TIME National Security

Friend of Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Guilty of Obstructing Justice

Azamat Tazhayakov
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Azamat Tazhayakov, a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sits during a hearing in federal court in Boston on May 13, 2014. Jane Flavell Collins—AP

Azamat Tazhayakov is the first of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends to be put on trial for obstructing the investigation

A federal court found a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of obstruction of justice and of conspiring to obstruct justice for interfering with the investigation.

Azamat Tazhayakov, a former University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student, faces a possible 20-year sentence for the obstruction charge and five years for the conspiracy charge, the Boston Globe reports.

The 12-member U.S. District Court jury deliberated for 15 hours over the course of three days. The sentencing has been set for Oct. 16, according to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

Prosecutors argued that Tazhayakov knew of another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, who allegedly removed evidence from Tsarnaev’s room a few days after the bombing and worked with him to help protect Tsarnaev.

Tazhayakov is the first of three friends of Tsarnaev to be put on trial on charges related to hindering the investigation. Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled to begin in November.

[Boston Globe]

TIME National Security

The NSA Shared Sexually Explicit Photographs, Says Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden Gives First Interview In Russia
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden poses for a photo during an interview in an undisclosed location in December 2013 in Moscow. Barton Gellman/Getty Images

For some agents, Snowden says, the racy images were one of the "fringe benefits of surveillance positions"

Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, claims that “incredibly weak” oversight of U.S. surveillance programs enabled military personnel to obtain sexually explicit photos of people under surveillance and to sometimes share them with others.

In an interview with the Guardian, Snowden talked about the impact of poor auditing systems within the NSA. He claimed many people sifting through monitored communications were 18 to 22 years old and suddenly put in a position of extraordinary responsibility that was sometimes abused.

“In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but they’re extremely attractive,” said Snowden.

“So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: ‘Oh, hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way,’” he said.

Snowden, who lives in Moscow after being granted temporary asylum last year, added that this information is never reported and nobody knows about it because of inadequate oversight.

He said the interception of intimate images was “routine enough” and described it as “sort of the fringe benefits of surveillance positions.”

He added, “The mere seizure of that communication by itself was an abuse. The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communication stream, from the intended recipient, and given to the government without any specific authorization, without any specific need, is itself a violation of your rights.”

NSA spokeswoman Vaneé Vines gave a comment to the New York Times on the allegations. The Times paraphrased her as saying that “the agency had zero tolerance for willful violations of authority or professional standards, and that it would respond as appropriate to any credible allegations of misconduct.”

[The Guardian]

TIME

Americans Support Drone Strikes, Rest of World Begs to Differ

PAKISTAN-US-MISSILE-ATTACK
Activists shout slogans as they protest against a US drone attack in Multan, Pakistan on December 26, 2103. S S MIRZA—AFP/Getty Images

A global opinion poll finds majorities in 39 countries disapprove of U.S. drone strikes

Americans support drone strikes by a slim majority, even if the rest of the world begs to differ by a wide margin, according to a new poll released by Pew Research Center on Monday.

The survey found that a majority of respondents in 39 countries opposed U.S. drone strikes, compared with only three countries, Israel, Kenya and the U.S., where more than half of respondents supported the tactic. Nowhere did the support match the lopsided opposition in countries such as Venezuela and Jordan, where disapproval topped 90%.
Widespread Opposition to Drones

Despite these misgivings about signature American policies, global opinion of the U.S. remains unchanged according to Pew, with a median of 65% of respondents across 43 nations expressing positive views.

TIME Military

Building a Better Bullet

DARPA's Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) bullet may be precise, but its artist's rendering of the round is pretty vague.
DARPA's Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) bullet may be precise, but its artist's rendering of the round is pretty vague. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The Pentagon wants the capability for its snipers, making their goal of "one shot, one kill" even more likely

Accuracy trumps terror every time. For good or for ill, that is why Israeli missiles have killed at least 160 Palestinians, while Palestinian rockets have killed zero Israelis. While killing innocents as well as terrorists, the Israeli strikes are precise. So is its Iron Dome anti-missile system, which appears to be doing a pretty good job destroying Palestinian rockets headed for Israeli population centers. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are left to launch unguided rockets, hoping to get lucky and kill Israelis.

