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Report: Edward Snowden gets Russian asylum, leaves airport

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(Source: MGN/Guardian) (Source: MGN/Guardian)
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(RNN) - The attorney for Edward Snowden told BBC Thursday that his client has received asylum for one year in Russia.

Snowden has reportedly received the necessary paperwork and left Sheremetyevo airport, where he had been staying since June 23. He has gone to a secure location, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russian state TV.

WikiLeaks, which has supported and spoken for Snowden through his ordeal, announced on Twitter he had left the airport with one of its representatives.

"We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden," WikiLeaks tweeted. "We have won the battle - now the war."

The man who leaked documents on the NSA's top secret surveillance programs landed at the Moscow airport after a brief stay in Hong Kong. U.S. officials have been unsuccessful in extraditing him to face charges.

Officials demanded Russia return Snowden to the U.S. President Vladimir Putin previously said the fugitive would be allowed to stay provided he did not release any more details that would hurt relations between the two countries.

Kucherena said Snowden accepted the condition, according to the Associated Press. The lawyer also said Snowden had American friends in Russia who could help keep him safe.

The whistleblower's passport had been annulled after he revealed himself to be behind the leaks, which were first reported by The Guardian.

The asylum came one day after Guardian released details on another surveillance program, entitled XKeyscore. According to the report, the program allows analysts to sift through emails, chat histories and browser searches without any authorization required.

Snowden took information on domestic spying programs, including massive data mining of people's phone records, emails and internet activity, while working for government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

The U.S. Justice Department charged him with espionage and theft of government property.

Snowden's revelations about the NSA phone and internet surveillance programs created controversy in the U.S. and abroad. Some viewed him as a hero for speaking out against government overreach, while others condemned him as a traitor who has jeopardized U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

President Barack Obama and other officials, both Democrats and Republicans, defended the sacrifice of privacy as necessary for safeguarding the nation's safety. However, administration officials released documents on the programs Wednesday "in the public interest" and claimed to welcome a debate on the surveillance tactics.

Other officials in Congress have rallied to prevent the government from having such wide-reaching powers. A House amendment that would have defunded the portion of the Patriot Act that enables the bulk collection of data was narrowly defeated last week but garnered 205 votes in favor.

Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, testified to Congress in June that the massive information grabs helped stop dozens of potential terrorist events.

Still, internet companies such as Google pushed back against the NSA thanks to Snowden's revelations, asking its users to speak out against the spying programs.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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