Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker and fugitive who has been trapped in the international transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for over a week, has finally broken his silence.
When he first fled Hong Kong ahead of a possible US arrest warrant on three felony charges related to stealing and leaking classified information, Snowden appeared to be seeking asylum in Ecuador. However, he never caught any of the connecting legs from Moscow, Russia to Havana, Cuba.
And yesterday the president of Ecuador hinted at potential problems, saying that the nation can only consider Snowden’s request for asylum if he actually appears in Ecuador or at an Ecuadorian embassy — something difficult to accomplish since with a felony warrant out for his arrest his US passport has been revoked.
As a consequence, Edward Snowden has remained trapped in the Moscow airport’s transit area for days. The Los Angeles Times interviewed a Russian Foreign Ministry official, who told them that Snowden had sought asylum in 15 countries — apparently without much success.
On Monday, multiple media sources like the BBC and Fox News began reporting a rumor that Snowden is probably seeking asylum in Russia itself.
And Russian President Vladimir Putin is hinting that he might take him:
“If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips.”
While President Obama hasn’t directly addressed the new rumor, you can see in the video I posted above what the American answer is likely to be:
“Mr Snowden, we understand, has traveled there [to Russia] without a valid passport and legal papers.
“And we are hopeful the Russian government makes decisions based on the normal procedures regarding international travel and the normal interactions law enforcement have.”
Of course, it is standard when someone arrives in a foreign airport without a passport or visa that they be sent back to their homeland at the expense of the airline that allowed him to travel there without papers in the first place.
That may be unlikely. Putin has also said that Russia “never hands over anybody and has no intention of doing so.”
Now Edward Snowden himself has spoken out. His letter to the president of Ecuador, written several days earlier, heaps praise upon Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and seems to thank him as if the asylum were a foregone conclusion. You can read the whole statement at The Guardian, but here is an excerpt:
“There are few world leaders who would risk standing for the human rights of an individual against the most powerful government on earth, and the bravery of Ecuador and its people is an example to the world.”
On Monday afternoon, with his chances of asylum in Ecuador possibly fading, Snowden directly addressed the American people in a statement released by Wikileaks.
You can read the whole thing there. But here’s a brief snippet:
“The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
I personally would be more impressed that he was “convicted of nothing” if he had actually stayed around for the trial. But that’s me. Feel free to fire away in the comments. What do you think about Edward Snowden and his possible attempt to seek asylum in Russia?