Along the same lines, imagine if you could transform a dumb bullet into a guided missile?

That’s what the Pentagon did earlier this year, successfully firing .50-caliber bullets that steered themselves in mid-flight. It has just released a video trumpeting the tip-top targeting of its Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program.

“This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed,” the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says. “EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits.”

The Pentagon wants the capability for its snipers, making their goal of “one shot, one kill” even more likely. The April 21 test by DARPA contractor Teledyne Scientific & Imaging shows the new bullet homing in on its target by riding a laser beam aimed by the sniper team at the desired target. Vanes on its body—and an onboard optical receiver—allow it to maneuver in mid-flight.

The highly-classified EXACTO program began six years ago. “The ability to more accurately prosecute targets at significantly longer range would provide a dramatic new capability to the U.S. military,” DARPA’S original program description said. “The use of an actively controlled bullet will make it possible to counter environmental effects such as crosswinds and air density, and prosecute both stationary and moving targets while enhancing shooter covertness.”

Such a weapon, DARPA said when it launched the program, could employ “fire and forget” technologies including “fin-stabilized projectiles, spin-stabilized projectiles, internal and/or external aero-actuation control methods, projectile guidance technologies, tamper proofing, small stable power supplies, and advanced sighting, optical resolution and clarity technologies.”

The Pentagon wants the new gun to be no heavier than the combined 46-lb. weight of the current $11,500 M107 sniper rifle and all its associated gear (including ammo, tripod, scope and slide rules for target calculations).

Military sharpshooters require extensive and expensive training—all of which could be reduced with a better gun. Snipers “are unable to take a shot the vast majority of the time” because of wind or other weather factors, and a lack of confidence in their ability to hit the target or flee if detected, DARPA has said.

Then-Army Captain Keith Bell, former commander of the Army sniper school at Fort Benning, Ga., told TIME five years ago that he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the new bullet. “The EXACTO would be revolutionary,” he said from Mosul, Iraq. “It will more than double our range and probably more than double our accuracy.”

Current sniper rifles can regularly hit trucks at 2,000 meters, but not bad guys. (The record kill is 2,430 meters, just over 1.5 miles. It was charted by Canadian army corporal Rob Furlong against a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-kot valley during Operation Anaconda in March 2002—but his first two shots missed.) “There’s no limit as far as I can see so long as the bullet’s stable—I think 2,000 or 2,500 meters is very attainable,” Bell said. “Right now, anything past around 800 meters is an extremely tough shot.”

TIME National Security

Holder Says Latest Terror Threats ‘More Frightening Than Anything’

"It's something that gives us really extreme, extreme concern"

+ READ ARTICLE

Attorney General Eric Holder says recent intelligence reports of terrorists from Syria partnering with Yemeni bombmakers to create new types of explosives are “more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general.”

“It’s something that gives us really extreme, extreme concern,” Holder said during an interview on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos that aired Sunday. Holder spoke from London, where he was meeting with European officials to discuss security issues.

U.S. officials learned earlier this year that a Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate was collaborating with the Yemen-based bomb designers behind the Christmas Day “underwear bomb” from 2009. Authorities have been aware of threats posed by both groups, but intelligence reports of their work together have raised fresh concerns.

The Transportation Security Administration has also recently increased security at overseas airports in response to concerns that Syria-based terrorists could try to hijack a plane bound for Europe or the U.S. with help from U.S.- and European-passport-carrying fighters in the area.

Approximately 7,000 people, including many Americans, have joined about 16,000 fighters in Syria, and FBI Director James Comey says the government is devoting “a tremendous amount of time and effort to identify” those who’ve gone to Syria, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is active.

