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Snowden Gets Documents to Leave Moscow Airport

U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has been given documents to leave a Moscow airport transit zone and enter Russia while officials consider his request for asylum.

The Interfax news agency says Snowden is being given new clothes and could leave the airport within hours.

Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence contractor, last month leaked details of American surveillance programs conducted by the clandestine National Security Agency. After first fleeing to Hong Kong, he has been encamped at the Moscow airport for a month while seeking asylum in numerous countries to avoid facing espionage charges in the U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused a request from U.S. President Barack Obama to expel Snowden so he can stand trial in the United States. Three leftist governments in Latin America, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, have offered Snowden asylum.

But after the United States revoked his passport, Snowden has not been able to leave the Moscow airport.

The 30-year-old Snowden says he wants to eventually head to Latin America. But last week, in a handwritten note, he asked Russia to grant him temporary asylum.

Mr. Putin has said that Snowden can only stay in Russia if he refrains from leaking more documents damaging to the U.S.

Snowden leaked details of NSA programs that collect vast information on telephone calls made in the U.S., although not the content of the calls, as well as Internet usage of suspected terrorists.

The NSA says it needs to collect the data to prevent another attack on the U.S. like the 2001 al-Qaida assault that killed nearly 3,000 people. News of the extent of the surveillance has sparked a new debate in Congress over whether the data collection should be curtailed.