Snowden Leaves Moscow Airport

Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum by Russia and has left the transit zone at Moscow's airport where he has been holed up for more than a month. Morning Edition host Renee Montagne talks to NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow and Pentagon correspondent Larry Abramson.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Edward Snowden is now on Russian soil. After more than a month in the no-man's-land of a Moscow airport, Snowden's lawyer says the former NSA contractor has been granted temporary asylum. He can now spend one year in Russia.

For the latest, we're joined from Moscow by NPR's Corey Flintoff; and in the studio, NPR Pentagon correspondent Larry Abramson. Good morning to you both, but I want to start with you, Corey, if you don't mind. Do we know where in Russia Snowden is heading?

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Well, as you might imagine, Renee, there's already been at least one tweet from a Russian, saying that Snowden has been seen in a Moscow shopping mall. But his legal adviser, Anatoly Kucherena, made a big point of saying that Snowden's location would not be revealed because of security considerations. He describes Snowden as the most wanted man in the world, and I think there's an effort here to portray Snowden as being in danger because that bolsters the justification for Russia to grant him refuge.

Kucherena did say that Snowden does intend to speak to the media, at some point, but they need some time before he can do that. And there are, apparently, plans to bring Snowden's father, Lon Snowden, to Russia sometime fairly soon.

MONTAGNE: Well - just briefly - Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, had said at least once, very strongly, they didn't want Snowden to stay in Russia. Was there no other way for them to handle this? They were - were they finally just trapped into letting him in temporarily?

FLINTOFF: I think they were trapped, a bit, by their rhetoric. Analysts have told me that they think that President Putin has gotten to the point where he really couldn't back down without seeming weak, or without seeming that he was caving into pressure from the United States. So he seems to be in a position - and he claims that the United States has put him in a position - where he could do nothing other than grant asylum to Snowden; on the condition, of course, that Snowden not continue to do things that could be damaging to the United States.

MONTAGNE: Well, that gets us to why Snowden has left the United States - in the leaks of classified materials. Let's bring in Larry Abramson, NPR's Pentagon correspondent. And Congress has been looking at the leaks about government surveillance that this week, also, there are new leaks.

LARRY ABRAMSON, BYLINE: That's right, Renee. Just yesterday, The Guardian newspaper published additional information, apparently gleaned from Snowden leaks that were obtained during conversations with him while he was in Hong Kong last month. And these are about a program - or an analytical tool called XKeyscape, that the National Security Agency admits that it uses it to access Internet traffic, email information from all over the world. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The name of the tool used by NSA is XKeyscore.]

Now, according to The Guardian article, this power is quite extensive; that chat room information, email content can be gathered pretty easily from, really, any website that they want to access. The NSA admits that they use this, as I said, but they say that it's done legally, with a lot of oversight, and that nobody is getting unchecked access to Internet activity.

And they also say as of 2008, over 300 terrorists were captured using intelligence generated from XKeyscore. And that indicates that this is kind of an old tool - that's it been around for a while - and again, the NSA is claiming that it is a key tool to fighting terrorism.

MONTAGNE: Well, that is a new leak, and maybe more leaks will coming out. But Corey, as part of the condition of being given asylum in Russia is that Snowden does not harm American interests - in just a few seconds, do you think it will?

FLINTOFF: Well, it could, although I've been told by analysts that relations between the U.S. and Russia are so bad, at this point, that there's not an awful lot left for them to discuss.

MONTAGNE: And there's a meeting planned in September between Russian President Putin and President Obama. Any question of that being called off because Snowden is in Russia?

FLINTOFF: Well, Russian officials are concerned that that would be embarrassing if President Obama called off his trip. But at this point, they have been trying to downplay that by saying that this is a rather insignificant issue - right - the thing with Snowden.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, that's NPR's Corey Flintoff, speaking to us from Moscow; and Pentagon correspondent Larry Abramson, in our studio; with the latest on Edward Snowden, who's been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

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