“This is not a test,” Holder said of new air-travel security measures. “We’re doing something in reaction to things that we have detected.”

[ABC News]

TIME Pentagon

U.S. Stepping Up Scrutiny of China’s Military Moves

Uotsuri Island
This is one of the disputed Senkaku islands, controlled by Japan but sought by China. The U.S. has a treaty obligation to Japan to defend the islands. Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

Seeks status quo in region without “containing” Beijing

Sometimes, the delicacies of diplomacies require lying. Or, as the foreign-service set puts it, diplomacy.

“Let me emphasize to you today: the U.S. does not seek to contain China,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday at the two-day China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing.

That was hard to square with the headline atop a story in Thursday’s Financial Times newspaper: Pentagon plans new tactics to deter China in South China Sea. U.S. officials say increased air and sea patrols in the region should be expected as part of President Obama’s “pivot” to the Pacific.

Neither Washington nor Beijing can get all it wants.

“The U.S. has carved out a limited number of steps that it is willing to take to signal the Chinese that the U.S. has an interest in preventing coercion, and in trying to compel a peaceful resolution of disputes,” says Bonnie Glaser, a Chinese military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The U.S. wants to keep playing the key cop in the western Pacific, a beat it has sailed since World War II. It wants to preserve the status quo. Many nations in the region appreciate the U.S. military presence, given their bloody histories with the Middle Kingdom.

But China has made clear it has expansionist aims, as its economy grows and it seeks small islands, reefs and atolls long claimed by Japan, the Philippines and other neighbors. Any one of these claims could spark shooting that could trigger war.

Thomas P.M. Barnett, a former Pentagon official and now the chief analyst at the private Wikistrat intelligence firm, says the U.S. needs to raise the price for such Chinese mischief. “Every great power goes through its reckless `teenage years,’” he says. “Beijing will persist in these 19th century behaviors for some time, but it needs to be educated—as unimperiously as possible—that such tactics come with great costs in the 21st-century interdependencies that define globalization.”

The Obama Administration has been making that clear. “In recent months, China has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Singapore in May. “It has restricted access to Scarborough Reef, put pressure on the long-standing Philippine presence at the Second Thomas Shoal, begun land reclamation activities at multiple locations, and moved an oil rig into disputed waters near the Paracel Islands…we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert those claims.”

Yet despite Kerry’s claim that “the U.S. does not seek to contain China,” the U.S. has made clear it is willing to go to war to keep China from gaining control of what Japan calls the Senkaku islands, known in China as the Diaoyus. The stakes, in terms of geography, could hardly be smaller: the Senkakus consist of five uninhabited islets and three barren reefs in the East China Sea. But they’re surrounded by waters rich in fish, natural gas and oil.

The Chinese claim Japan stole the islands from them in 1895, based on ancient texts and maps suggesting the islands were theirs; Japan says they were unclaimed by any nation when it took them over. Nationalists in each country insist they belong to their side. Tensions over the islands’ fate have been steadily rising, and spiked in 2012 after Japan’s government bought three of the islands from a Japanese family.

U.S. officials repeatedly stress they have no opinion on the islands’ “ultimate sovereignty.” China is well aware of such American ambiguity. But Hagel said last fall the U.S. is willing to go to war to preserve Tokyo’s control over them: “Since they are under Japan’s administrative control, they fall under United States treaty obligations to Japan.”

Given that U.S. pledge, it may be easier to understand Beijing’s leeriness toward Kerry’s claim the U.S. doesn’t seek to contain China.

TIME Congress

House of Representatives Closed Due to ‘Industrial Spill’

A strong storm front passes over the U.S. Capitol, July 8, 2014.
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The House side of the building is closed

Updated at 10:00 a.m.

The House side of the U.S. Capitol was shut down early Thursday after a potential leak of asbestos, the agency responsible for the building said. The House will not gavel in at 10 a.m. as scheduled, but the chamber is expected to convene at noon for legislative business. The U.S. Capitol Police announced in a statement that a staircase and a room in the House will remain closed for further inspection.

