Kremlin: Snowden will not be threat to U.S.

But Russian officials say the NSA leaker 'is free to meet with whomever he wants'

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MOSCOW -- The Kremlin will not allow National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to harm the United States during his time in Russia, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said in an interview Saturday with the Los Angeles Times.

"While he is here, no one will allow him to indulge in any activities aimed against the United States," Dmitry Peskov said in the telephone interview. "At the same time, he is free to meet with whomever ... whenever he wants."

On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated at a news briefing in Washington that "the unauthorized release of classified information ... is harmful to the national security interests of the United States."

"The crimes with which he's charged are very serious, and it's certainly our view that the right thing to do in this case is for him to return, or be returned, to the United States to face those charges and to have his day in court," Mr. Carney said.

Earlier on Friday, German leftist lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele had made public an open letter that he said Mr. Snowden handed to him during a meeting in Moscow last week.

In the letter, Mr. Snowden, a former NSA contractor, said he would like to testify before Congress about the NSA and seemed willing to cooperate with German officials to investigate alleged U.S. snooping in Germany, Mr. Stroebele told a news conference in Berlin.

Russia cannot be held responsible for any new leaks associated with Mr. Snowden because he left all of his archive in Hong Kong before coming to Russia, Mr. Peskov said.

"His meeting with somebody in Moscow cannot harm the United States," Mr. Peskov said. "As for the materials that keep appearing in mass media, we are talking about the materials he handed over to some third persons or journalists or whomever else before he made his appearance on the territory of Russia.

"He was granted the status of a temporary refugee, which doesn't impose restrictions on his meeting with anybody. Mr. ... You see, Snowden is not the booty of Russian special services as he is not a Russian agent, either, and it was not Russia who invited or brought him here. As you know, he emerged here as a kind of uninvited and unexpected guest."

Mr. Peskov added that Mr. Snowden could leave Russia whenever he wishes.

"He is not detained, he is not a prisoner, he is not a criminal," Mr. Peskov said. "Even in the United States he is not a criminal. He can leave Russia at any moment, and we can't dictate to him when and where to go and we cannot be held responsible for it."

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