Photo: Reuters (Photo : Reuters)
The U.S. Senate approved a bill Thursday that includes a provision which threatens to sanction any country that agrees to grant asylum to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
This measure, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was added as an amendment to the $50.6 billion diplomacy and international aid bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. The Committee passed the Graham amendment unanimously by a voice vote.
According to Headlines & Global News this bill would force lawmakers and the State Department to set penalties against any country that would harbor Snowden, thus preventing his extradition to the United States to face trial.
"The Committee notes that certain countries have offered asylum to Edward Snowden, an American citizen who divulged classified information to the press," the Graham amendment reads. "The Committee directs the Secretary of State to consult with the appropriate congressional committees on sanction options against any country that provides asylum to Mr. Snowden, including revocation or suspension of trade privileges and preferences."
Snowden has filed asylum requests with over 20 countries and has been offered assistance from Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
He is currently in Russia, stuck in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. He arrived there one month ago, shortly after identifying himself as the source behind a series of news reports that revealed an NSA surveillance program that secretly monitors Internet and phone communications around the globe, according to a report from RT.
Before he was able to travel out of Russia, the U.S. government cancelled Snowden's passport, effectively stranding him. Having applied for temporary asylum in Russia, Snowden is now waiting on an answer to his request or for permission to travel to another country.
As Russian officials continue to consider his request, the U.S. is applying significant pressure on the country to reject the asylum bid, as evidenced by the passage of today's Senate bill.
The bill introduced Thursday by Graham is not the first threat made by the Senator to compel Russia into turning Snowden over to U.S. authorities.
Graham has also called for the United States to boycott the 2014 Olympics in Sochi should Snowden be granted asylum. In addition, Graham has reportedly pressured President Obama to find a new location for the upcoming G20 summit that is slated to take place in St. Petersburg.
According to a report from CBS News, Russian migration officials are drawing out the asylum process as they contemplate Snowden's request. Apparently, Snowden has said that he will remain in the airport transit zone "for now" and "intends to stay in Russia, [and] study Russian culture."