NSA leaker Edward Snowden obtained a a safe-conduct from Ecuador so he could travel to that country in order to seek political asylum, but the pass is invalid, government officials said Thursday.
President Obama is trying to downplay the international chase for the fugitive he called "a 29-year-old hacker" and restore relations between the US and Russia and China.
Obama said in Senegal that the damage to US national security has already been done and his top focus now is making sure it can't happen again.
On the other hand, Ecuadorean officials took a the opposite tone as they tried to explain a single-page, unsigned letter dated June 22 that says Snowden has the right to travel to Ecuador for purposes of political asylum and asks other countries to allow him safe passage.
The letter was issued at the Ecuadorean consulate in London and was published by the Univision television network Wednesday night.
Ecuador has sympathized with Snowden but has not confirmed that they have given him asylum in their country.
However, they offered a strong rebuttal to threats from US lawmakers that amnesty for Snowden would cost Ecuador valuable trade references. Nearly half of Ecuador's foreign trade depends on the United States.
Secretary of Political Management Betty Tola said during a news conference the safe-conduct pass "has no validity and is the exclusive responsibility of the person who issued it."
Another government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that, while the document is authentic, it was issued without approval from the Foreign Ministry or other officials in the capital and thus has no legal power.
Tola told reporters that Snowden's asylum application hadn't been processed because he was not in Ecuador as required by law. She also threatened legal action against whoever had leaked the document, but no further details were offered about his case.
Snowden has been seeking asylum from Ecuador to escape facing charges in the US after leaking highly sensitive documents to the media.
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