Gimme Shelter: International Political Asylum in the Information Age

On June 5, 2013, an article in the Guardian revealed highly classified information about surveillance operations being performed by the United States National Security Administration (NSA). The source of this information was a former NSA contractor named Edward Snowden. After arriving in Moscow on June 23, Snowden spent the next forty days in the transit area of Sheremetyevo International Airport in a bizarre state of geopolitical purgatory. Eventually, Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum for one year, followed by a three- year residency permit. This Note uses Snowden’s circumstance to consider the current state of international political asylum within the context of domestic whistleblower regimes. The technological progress of the early twenty-first century has enabled not only previously unimaginable intelligence-gathering capabilities but also the capacity to instantaneously alert countries throughout the world to the existence of such activities. This Note addresses the resulting tension by recommending a range of preventative measures and suggesting an evolution in domestic applications of international asylum law.