“The East Grand Staircase on the House side of the U.S. Capitol Building from floors 1 through 3 and room H-324 will remain closed until further notice,” wrote the Capitol Police in a statement released to House staff at 9:06 a.m. “The rest of the House side of the U.S. Capitol Building will return to normal operations, including tours of the U.S. Capitol.”

According to the Architect of the Capitol, the potential leak may have occurred during asbestos abatement.

A police alert first went out around 7 a.m. Thursday, and Capitol Police Hazardous Materials Response Team is on the scene. “Samples have been collected to determine whether there was potential exposure,” said a AoC spokesperson.

The House Sergeant of Arms sent out an alert at 7.40am: “The House Side of the U.S. Capitol Building is closed until further notice due to an industrial spill. The Architect of the Capitol is continuing testing of the area. All Members and staff should avoid the area until further notice.”

—With reporting by Jay Newton-Small and Alex Rogers

 

 

TIME Pentagon

U.S. Military Sends Scouting Party Into the Twitterverse

The Twitter Inc. logo is shown with the U.S. flag during the company's IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York
Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Pentagon wants to learn how to mold social media to prevent “adverse outcomes”

The first warriors fought on the ground. Then, someone hollowed out a log and naval warfare began. Aircraft came next, followed by space—and now, cyberspace. So it should come as no surprise that the exploding corner of cyberspace—social media—is the next battleground.

The fog of war now includes rolling clouds of Tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram photos that the Pentagon wants to filter, track and exploit. Enveloping the globe, from friends and foes alike, the torrent of data can serve as an early-warning system of trouble brewing—or a leading indicator of imminent action by a potential troublemaker.

That’s why the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency has spent three years and $35 million, plumbing pixels as part of its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. Makes sense that DARPA’s in charge: the agency basically invented the Internet. “Events of strategic as well as tactical importance to our Armed Forces are increasingly taking place in social media space,” DARPA says. “We must, therefore, be aware of these events as they are happening and be in a position to defend ourselves within that space against adverse outcomes.”

Britain’s Guardian newspaper suggested Tuesday that the program might be connected to papers leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showing “that US and British intelligence agencies have been deeply engaged in planning ways to covertly use social media for purposes of propaganda and deception.”

But Peter W. Singer, a strategist with the independent New America Foundation, sees it more as Defense Department due diligence. It appears to be “a fairly transparent effort, all done in the open, following academic research standards, aiming to understand critical changes in the social, and therefore, emerging battlefield, environment,” Singer says of DARPA’s efforts. “I am not deeply troubled by this—indeed, I would be troubled if we weren’t doing this kind of research to better understand the changing world around us.”

DARPA says researchers have to take steps to ensure that “no personally identifiable information for U.S. participants was collected, stored or created in contravention to federal privacy laws, regulations or DoD policies.” It issued a statement Wednesday declaring it was not involved in the recent Cornell University study of Facebook users, and that the work it has funded “has focused on public Twitter streams visible and accessible to everybody.”

The program’s aims, according to DARPA:

  • Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
  • Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social media sites and communities.
  • Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.
  • Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations.

The goal is to win without firing a shot. The agency cited, without elaboration, an incident that it said occurred solely on social media as an example of what it wants to do:

Rumors about the location of a certain individual began to spread in social media space and calls for storming the rumored location reached a fever pitch. By chance, responsible authorities were monitoring the social media, detected the crisis building, sent out effective messaging to dispel the rumors and averted a physical attack on the rumored location. This was one of the first incidents where a crisis was (1) formed (2) observed and understood in a timely fashion and (3) diffused by timely action, entirely within the social media space.

