|Lawyer: Snowden Makes No-Leak Pledge|
|By KIRIT RADIA (@kiritradia)||Jul 16, 2013, 10:48 AM|
Fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden today applied for asylum in Russia and, as a condition, agreed to stop harming the U.S., according to a Russian lawyer who is advising him, but that doesn't necessarily mean headline-grabbing stories about the U.S. government's vast foreign and domestic spying programs will stop.
The lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told ABC News by phone that he met Snowden inside the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on Tuesday to finalize the asylum application. Kucherena said Snowden called him for advice because he was unfamiliar with Russian law.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the president was aware Snowden had submitted an asylum application, but "does not have any reaction," saying the decision up to Russia's Federal Migration Service.
Putin has said that Snowden can stay in Russia, but only if he stops "harming" the United States by releasing more intelligence secrets. Speaking with Russia's Interfax news agency, Kucherena said that he asked if Snowden would "abide by the conditions" imposed by Putin and said that Snowden replied, "I will fulfill his condition."
But while Snowden agreed to stop leaking secrets, it could prove a technicality since he has already said that he gave all of his classified information -- thousands of documents -- to several journalists. The most prominent of which, The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, told ABC News Friday that he's not even half done with the stories he plans to write based on the secret information.
Kucherena was among a group of human rights activists and prominent Russians who met with Snowden at the airport on Friday, the first time Snowden had been seen since arriving in Russia nearly a month ago. Snowden remains stuck inside the transit zone because he does not have a Russian visa that would allow him to leave the airport and the United States annulled his passport so he cannot fly somewhere else.
At Friday's meeting, Snowden announced he would revive his bid for asylum in Russia because he did not feel he could safely travel to asylum offers in Latin America. There are no direct flights from Moscow to Venezuela, Bolivia, or Nicaragua and the United States has pressured countries along his route to hand him over.
On Monday, Putin likened Snowden to an unwanted Christmas gift.
"He arrived on our territory without an invitation. Russia was not his destination. He was a transit passenger flying to other countries. The moment news arrived that he was in midair, our American partners actually blocked his further movement," Putin said.
Putin said that his asylum application is "unclear" because of the conditions he has set forth and suggested that Snowden's stay in Russia would not be long.
"As soon as he has the chance to leave obviously he will do it," Putin said.
Kucherena told ABC News a preliminary decision about the temporary asylum request could be reached within a few days, but a final decision could take months. He was unaware of any plans Snowden has to travel beyond Russia if he receives asylum here.
Earlier today, Russia's state owned RIA Novosti reported that Snowden could receive a temporary permit within a few days of submitting his application that would allow him to leave the airport and enter Russia while his application is being considered. If his application is rejected, Snowden could appeal but would not be expelled during that process.
The Snowden situation has hung over U.S.-Russian relations, with President Obama expected to arrive in Moscow for a summit meeting with Putin in less than two months. But despite early warnings from the Americans, both sides have suggested they do not want the matter to divide them further.
Asked what will happen to Snowden, Putin replied: "Why should I know? It's his life. His fate."