Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Snowden's search for asylum is fruitless so far - Reuters, NYT

Snowden Is Said to Claim U.S. Is Blocking Asylum Bids

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Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former American security contractor, appeared to break his silence on Monday for the first time since he flew to Moscow eight days earlier. WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group, issued a statement attributed to him that denounced President Obama for revoking his passport, opposing his asylum requests and leaving him a “stateless person.”
The statement posted on the Web site of WikiLeaks, which has been assisting Mr. Snowden, accused Mr. Obama and the United States government of seeking to intimidate him and deceive the world because of his disclosures about the vast global surveillance efforts of American intelligence agencies.
The statement attributed to Mr. Snowden cited Mr. Obama’s assertion last week that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” with other countries that may wish to grant him asylum. But, it said, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been pressuring “the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.”
Mr. Biden telephoned President Rafael Correa of Ecuador last week and asked him not to grant Mr. Snowden asylum, Mr. Correa said Saturday.
“The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon,” the statement attributed to Mr. Snowden said. “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.”
A later post, which appeared early Tuesday on the WikiLeaks Web site, said that Sarah Harrison, the group’s legal adviser in the Snowden matter, had “submitted by hand a number of requests for asylum and asylum assistance on behalf” of Mr. Snowden to 19 countries. They were listed as Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.
The post said the requests, which “outline the risks of persecution Mr. Snowden faces in the United States,” were delivered to an official at the Russian Consulate at the Moscow airport where, according to Russian officials, Mr. Snowden is ensconced in an international transit lounge, trying to determine his next step, and has technically not entered Russian territory. It said the consulate had started delivering the requests to the relevant embassies in Moscow.
The statement on Monday attributed to Mr. Snowden appeared to be the first direct word from him about his predicament since his flight to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 despite an American request to the Hong Kong authorities to arrest Mr. Snowden, who is accused of violating espionage laws. His disclosures have embarrassed the Obama administration and caused tensions with other countries, including China, Russia and European Union members.
Mr. Snowden, 30, has still not been publicly seen in Russia, and there was no way to immediately verify that he had made the statement attributed to him.
Mr. Snowden’s case appeared to be causing tensions between the government of Ecuador and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder. Mr. Assange has been in Ecuador’s embassy in London for more than a year, given asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on allegations that he sexually assaulted two women.
“The conduct of Assange has bothered me a little, and this morning I spoke with the foreign minister to tell him not to speak about our country’s situations,” Mr. Correa said Monday, according to Agence France-Presse.
Mr. Correa was apparently displeased by comments that Mr. Assange made on Sunday on the ABC program “This Week” regarding Mr. Biden’s telephone call. Mr. Assange characterized that call as an effort to pressure Mr. Correa. “What does he know about the call from Joe Biden?” Mr. Correa was quoted as saying by A.F.P. “And he says that he called to pressure me. I have never permitted a call to put pressure on me.”
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Venezuela Defends Snowden but Hedges on Offering Sanctuary

