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August 2, 2013

Snowden Granted Asylum in Russia

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Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who is wanted in the U.S. for leaking secret information about the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, received a temporary one-year asylum in Russia Thursday. This allowed him to finally leave the Moscow airport, where he had been staying since June. Airport “transit zones”, like the one Snowden has been staying in, are legal grey areas, where asylum seekers and refugees can stay without a specific legal status.

Russia’s decision to host Snowden has prompted U.S. officials to consider cancelling a summit between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin that had been scheduled for next month.

“We will obviously be in contact with Russian authorities, expressing our extreme disappointment in this decision and making the case clearly that there is absolute legal justification for Mr. Snowden to be returned to the United States, where he is under indictment on three charges, felony charges,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

However, one of President Putin’s aids looked to downplay the development, saying, “This issue isn’t significant enough to have an impact on political relations.”

Warm up questions

1. What does it mean for someone to be granted asylum?

2. Who is Edward Snowden? What do you know about him?

3. What is WikiLeaks?

Discussion questions

1. Do you think that Snowden made the right decision in revealing the NSA’s domestic surveillance program? Why or why not?

2. The debate over Snowden and the recent trial of Bradley Manning show that a person who reveals secret government documents can be considered either a whistleblower or a traitor, depending on who you ask. What do you think is the difference between a whistleblower and a traitor, and where do you think the line should be drawn?

3. Should this have an impact on U.S. – Russia relations? Why or why not?

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