Russia may grant asylum for CIA whistleblower

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Russia may grant political asylum to a former CIA whistleblower who has revealed Washington's highly classified global surveillance programs, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

"If we receive such a request, we'll consider it," local business daily Kommersant quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Russia may grant political asylum to Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) history. [File photo]

Russia may grant political asylum to Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) history. [File photo]

Edward Snowden, 29, an employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, leaked to the Guardian last week details of how the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) "traced" millions of netizens worldwide, saying his goal was to inform U.S. citizens on how the government gathers private information under the so-called Patriot Act of 2001.

Offering asylum to a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who revealed his identity in China's Hong Kong on May 20 and checked out a local hotel on Monday, would benefit the entire international community, local expert said.

"Russia, as a sovereign state, can offer asylum to anyone it considers to be right," Chief Editor of the Moscow's National Defense magazine Igor Korotchenko told Xinhua.

"In that particular case, Moscow offers protection to a person who has acted in the interests of the entire mankind," Korotchenko added.

He noted that Snowden was by no means a spy or a renegade, as he has not sold his country's secrets but acted completely as a concerned citizen. "The information he has revealed is of high importance for any person in the world regardless of his or her nationality," he said.

The possible decision by the Russian authorities, as he saw it, was "well-analysed and sound."

Even if the whistleblower eventually appears in Russia, Korotchenko said, it would probably not harm the Russia-U.S. relations on the eve of a meeting between presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama in Northern Ireland on the sidelines of the G8 summit due next week.

Meanwhile, Alexei Pushkov, head of the International Committee in the Russian State Duma, lower house of the parliament, believed Washington would be angered if Moscow grants asylum to the U.S. citizen.

"The U.S. will be hysterical, as they recognize such a right for themselves only," Pushkov wrote in his Twitter Tuesday.

Snowden previously served a number of roles in the intelligence community, including as a former technical assistant with the CIA and with several outside contractors.

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