Putin grants Russian citizenship to whistleblower Edward Snowden

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks live from Russia during the Web Summit technology conference November 4, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Pedro Fiuza | OnlyPhoto | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin granted citizenship to former U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden on Monday, according to a decree translated by NBC News.

Snowden’s name appears as one of approximately 70 foreigners admitted for Russian citizenship by Putin.

The former NSA intelligence officer became a US government whistleblower, fleeing to Hong Kong and later Russia to evade prosecutors after leaking classified documents to journalists. In 2013 he was granted asylum in Russia and later a permanent residence permit. Snowden, 39, has lived in Russia ever since.

Subsequent news reports from more than 7,000 classified documents revealed the inner workings of a colossal US government surveillance operation. Intelligence officials have previously said Snowden may have taken 1.7 million classified files.

Reports published in The Guardian and The Washington Post uncovered a massive government-run spying program that monitored the communications of criminals, would-be terrorists and law-abiding citizens alike. Other reports documented how Washington was also secretly monitoring some of America’s closest allies, such as then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Snowden was charged with stealing US government property, unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and knowingly leaking classified communications information. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

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