US allies in shock as Snowden threatens new leaks

Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden broke his silence on Monday for the first time since fleeing to Moscow over a week ago, blasting the Obama administration and saying he remained free to make new disclosures about US spying activity.Snowden, who faces espionage charges in the United States and is believed to be staying in a transit area at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, surfaced with a letter to the Ecuadorean government and in a statement released through anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which has taken up his cause.
WikiLeaks also released another statement saying Snowden was asking for asylum in several countries, including Russia, China, Brazil, India and Ireland. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was quoted in Britain’s Guardian newspaper as saying his country could not consider an asylum request unless Snowden was on Ecuadorean territory.
In his WikiLeaks statement, Snowden accused the Obama administration of deception in a campaign to prevent him from finding political asylum and of “leaving me a stateless person” by revoking his US passport.
Snowden, 30, had not been heard from in the eight days since he flew to Moscow from Hong Kong, where he had first taken refuge after fleeing Hawaii.
Snowden has sought asylum in Ecuador and in an undated letter sent to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa seen by Reuters, said the United States was illegally persecuting him for revealing its electronic surveillance program, Prism, but made it clear he did not intend to be muzzled.
‘Unequal world’: “I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest,” Snowden, who had been a contract employee for the US National Security Agency, said in the letter.
“No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world. If any of those days ahead realize a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank.”
But in an interview published on the Guardians website on Monday, Correa said giving Snowden a temporary travel pass to fly to Moscow was “a mistake on our part” and that Snowden was now Russia’s problem.
“Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical,” he said.
Asked if he would like to meet Snowden, Correa said: “Not particularly. He’s a very complicated person. Strictly speaking, Mr. Snowden spied for some time.”
Snowden said the US government was persecuting him.
Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden broke his silence on Monday for the first time since fleeing to Moscow over a week ago, blasting the Obama administration and saying he remained free to make new disclosures about US spying activity.
“While the public has cried out support of my shining a light on this secret system of injustice, the Government of the United States of America responded with an extrajudicial man-hunt costing me my family, my freedom to travel, and my right to live peacefully without fear of illegal aggression,” Snowden wrote.
In his WikiLeaks statement, Snowden lashed out at President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for pressing Ecuador to turn him away.
“This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile,” he said.
“Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right,” Snowden said. “A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum … Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
US Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre rejected Snowden’s allegation that he was marooned, “since he is still a United States citizen and his country is willing to take him back.”
“As the State Department has already said, the US government is prepared to issue individuals wanted on felony charges a one entry travel document to return home,” she said.
Long List of Countries: WikiLeaks disclosed on Monday that Snowden had prepared requests for asylum in countries including Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela. The requests were given to a Russian official at the airport and were to be delivered to the appropriate embassies in Moscow.
Snowden already has sought asylum in Ecuador and Iceland.
Russian Foreign Ministry and Kremlin officials declined immediate comment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Snowden could stay in Russia on one condition.
“He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips,” he told reporters after a gas exporters’ conference in Moscow.
Putin said he suspected that Snowden would continue leaking information because “he feels himself to be a human rights activist.”
“So he must choose a country of destination and go there,” he said, speaking before the asylum request to Russia was reported. “Unfortunately, I don’t know when this will happen.”
Putin said Russia was not working with Snowden and had no intention of handing Snowden over to the United States.
“Russia has never given up anyone to anybody and does not plan to. And nobody ever gave anyone up to us,” Putin said.
Shortly after Snowden fled the United States for Hong Kong in May, and long before he arrived in Russia, Putin suggested the surveillance methods he revealed were justified in fighting terrorism, if carried out lawfully.
Although Russia has sometimes exchanged captured spies with the United States, Putin suggested on Monday that this was not on the cards for Snowden. “As for Mr. Snowden, he is not our agent and he is not working with us,” Putin said.
Obama, at a news conference in Tanzania, repeated that the United States was working through law enforcement channels to prod Russia to extradite Snowden.
Obama said there had been “high-level discussions with the Russians about trying to find a solution to the problem.”
Meanwhile, French president Francois Hollande on Monday told the United States immediately to stop spying on its European allies after US state secretary John Kerry promised to probe the allegations but said information-gathering was ‘not unusual’ in international affairs.
‘We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies,’ Hollande told journalists during a visit to the northwestern French city of Lorient, reports The Straits Times.
‘We ask that this immediately stop.’
The leader of Germany’s opposition Greens suggested on Monday that Europe provide a safe haven for former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, whose revelations about the extent of US surveillance programs have infuriated America’s allies.
