Moscow Extends Snowden's Asylum

Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowdens new refugee documents granted by Russia is seen during a news conference in Moscow on Aug. 1, 2013. /Reuters Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden's new refugee documents granted by Russia is seen during a news conference in Moscow on Aug. 1, 2013. /Reuters

A Russian lawmaker says the government in Moscow has no intention of expelling U.S. national security leaker Edward Snowden when his year-long temporary asylum ends in August.

Alexey Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee in the State Duma, Russia's lower legislative house, said Friday that Snowden "will not be sent out of Russia." He spoke about Snowden while on a panel to discuss "the future of U.S. power" at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

The former NSA contractor, 30, faces espionage charges in the United States, but Russia has rebuffed American demands for his extradition. The top U.S. legal official, Attorney General Eric Holder, said Thursday that if Snowden wants to return to the U.S. to plead guilty, the government would talk to his lawyers. But Holder said the government would not consider granting him clemency.

In an online chat, Snowden said that his return to the United States "is the best resolution for all parties." But he said that "it's unfortunately not possible" because U.S. laws protecting whistle-blowers who divulge sensitive information only cover government workers, not former private contractors like he was.

Snowden has leaked details of the vast U.S. intelligence operations over the last several months. The government says he stole 1.7 million documents from the National Security Agency outpost where he worked on the Pacific island state of Hawaii before fleeing to asylum in Russia.

His disclosures have sparked an extensive debate in the U.S. about the scope of the surveillance. President Barack Obama has called for changes in the government's vast collection of records of phone calls made by Americans, but a government privacy panel wants to end the program and purge the records.

VOA News / Jan. 25, 2014 09:36 KST