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MOSCOW — President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela said Tuesday that he had not yet received an application for political asylum from Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who is on the run from the American authorities, and that he would not use his plane to ferry Mr. Snowden to Caracas.
Still, Mr. Maduro, who is visiting Moscow, seemed to hold out the possibility that Venezuela might ultimately agree to shelter Mr. Snowden. Speaking to legislators and reporters at the Russian Parliament, Mr. Maduro said that Mr. Snowden deserved protection under international law.
“He did not kill anyone and he did not plant a bomb,” Mr. Maduro said, according to Russian news services. “He only said a big truth to prevent wars.”
As an international oil and gas forum convened here on Monday, there had been speculation that President Vladimir V. Putin and Mr. Maduro would use the opportunity to negotiate terms for Mr. Snowden to leave the transit area at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he arrived from Hong Kong nine days ago.
He had apparently intended to board a connecting flight headed for Latin America. In the interim, the United States announced that his American passport had been revoked, leaving him in a geopolitical limbo, stripped of any valid travel document and unable to leave the transit zone.
Russia enjoys warm ties with Venezuela, a major arms customer and energy partner, which sees the alliance as a way of countering the United States’ influence in Latin America.
The newspaper Izvestia speculated Monday that Mr. Maduro could spirit Mr. Snowden away on his presidential plane when he leaves Russia on Tuesday, arranging to take off from Sheremetyevo instead of a government facility at Vnukovo Airport. But at a news conference on Monday, Mr. Putin responded blankly to that theory.
“As to the possible departure of Mr. Snowden with some official delegation,” he said, “I know nothing.”
Even as Mr. Maduro seemed to hedge about Venezuela’s intentions, a spokesman for Mr. Putin confirmed that Mr. Snowden on Monday had submitted asylum requests to 15 countries. The spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, however, said that Mr. Snowden had rescinded his request for asylum in Russia.
“He has abandoned his intention and his request for the opportunity to remain in Russia,” Mr. Peskov said on a conference call with a small group of reporters in Moscow. At the same time, however, Mr. Peskov reiterated that Russia had no intention of extraditing Mr. Snowden to the United States, where the death penalty is a possibility for him if he is convicted.
On Monday, Kim N. Shevchenko, the Russian consul at Sheremetyevo Airport, said that Mr. Snowden’s traveling companion had hand-delivered an asylum request to the consular office in Terminal F of the airport, and that it had been passed on to the Foreign Ministry.
The request had threatened to deeply complicate Russia’s position in Mr. Snowden’s case, potentially making it impossible to maintain the mostly neutral position that Mr. Putin has sought to stake out since Mr. Snowden landed in Moscow.
The Russian Constitution gives the president direct authority over asylum requests.
At his news conference on Monday, Mr. Putin tried to thread the needle, saying Mr. Snowden was welcome to stay in Russia as long as he stopped publishing classified documents that hurt the United States’ interests. He went on to acknowledge that this was unlikely to happen.
“If he wants to go somewhere and they accept him, please, be my guest,” Mr. Putin said. “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, as strange as it may sound from my lips.”
He added, “Because he sees himself as a human-rights activist and a freedom fighter for people’s rights, apparently he is not intending to cease this work. So he must choose for himself a country to go to, and where to move. When that will happen, I unfortunately don’t know.”
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Snowden's search for asylum is fruitless so far

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By Alissa de Carbonnel and Alexei Anishchuk
MOSCOW | Tue Jul 2, 2013 8:30am EDT
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Several countries on Tuesday spurned asylum requests from Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor wanted for leaking secrets, despite an appeal fromVenezuela for the world to protect him.
Snowden, who revealed the secret U.S. electronic surveillance program Prism, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries in his search for safety from the espionage charges in the United States.
The 30-year-old is in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, unable to fly on to a hoped-for destination in Latin America because he has no legal travel documents and no Russian visa to leave the airport.
On Monday, he broke a nine-day silence since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong, challenging Washington by saying he was free to publish more about its programs and that he was being illegally persecuted.
That ruled out a prolonged stay in Russia, where a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after the Russian leader said he should give up his "anti-American activity".
But while country after country denied his asylum requests on technical grounds, Venezuela, part of an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America, said it was time to stop berating a man who has "done something very important for humanity".
"He deserves the world's protection," President Nicolas Maduro told Reuters during a visit to Moscow.
"He has a right to protection because the United States in its actions is persecuting him...Why are they persecuting him? What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war."
Maduro said he would consider an asylum application. Snowden's request for safety in Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of antisecrecy group WikiLeaks Julian Assange in its London embassy, has seemingly ended.
U.S. President Barack Obama has made clear to a number of countries that granting him asylum would carry costs.
Snowden has prepared asylum requests in countries including India, China, Brazil, Ireland, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, WikiLeaks has said.
But several countries, including Snowden's favored Ecuador, said on Tuesday they could not consider an asylum request from Snowden unless he was on their territory.
Norway said he was unlikely to get asylum there, and Poland said it would not give a "positive recommendation" to any request. Finland, Spain, Ireland and Austria said he had to be in their countries to make a request, while India said "we see no reason" to accept his petition.
France said it had not received a request.
Officials in Russia, which has made clear it wants Snowden to leave, say an embassy car would be considered foreign territory if a country picked him up - possibly a message to leaders of oil-producing countries in Moscow for talks this week.
Snowden's options have narrowed sharply.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was quoted in Britain's Guardian newspaper on Monday as saying he could not consider the asylum request and that giving Snowden a temporary travel pass to fly to Moscow was "a mistake on our part".
"Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It's not logical," he said, adding that Snowden was now Moscow's problem.
Moscow is unwilling to send Snowden to the United States, a move that could make it look weak, and has no extradition treaty with Washington. But it also does not want to damage ties with the United States over a man with whom Putin, a former KGB spy, has little sympathy.
At a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brunei, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had raised Snowden "from our point of view" despite the affair not being in their domain.
"Russia has never extradited anyone, is not extraditing anyone and will not extradite anyone," Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.
Peskov said Snowden showed no sign of stopping releasing secret U.S. documents and added that he had abandoned his intention of staying in Russia.
In an undated letter to Ecuador's Correa seen by Reuters, Snowden said he was "dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world". "I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest," Snowden said in the letter.
(For list of countries to which Snowden has applied click on link.reuters.com/maw39t)
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Brunei, Writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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WikiLeaks’ Assange: Snowden ‘marooned in Russia’

