July 1, 2013

Putin: No Russian asylum for Snowden if he reveals secrets

By Vladimir Isachenko / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Russian President Vladimir Putin walks a delicate line as he deals with the presence in a Moscow airport of a man wanted by the U.S. government for leaking classified documents.

The Associated Press

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Three U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the Snowden case, said Washington's efforts are focused primarily on getting Russia to deport Snowden either directly to the United States or to a third country, possibly in eastern Europe, that would then hand him over to U.S. authorities.

At the same time, the officials said they are trying to discourage Maduro from getting involved, warning that it would severely impair a nascent rapprochement between the U.S. and Venezuela.

Putin's comments come as Obama's administration is facing a breakdown in confidence from key allies over secret programs that reportedly installed covert listening devices in EU offices. Europe's outage was triggered by a Sunday report by German news weekly Der Spiegel that the NSA bugged diplomats from friendly nations – such as the EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels.

The report was partly based on the ongoing series of revelations of U.S. eavesdropping leaked by Snowden.

Many European countries had so far been muted about revelations of the wide net cast by U.S. surveillance programs aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, but their reaction to the latest reports indicate Washington's allies are unlikely to let the matter drop without at least a strong show of outrage.

Obama maintained that all nations in the world with intelligence services try to understand what other nations are thinking. He added the U.S. is still evaluating the Spiegel report, adding that the U.S. will provide all the information European allies are requesting.

French President Francois Hollande demanded that the U.S. immediately stop the alleged eavesdropping and suggested that the widening surveillance scandal could derail negotiations for a free-trade deal potentially worth billions.

"We cannot accept this kind of behavior from partners and allies," Hollande said on French television on Monday.

In a sign of the distrust the report had sowed, the German government launched a review of its secure government communications network, and the EU's executive, the European Commission, ordered "a comprehensive ad hoc security sweep."

"Eavesdropping on friends is unacceptable," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin. "We're not in the Cold War anymore."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he didn't know the details of the allegations, but tried to downplay them, maintaining that many nations undertake various activities to protect their national interests. He failed to quell the outrage from allies, including France, Germany and Italy.

It's unclear how widespread similar practices actually are. But some in Europe have raised concerns that U.S. efforts include economic espionage. When asked whether Germany spies on its allies, Seibert responded: "It's not the policy of the German government to eavesdrop on friendly states in their embassies. That should be obvious."

According to Der Spiegel's report, the NSA planted bugs in the EU's diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated the building's computer network. Similar measures were taken at the EU's mission to the United Nations in New York, the magazine said.

It also reported that the NSA used secure facilities at NATO headquarters in Brussels to dial into telephone maintenance systems that would have allowed it to intercept senior officials' calls and Internet traffic at a key EU office nearby.

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