. Snowden!

    August 1, 2013 at 10:13 am | Reply
    • NCguy

      If Russia so great why don't you move there, Snowden won't last a year.

      August 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Reply
      • Timothy Chang

        @NCguy. You're introducing a slippery slope. If every negative opinion of the US is taken as a threat or unpatriotic, then we're not far away from a totalitarian government

        August 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
      • tax payer

        THE MANY ENEMIES OF THE US THAT MAKE UP THE WORLD.....are our fellow neighbors here in the US.. jews, russians, chinese... these people are AMERICANS... so what only where they come from is evil? or has all that WW2 cold war propaganda removed your ability to think criticly?

        August 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • lweba

      Let him stay in Russia but he should remember always that if he does to the Russians what he did back home they will shoot him.

      August 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Reply

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