Putin Says Snowden Is Still In the Moscow Airport, and Won't Be Extradited

Despite Vladimir Putin's claim that Edward Snowden is still in the "transit zone" of Moscow's airport and thus out of the reach of Russian jurisdiction or extradition, the U.S. wants him expelled from the country "without delay."

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Update (2:45 p.m.): Glenn Greenwald tells The Daily Beast that Snowden has taken precautions to ensure that all of his files will be released if something were to happen to him. Snowden has apparently shared highly encrypted copies of his archives with various individuals (who do not have the passwords), but if something happens to him the files will become available. He did not say exactly how that would work, but Snowden has previously said that "the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped."

Update (2:15 p.m.): The White House has returned the volley, via National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden: "While we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia, there is nonetheless a clear legal basis to expel Mr. Snowden, based on the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him." Hayden added that the U.S. expects Russia to expel Snowden "without delay."

There's also talk this afternoon that even if Russia claims to have no interest in Snowden, it's almost certain that he has been questioned by agents of the FSB (Russia's security service.) In fact, that fact that the U.S. revoked Snowden's passport provide the perfect excuse to detain him and search his property (including his former government laptops) without actually arresting him or taking him out of the airport. 

Update (11:00 a.m.): While on a trip to Finland today, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that wanted NSA Leaker Edward Snowden is still in the transit area of Moscow's airport, and thus, technically not on Russian soil. He also confirmed that Russian law enforcement will not arrest him or extradite him to the United States, saying he is "a free man," but the sooner he chooses his final destination, the better.

Putin also deployed one of the better similes we've heard in a while: "In any case, I would like not to deal with such issues  because it is like shearing a pig: there's lots of squealing and little fleece."

Original Post: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Edward Snowden is none of their business and American attempts to blame his country for harboring him are "groundless and unacceptable." On Tuesday, Lavrov fought back against accusations that his government had allowed Snowden to use Moscow as safe haven, by insisting that Snowden "did not cross the Russian border," an implication that the fugitive has never left the "transit area" of Sheremetyevo Airport and is therefore in a diplomatic no-man's land.

Lavrov was responding to demands from his counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry, who demanded that Russia hand over Snowden, saying "I think it's very important to them to adhere to the rule of law and respect the relationship." In return, Lavrov claimed Moscow had nothing to do with his travel plans from Hong Kong, have no cause or legal basis to arrest him, and don't appreciate the accusations. "There is no lawful basis for this kind of behavior from American officials," he said.

For his part, Kerry tried to dial back the rhetoric on Tuesday, saying there's no need for a heated confrontation between the two countries. However, he probably should have told John McCain before the Arizona Senator went on CNN and called Russian President Vladimir Putin "old KGB colonel apparatchik that dreams of the days of the Russian empire."

Meanwhile, no one even knows if Lavrov is telling the truth about the Russian border, because there are no confirmed reports that Snowden even made it to Moscow or if he is still there. No one has taken a picture of him, or proved that they've spoken to him, even if the U.S. says, officially, that they believe he is still in Russia. We know don't if Snowden's plan was to get the governments of the world mad at each other instead of him, but if it was, then it's worked like a charm.

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