U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden said he plans to apply for Russian citizenship in order to prevent himself and his pregnant wife, who is also an American, from potentially one day being separated from their son.
“After years of separation from our parents, my wife and I have no desire to be separated from our son. That’s why, in this era of pandemics and closed borders, we’re applying for dual US-Russian citizenship,” Snowden said in a post on Twitter Monday.
The 37-year-old, who has been living as a fugitive in Moscow since fleeing the U.S. in 2013, is expecting a child with his wife Lindsay in late December, Reuters reported, citing a Russian news agency.
“Lindsay and I will remain Americans, raising our son with all the values of the America we love—including the freedom to speak his mind. And I look forward to the day I can return to the States, so the whole family can be reunited,” he added.
Snowden has been wanted on espionage charges in the U.S. since leaking troves of secret files which revealed a mass surveillance operation being carried out illegally by the U.S. National Security Agency, where he worked as a contractor.
An appeals court in September determined that the NSA’s surveillance program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and that the U.S. intelligence leaders who had been publicly defending it were not telling the truth.
Charges have not been dropped against Snowden, who has secured permanent residency rights in Russia. Though President Donald Trump called Snowden a “terrible traitor” and a “terrible threat” in 2013 and suggested that he should be executed, he said in August that he would “look at” potentially pardoning him.
“I’m not that aware of the Snowden situation, but I’m going to start looking at it,” Trump told The New York Post in August. “There are many, many people ― it seems to be a split decision ― many people think that he should somehow be treated differently and other people think he did very bad things, and I’m going to take a very good look at it.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, immediately called that potential pardon “unconscionable” and accused Snowden on Twitter of “putting our troops and our nation at risk” when he released the classified information.
Her father’s role in pushing the U.S. into the ongoing war in Iraq in 2003, which was based on a false narrative that there existed “weapons of mass destruction,” was not missed by those on Twitter, however.
Snowden also took a swipe at Cheney’s comments in a retweet on Twitter.