DARPA’s lengthy research roster (at least those publicly available; there’s no link to IBM’s Early Warning Signals of System Change from Expert Communication Networks, for example) doesn’t detail anything about waging war. It’s all about tapping into those who use social media, how to figure out who their leaders are, and perhaps sway their thinking. Academics and computer scientists, working for major universities and outfits like SentiMetrix (which says its “sentiment engine has been proven to work in predicting election outcomes, conflicts, and stock price fluctuations”) have written more than 100 papers on a wide range of topics:

Cues to Deception in Social Media Communications

Well-crafted deceptive messaging is difficult to detect, a difficulty compounded by the fact that people are generally naïve believers of information that they receive. Through studying modern forms of communication, as that found in social media, we can, though, begin to develop an understanding of how users’ expectations lead them to detect deception and how deception strategies are exhibited through linguistic cues.

The Language that Gets People to Give: Phrases that Predict Success on Kickstarter

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter—where entrepreneurs and artists look to the internet for funding—have quickly risen to prominence. However, we know very little about the factors driving the “crowd” to take projects to their funding goal. In this paper we explore the factors which lead to successfully funding a crowdfunding project. We study a corpus of 45K crowdfunded projects, analyzing 9M phrases and 59 other variables commonly present on crowdfunding sites. The language used in the project has surprising predictive power— accounting for 58.56% of the variance around successful funding.

Understanding Individual’s Personal Values from Social Media Word Use

The theory of values posits that each person has a set of values, or desirable and trans-situational goals, that motivate their actions. The Basic Human Values, a motivational construct that captures people’s values, have been shown to influence a wide range of human behaviors. In this work, we analyze people’s values and their word use on Reddit, an online social news sharing community. Through conducting surveys and analyzing text contributions of 799 Reddit users, we identify and interpret categories of words that are indicative of user’s value orientations.

The Digital Evolution of Occupy Wall Street

We examine the temporal evolution of digital communication activity relating to the American anti-capitalist movement Occupy Wall Street. Using a high-volume sample from the microblogging site Twitter, we investigate changes in Occupy participant engagement, interests, and social connectivity over a fifteen month period…the Occupy movement tended to elicit participation from a set of highly interconnected users with pre-existing interests in domestic politics and foreign social movements. These users, while highly vocal in the months immediately following the birth of the movement, appear to have lost interest in Occupy related communication over the remainder of the study period.

A Computational Approach to Politeness with Application to Social Factors

We use our framework to study the relationship between politeness and social power, showing that polite Wikipedia editors are more likely to achieve high status through elections, but, once elevated, they become less polite.

If it seems difficult to discern a pattern here, that’s because the agency engages in basic research. It only builds the tools that others will use to build the next war (or disinformation) machine. There’s no telling which of these reports—if any—contains a glimmer of military utility. The only way to find out is to continue such research until it yields a breakthrough, or until the Pentagon goes broke.

 

TIME Tech

Good Drone, Bad Drone: How to Fix the Drone PR Problem

Military drone flying over the clouds.
Military drone flying over the clouds. Erik Simonsen—Getty Images

Just saying the word makes people shudder, but there are plenty of good drones already in use. And as to future possibilities, the sky’s the limit.

It’s no wonder the drone industry doesn’t like the word “drone.” Thanks to the work of human rights activists in exposing the ugly side of how Predator and Reaper drones kill innocent people overseas, “drones” can evoke a one-word reaction similar to the word “sweatshops”: yuck! Then there’s the transnational campaign to ban fully autonomous drones, a campaign that’s instilling public fear about a brave, new world where kill decisions are increasingly made by machines. Add to the mix the specter of drones being used by government agencies here at home to increase Big Brother’s ability to invade our privacy, and you have a reaction to drones that isn’t just disgust and fear, but defiance.

After Congress passed legislation in 2012 calling for the opening of U.S. airspace to drones by 2015, dozens of states began cobbling together legislation. Some bills restrict law enforcement agencies from gathering information on the public without a court order; others prohibit the weaponization of domestic drones. Cities began passing “no-drone resolutions” restricting the use of their airspace. The small town of Deer Trail, Colo., garnered national attention when it contemplated providing a bounty for shooting down a drone. Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano pronounced that the first American who shoots down a drone that comes too close to his children in his backyard will be an American hero. Matt Rosendale, a Montana state senator running for Congress, unveiled an ad where he points his rifle at a hovering drone and declares that he is ready to “stand tall for freedom.”

