July 13, 2013

Edward Snowden asks Russia for asylum

He may accept Putin's condition to stop harming the United States, but more revelations are expected from previously leaked materials.

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Edward Snowden
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Edward Snowden, center, holds a news conference at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport Friday with Sarah Harrison, left, of WikiLeaks. Snowden defended his disclosure of secret surveillance undertaken by the United States and said he has no regrets because “it was the right thing to do.” The woman at right was not identified.

The Associated Press

"Mr. Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident," Carney said. "He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony accounts and should be returned to the United States, where he will be accorded full due process."

In Friday's video, Snowden was interrupted repeatedly by airport announcements. Others in the video called the interruptions annoying, but Snowden only smiled and said he'd grown used to them after three weeks of living in the airport.

Asylum, even temporary, in Russia wasn't Snowden's plan when he fled Hong Kong. At the time, he was booked to travel from Moscow to Havana, where he presumably would have caught a plane to Ecuador, which had indicated at the time that it was amenable to granting him asylum. It has allowed Assange to live in its embassy in London for more than a year to avoid being sent to Sweden for questioning in a rape investigation.

But before Snowden could make his Havana connection, the United States revoked his passport and Ecuador withdrew the safe-conduct pass he had used to leave Hong Kong, saying it had been issued by a consular official in contravention to Ecuadorean law. Without a travel document or a Russian visa, Snowden had no way to travel outside the transit area for passengers waiting to catch other flights.

Snowden's dilemma become clear last week, when France, Italy, Portugal and Spain refused to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales' official jet to overfly their territory on its way from Moscow to La Paz after it was rumored that Snowden might be aboard. The plane ultimately landed in Austria, where Morales was delayed nearly 13 hours until Spanish officials were satisfied that Snowden wasn't aboard and the president was allowed to fly on to a refueling stop in the Canary Islands before heading home across the Atlantic Ocean.

Snowden said that incident had confirmed that he would be unable to accept asylum requests from the three countries that have said publicly that he was welcome: Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. He called the U.S. actions to corral him illegal.

"This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights," Snowden said.

Laure Mandeville, chief U.S. correspondent for the French newspaper Le Figaro and the author of two books on Russia, said the irony of Snowden seeking asylum in Moscow couldn't be overlooked.

"You get the sense that he is trapped in a game that is much bigger than he is," she said. "He seems to see himself as a 21st-century Robin Hood, exposing a dangerous trend to protect the people, but he's now dealing with a nation with an absolute lack of concern for that privacy."

Still, the powerful speaker of the Russian lower house of Parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, told state television that Snowden should be granted asylum as a "defender of human rights."

In his statement, posted on the WikiLeaks website, Snowden made it clear that he's willing to go to any place that will have him.

"I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future," he said.

He defended his revelations about the U.S. surveillance programs, charging that they violated the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as internationally accepted human rights. He called U.S. spying "massive, pervasive." He said the Obama administration's defense that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had approved the programs was invalid.

"While the U.S. Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair," he said. "These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice -- that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law."

Snowden cited a principle from the Nuremberg trials in defending his actions, "Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore, individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."


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