Russia extends Snowden’s asylum to 2020 instead of ‘gifting’ him to Trump

Russia extends Edward Snowden’s residence permit to 2020 instead of ‘gifting’ him to Trump for inauguration.

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It looks like Edward Snowden will not be served up as an “inauguration gift” to Donald Trump as a former acting director of the CIA had suggested; instead, Russia is allowing Snowden to stay in the country for a few more years.

Maria Zakharova, director of press at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said via Facebook that Russia has extended a residence permit to NSA whistleblower Snowden for a couple more years, which is actually until 2020. His attorney pointed out that Snowden has been in Russia since the summer of 2013; after five years of living in Russia without breaking any laws, which would be next year, Snowden could apply for Russian citizenship if he chose to do so.

Zakharova’s Facebook remarks were sparked by a post on The Cipher Brief, written by Michael Morell, former acting director of the CIA; in it, Morell suggested, “Noon on January 20th provides an excellent opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to give President-Elect Donald Trump the perfect inauguration gift — Edward Snowden.”

Morell listed out “reasons why the gifting of Snowden would make sense to Putin.”

Why would Snowden be such a gift to President-Elect Trump? Multiple reasons. Most important among them, it would allow the soon-to-be President to publicly demonstrate, with reason, that his relationship with Putin and his new approach to Russia are paying dividends. It would similarly allow the President-Elect to show that he, in very short order, could accomplish something that President Obama and the traditional national security establishment could not. Finally, seeing Snowden arrive in the U.S. and placed in handcuffs would go far in healing the wounds that exist between President-Elect Trump and his Intelligence Community. The IC, more than anyone else, wants Snowden brought to justice.

But Putin serving up Snowden on a platter to Trump is not going to happen, according to Zakharova. She responded, “The essence of what this CIA man is suggesting is the ideology of betrayal. You’ve let it slip, Mr. Morell, that for your agency it’s quite normal to offer up people as gifts, and to give up those who are seeking protection.”

She added a personal dig by saying, she couldn’t believe the “former deputy head of the CIA… doesn't know that Snowden has had the deadline for a residence permit in Russia extended for a couple more years.”

Morell called Snowden a “traitor,” but was “willing to allow our judicial system to decide whether Snowden is a hero for bringing to the public’s attention a program that indeed posed risks to civil liberties — but actually never violated any — or whether he is a traitor for broadly exposing national security secrets. Let’s let the legal system, defined by our Constitution, provide that answer.”

Snowden’s lawyer called Morell’s suggestions “utter stupidity.”

President commutes Chelsea Manning’s sentence and pardons James Cartwright

In his last few days in office, President Obama has been busy such as by pardoning the former general who helped bring Stuxnet into the world’s knowledge-base and Chelsea Manning for leaking classified material to WikiLeaks; now, if only the president would pardon Snowden.

1,101,252 people signed a petition for the Pardon Snowden campaign. Yet White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “Mr. Snowden has not filed paperwork to seek clemency from this administration.” As for Snowden, he didn’t ask for clemency for himself, but for Chelsea Manning. He tweeted, “Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency as you exit the White House, please: free Chelsea Manning. You alone can save her life.”

Obama did commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking state secrets to WikiLeaks. Manning will have served seven years of a 35-year military prison sentence before walking out of Fort Leavenworth on May 17.

Wikileaks had said if Manning was granted clemency, then Julian Assange would agree to US extradition since Obama’s DoJ had prevented any chance at a fair trial. The White House claimed, “The president’s decision to offer commutation was not influenced by public comments by Mr. Assange or the WikiLeaks organization.”

President Obama also pardoned James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cartwright, once dubbed as Obama’s favorite general, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about talking to reporters regarding Iran’s nuclear program and efforts to sabotage it. That led to the public’s discovery of Operation Olympic Games and Stuxnet.

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