Edward Snowden: Asylum Denied by 27 Countries

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Permanent Record" by Edward Snowden. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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How did Edward Snowden get asylum? What did he need to get it from Russia? Where did Snowden hope to go?

For Edward Snowden, asylum was the only real means for avoiding extradition. As a political criminal, extradition should have been ignored but there was pressure from the US.

Learn more about Edward Snowden, asylum status, and what he went through to get it.

Edward Snowden Seeks Safe Haven After NSA Leak

After leaking US government documents and blowing the whistle on the mass surveillance program, Ed was in trouble. For Edward Snowden, asylum was the only refuge. He knew he would need to do this. By sharing top secret information with the media, he had done something illegal. He was charged with a political crime under the Espionage Act on June 14, 2013.

A political crime, which is a crime against the state instead of against a person, was the charge. With the political crime charge against Edward Snowden, asylum was more of an option. In fact, Snowden should not have faced extradition. Ed should have been exempt from extradition because he was charged with political crime. (Often, those charged with “political crime” haven’t actually committed crimes; the charge is simply a way for an authoritarian government to control dissent.) However, the US government requested his extradition on June 21, expecting that Hong Kong, like most countries, wouldn’t dare to defy them.

To avoid extradition, Ed needed to get asylum. Ed decided to head for Ecuador because they had been supportive of political asylum for Julian Assange. However, there were no direct flights from Hong Kong, so getting to Ecuador was going to be a challenge. With a stop in certain countries for Snowden, asylum would be off the table. He would only be safe if he landed in non-extradition countries, and he shouldn’t even cross the airspace of any countries the US could manipulate.

Asylum in Russia

Reaching out to 27 countries that were, for Edward Snowden, asylum status opportunities. He asked for political asylum, but none of them would take him, or said they’d only consider it after he’d already traveled there, which was impossible. With his US passport canceled by John Kerry, he couldn’t travel.

Stuck in the Russian airport for 40 days, Ed eventually got temporary asylum from Russia. It was in response to the US diverting the Bolivian president’s plane to Vienna because they thought he had Ed aboard (the president had expressed solidarity for Ed). The plane had left Moscow and Russia was insulted. Expecting the US to do this again if they suspected a plane was carrying Ed, they granted Edward Snowden asylum. 

Edward stayed in Russia and, eventually, his girlfriend joined him and they got married.

Edward Snowden: Asylum Denied by 27 Countries

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Permanent Record summary:

  • What Ed Snowden discovered that caused him to completely lose faith in the government
  • How Snowden led the bombshell reports of US mass surveillance
  • How Snowden is coping with his treatment as both patriot and traitor

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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