The international drama that heated up on June 23 when Edward Snowden showed up at a Moscow airport and wound up living there, confined to a hotel room, took a new turn yesterday when Russia granted the self-styled American whistle-blower asylum for one year.
Moreover, the Moscow government said it may renew his asylum on a year-by-year basis.
Snowden, after first fleeing to Hong Kong, had previously sought refuge in various other countries, including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Iceland, but his hopes were never realized.
Sarah Harrison, a member of the Wikileaks legal team who has been helping Snowden, reported he left the airport with her, but there was no report on his destination. Wikileaks is an international organization dedicated to revealing government secrets.
So, for now the United States government cannot get its legal hands on a man it rightly regards as a criminal.
The 30-year-old who worked as a technical contractor for the National Security Agency put American international relations and national security at risk by disclosing secret material in The Guardian, a British newspaper.
It is dismaying that many Americans consider him more whistle-blower than traitor and that he has been praised by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, something Republican voters should remember should Paul run for president.
Count us among those who agree with New York Republican Rep. Peter King, who told CNN, "When you have Rand Paul actually comparing Snowden to Martin Luther King or Henry David Thoreau, this is madness, this is the anti-war left-wing Democrats of the 1960s that nominated George McGovern and destroyed their party for almost 20 years."
The State Department described Russia's formal grant of asylum to Snowden as "deeply disappointing," and administration officials hinted that President Obama may cancel his planned September visit to Moscow. That would be appropriate.
"There are standards of behavior between sovereign nations," Secretary of State John Kerry said recently, suggesting that Moscow was not observing these standards. "There is common law. There is respect for rule of law."
Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, declared they had no intention of extraditing Snowden to the United States, and Putin insisted that Snowden's case should not harm relations between the two countries.
Perhaps. But Washington cannot be faulted for believing that the Russian leader has crudely bruised an international relationship by providing sanctuary to an American who purposely compromised his nation.