MOSCOW -- Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. security contractor who leaked classified documents about National Security Agency surveillance programs, left the transit zone at Moscow's international airport yesterday after Russian authorities granted him temporary asylum.
Snowden attorney Anatoly Kucherena said documents were issued to allow his client to live and work in Russia for up to a year while his application for permanent political asylum is pending. Snowden, 30, had been holed up at Sheremetyevo Airport for more than five weeks since the United States revoked his passport and sought his extradition for prosecution on espionage charges.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama is "extremely disappointed" by Russia's action and is re-evaluating a planned trip to Moscow next month for a summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers warned of serious repercussions in U.S.-Russian relations.
Kucherena told the state broadcaster Russia 24 that Snowden left the airport in a taxi "for a secure location." He described Snowden as "the most wanted man on the planet" and said he "needed time to adapt to Russian realities." Kucherena did not reveal where Snowden was bound.
The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks said in a statement that Snowden left the airport with the group's legal adviser, Sarah Harrison. It quoted Snowden as thanking Russia "for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations" and accusing the Obama administration of showing "no respect for international or domestic law."
Kucherena said arrangements are being made for Snowden's father to visit him in Russia, The Associated Press reported. Snowden withdrew his initial Russian asylum request after Putin said last month that he first must promise to stop leaking information. Later Snowden made the promise and reapplied.
His father, Lon Snowden, said he was eager to speak with his son. "If he comes back to the United States, he is going to be treated horribly," he said. "He is going to be thrown into a hole. He is not going to be allowed to speak."
Carney said, "This move by the Russian government undermines a long-standing record of law enforcement cooperation" that has "recently been on the upswing" since the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, "Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin's Russia."