Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor and wanted whistleblower, is officially a man without a country. He's reportedly still holed up in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, and his American passport has been revoked as the U.S. and Russia square off over U.S. demands that he be sent back home to face charges. Which raises an intriguing question: Just how long can a person hang out, or, in this case hide out, in an international airport transit area?
Hollywood's version aside — see Tom Hanks in The Terminal — it's unlikely that anyone could exploit the limbo status of an airport transit zone for very long.
Incredibly, Snowden's precise whereabouts continue to be a secret: He's eluded the press several times, booking seats on various Aeroflot flights to Havana and then pulling a no-show. A day ago he was said to be at the Capsule Hotel, located in the transit zone at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. Today, his whereabouts are still a mystery.
Rules on how long an international transit flier can stay in an airport without actually entering the country vary, of course, and while the Russian government's official posture is that Snowden is technically not on Russian soil, it's clear that the policies of the home country have a lot to do with how someone in his situation is treated.