Surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden is applying for Russian citizenship in preparation for his son’s birth.
Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, revealed the pregnancy last week. Today, Snowden announced that he and Mills are applying for dual citizenship. He tweeted: “Lindsay and I will remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love—including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited.”
Snowden famously took refuge in Russia, essentially forced there to escape espionage charges from the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama. Snowden pulled the curtain back to expose the vast extent of domestic digital surveillance that the National Security Agency (NSA) had implemented after the passage of the PATRIOT Act. Internet and phone records of millions of Americans were being collected, stored, and accessed without our knowledge, all on the insistence that it would help the government catch terrorists. It did not—not that such a massive end run around the Fourth Amendment would have been acceptable if it had.
Snowden’s whistleblowing has led to attempts to reform some surveillance regulations to better protect Americans from unwarranted snooping by the feds. The NSA is supposed to be directing its surveillance to other countries, not to us.
But even though Snowden’s leaks have proven valuable information for Americans to know, he’s still being treated like a criminal. President Donald Trump flirted with pardoning Snowden, and that garnered the support of the likes of Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), but on the eve of the election, there’s little sign of any actual mercy coming from the embattled incumbent.
As for Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, it was under Obama’s Justice Department that Snowden was charged. And Snowden told MSNBC in 2019 that, as veep, Biden threatened countries considering giving Snowden asylum, saying there would be “consequences” if they did. Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s former president, said in 2013 (when Snowden leaked the NSA files to the press and fled the country) that Biden called him to ask him not to grant Snowden asylum as he had previously done for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. There’s not much evidence that a Biden administration would grant Snowden a pardon or that Biden’s position that Snowden should stand trial has changed.
Snowden was granted permanent residency in Russia in late October. Due to recent changes in Russia’s laws, Snowden won’t have to give up citizenship as an American to become a Russian citizen. So, in the event that either Trump or Biden changes his mind and pardons Snowden, he’ll still be able to return to his home country.