Juergen Trittin, parliamentary leader and candidate for chancellor of the Greens, Germany’s third biggest party, told German television it was an outrage that the 30-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor should be seeking asylum in ‘despotic’ countries.
‘It’s painful for democrats that someone who has served democracy and, in our view, uncovered a massive violation of basic rights, should have to seek refuge with despots who have problems with basic rights themselves,’ said Trittin, reports The Jerusalem Post.
‘Someone like that should be protected,’ he said.
‘That counts for Mr Snowden. He should get safe haven here in Europe because he has done us a service by revealing a massive attack on European citizens and companies. Germany, as part of Europe, could do that.’
Trittin did not specify which ‘despots’ he was referring to.
Kerry was forced to confront the controversy that was triggered by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden during direct talks with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at an Asia-Pacific security forum in Brunei.
Japan sought answers from the United States on Tuesday over claims it had bugged its key Asian ally, as the list of embarrassing revelations from fugitive intelligence specialist Edward Snowden grows longer.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo was waiting to hear from the US if the allegations of a bug in its Washington embassy were true.
‘I refrain from commenting on details of diplomatic dialogue, but obviously we have a great interest in this matter,’ Suga told reporters, according to The Straits Times.
‘We are currently asking for appropriate confirmation.’
Another report says, US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has accused President Barack Obama of denying him his right to asylum, in a statement published by Wikileaks.
It is his first public announcement since flying to Russia on 23 June, where he has applied for asylum.
The former CIA analyst, who is holed up in a Moscow airport hotel, is wanted by the US on charges of espionage.
He says President Obama is putting pressure on the countries from which he has requested political asylum.
“The president ordered his vice president to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions,” he is quoted by Wikileaks as saying.
“This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
In the statement, Mr Snowden describes himself as “a stateless person”, accusing the US government of stopping him from exercising the “basic right…to seek asylum”.
On Sunday night, the 30-year-old fugitive applied for asylum in Russia, according to foreign ministry consul Kim Shevchenko.
Vladimir Putin: “He should cease his work aimed at damaging our American partners”
The request was reportedly submitted by Sarah Harrison, a British member of the Wikileaks legal team acting as Mr Snowden`s representative.
However, the Kremlin has so far made no comment.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow “never hands over anybody anywhere and has no intention of doing so”.
He suggested Mr Snowden could stay on the condition he stops damaging Russia`s “American partners” with his leaks.
The leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents has led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.
`High-level discussions`
Mr Snowden is thought to be seeking asylum in Latin America, particularly in Ecuador whose embassy in London is sheltering Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
If it was up to the Russian parliament, Edward Snowden`s asylum application might already have been signed and sealed. Fuelled by anti-US sentiment, Russian MPs have been queuing up to support it.
But it will not be parliament that decides: it will be the Kremlin. Earlier, President Putin appeared to suggest it was unlikely Mr Snowden would remain in Russia. The 30-year-old American could stay, he said, on one condition: that he stops damaging Russia`s “American partners” with his leaks. The Kremlin leader added that Mr Snowden probably would not agree to that, and therefore should choose an onward destination and go there.
Might that destination be Venezuela? The Venezuelan president is currently in Moscow attending a gas exporters` summit. He is due to meet President Putin for talks on Tuesday. It is hard to imagine Edward Snowden`s fate would not be on the agenda.
Ecuador`s President Rafael Correa told the Agence France-Presse news agency on Monday that his country would process Mr Snowden`s asylum request if he manages to enter an Ecuadorean embassy.
However, if he can complete his asylum request on Russian territory , then “the situation can be processed and resolved there,” President Correa adds.
Details have also emerged of a letter from Mr Snowden to President Correa, thanking Ecuador for guaranteeing “my rights would be protected upon departing Hong Kong – I could never have risked travel without that”.
He tells President Correa of his “great personal admiration of your commitment to doing what is right rather than what is rewarding”.
Speaking in Tanzania on Monday, President Barack Obama said Moscow and Washington had held “high level discussions” about Mr Snowden.
“We don`t have an extradition treaty with Russia,” he said. “On the other hand, Mr Snowden, we understand, has travelled there without a valid passport and legal papers.”
Mr Snowden has reportedly been in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport since arriving there from Hong Kong on 23 June.
While it remains unclear in which other countries he has applied for asylum, the LA Times recently quoted a Russian foreign ministry official as saying Mr Snowden had applied to some 15 countries.
– Reuters/BBC

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