After hiding in Moscow for nearly a decade to escape charges for stealing classified documents, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship by a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin, the Associated Press reports.
The 39-year-old Snowden was one of 75 foreigners who are now under the Kremlin’s protection. Snowden fled to Moscow in 2013 after he disclosed no fewer than 100,000 national security documents belonging to the US and its allies, Australia and the United Kingdom. Snowden gave gadfly journalist Glenn Greenwald somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 American intelligence documents, some of which Greenwald then selectively put online. Snowden also handed over 58,000 British documents and 15,000 Australian documents, available to the US through intelligence sharing treaties. Some estimates put the number of files exposed by Snowden at more than 1.5 million.
A one-time CIA employee who went to work for Dell and later, Booz Allen Hamilton assigned to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland, Snowden used his position as a system administrator to trick about two dozen other contractors to give him their log in credentials, giving him access to programs he should not have been able to see. He then did a wholesale download of documents which he turned over to Greenwald, who published them on his website and on Wikileaks.