The drone industry reacted to its image problem with a disastrous campaign to simply drop the hot-potato term “drone” and instead use cumbersome names like “unmanned aerial systems,” “unmanned aerial vehicles,” “remotely piloted aircraft” or, worse yet, their acronyms (UASs, UAVs, RPAs). At the 2013 annual D.C. gathering of the drone lobby, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), presenters continually pleaded with attendees to drop the term “drone.” The wireless password for the attending journalists was a not-so-subtle “dontsaydrones.”

AUVSI President Michael Toscano got in trouble during a March 2013 Senate hearing when he lectured the senators that they shouldn’t use the term “drone” because of its hostile connotation. Senator Leahy fired back, “I appreciate you telling us what we should call them, but why don’t you leave that decision to us. We’ll decide what we’ll call them and you call them whatever you like to call them.”

Recognizing defeat, the industry began a much more successful PR campaign touting the positive uses of drones. Indeed, there are plenty of good drones already in use, and as to future possibilities, the sky’s the limit. Drones can battle wildfires, track endangered species, predict weather patterns, provide farmers with crop analysis, deliver humanitarian aid and, yes, perhaps drones might one day deliver your Amazon packages or your take-out tacos.

And let’s face it: some drones are fun. There are tens of thousands of DIY hobbyists around the world who are crafting home-built drones to film themselves on the ski slopes or take aerial photos of their weddings. Even Martha Stewart has her own drone, gushing on Twitter that it takes amazing photos of her farm: “We love the possibilities and opportunities drones offer. Do you?”

But not even Martha Stewart can sweep aside the important ethical and legal issues that have arisen with President Obama’s killer drones, or the deployment of autonomous drones or the coming use of domestic spy drones. My organization, CODEPINK, has protested these issues at many a drone convention and Congressional hearing. We have tried to get the industry to work with us by supporting international and national regulations to make drone use compliant with international law and our moral values. But the industry has not wanted to alienate weapons companies like General Atomics, whose bread and butter come from lethal drones or powerful government agencies like the CIA.

Rather than ignoring or white-washing the problematic nature of killer drones, spy drones and autonomous killer robots, the industry—and drone enthusiasts—should work with the human rights and peace communities to distinguish between good, the bad and the ugly.

Medea Benjamin, the cofounder of the peace group www.codepink.org, is author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

TIME Surveillance

Snowden Asks Russia to Extend Asylum

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden poses for a photo during an interview in an undisclosed location in December 2013 in Moscow.
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in an undisclosed location in Moscow, December 2013. Barton Gellman—Getty Images

NSA leaker wants to stay in Russia another year

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has formally asked Russia to extend his asylum there, according to Russian media, as he faces charges in the United States for leaking details of mass government surveillance.

The Russian news service RT quoted a Snowden lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, in reporting that Snowden had requested another year of asylum, a move he had been expected to make. “We have submitted documents to prolong his stay in Russia,” Kucherena said Wednesday.

Kucherena’s claim couldn’t be immediately confirmed. Kucherena, who has close ties to the Russian security services, has made claims to Russian media that have later been proven false in the past, including a report that Snowden had a job in Moscow and that he had a Russian girlfriend.

Snowden arrived in Moscow on June 24, 2013 after a flight from Hong Kong, and was stranded in the airport for weeks with a voided passport before being granted asylum. That expires on July 31.

The U.S. has been seeking Snowden’s extradition to face espionage charges, but Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. and has said it has no legal obligation to hand him over.

Snowden became a household name last year when he leaked a treasure trove of files on the NSA’s surveillance activities both at home and around the world, sparking a fierce debate domestically and globally about the scope of American spying.

 

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