Edward Snowden Could Ditch Russia For Another Country

Pack your bags, Ed: Switzerland is calling your name

Switzerland would grant NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum if he reveals the extent of the U.S. government's illegal surveillance and espionage activities abroad.

A new report in the Swiss weekend paper Sonntagszeitung states that if Snowden were to attend hearings on illegal NSA spying in Switzerland, he would not be extradited to the U.S. for "politically motivated" reasons or if Snowden would face the death penalty at home, according to new recommendations by the Swiss attorney general. "Higher-level government commitments" might prove the only hurdle

"There is evidence that Edward Snowden meets the criteria of refugee status under the Geneva Convention and therefore he should be granted asylum," legal scholar and immigration rights activist Sarah Progin-Theuerkauf told Sonntagszeitung. 

The report comes one month after Russia granted Snowden permission to stay in the country for three more years, a move made in response to sanctions by the U.S. and other Western countries over Russia's perceived role in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

So will Snowden leave Russia? His father Lon Snowden told reporters in 2013 that, given his son's role in disclosing the NSA's massive surveillance operation, Russia is "the best place" for Snowen to remain at the moment, "the place where he doesn't have to worry about people rushing across the border to render him."

But even if Snowden does decide to leave for Switzerland, his FSB protectors (Russia's Federal Security Service) may be less than willing to let him actually leave the country. 

"Just think of these paranoid guys — they're quite paranoid in most cases," Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, who cowrote a book on the FSB, told Business Insider in March. "They might think, 'OK, we worked with [Snowden] for many months, and if he leaves the country he will not be under our control. And the problem is that now he might start leaking things not about the NSA but the FSB, and how we treated him here.' That might be quite a natural thought for the FSB."

That said, Snowden made it clear in a May interview with NBC News that he wants to return home to the U.S. "If I could go anywhere in the world that place would be home... I've from Day One said that I'm doing this to serve my country… I don’t think there's ever been any question that I'd like to go home."

Given that Switzerland is far more on America's political and diplomatic good side than Russia (for, er, obvious reasons), asylum in Switzerland might the first step in Snowden's long journey home.

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Jared Keller

Jared Keller is the former director of news at Mic.

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