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On Sunday, two of his strongest supporters — Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador — said it was unlikely that Snowden would leave there anytime soon.
“The United States, by canceling his passport, has left him for the moment marooned in Russia,” said Assange, whose anti-
secrecy organization has aided Snowden in his flight.
The United States canceled Snowden’s passport a week ago, after he was charged with espionage. Assange criticized that decision on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos”: “To take a passport from a young man in a difficult situation like that is a disgrace,” he said.
And in Ecuador on Sunday, Correa seemed to play down the chances that his country could offer Snowden a way out. For now, Correa told the Associated Press, Snowden was “under the care of the Russian authorities.”
“This is the decision of Russian authorities. He doesn’t have a passport. I don’t know the Russian laws. I don’t know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can’t,” Correa said. He said the case was out of Ecuador’s hands. “If [Snowden] arrives at an Ecuadoran embassy, we’ll analyze his request for asylum.”
Snowden’s escape plan was never a simple one. After first making himself one of the most wanted men in the world, he was attempting to hopscotch 11,000 miles from Hong Kong to Russia to Ecuador — perhaps with a stopover in Cuba.
To do it, he would have to stay ahead of U.S. law enforcement and a pack of news media — and to count on the caprices of three (or four) foreign governments.
Snowden made it one stop. He flew from Hong Kong to Moscow a week ago, apparently on his U.S. passport. It had already been revoked, but Hong Kong authorities said they had not received the official request from the U.S. government.
Now, Snowden’s flight has brought him to the transit area of Sheremetyevo International Airport. And to a dwindling set of options.
One is simply staying in the airport. If Snowden is not being detained by Russian authorities — and Russian officials have said that he is not — he could remain in an area reserved for international travelers making connections. As long as he does not go through passport control, Russian officials say, he would not legally cross into Russian territory.
If he wants to leave, however, Snowden would need travel documents to replace his canceled passport.
Earlier, it appeared that Ecuadoran officials might be willing to help him with this. On June 22, the Ecuadoran Embassy in London issued a safe-conduct pass in his name. (Assange himself is holed up at the same embassy, avoiding extradition to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual abuse).
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Snowden in Limbo as Options for Refuge Narrow

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As Edward Snowden entered his second week of limbo in Moscow's airport on Sunday, his decision to go to Russia is looking riskier than it first appeared, and may have left him in a worse situation than if he had stayed in Hong Kong.
Even with his next move uncertain, the former National Security Agency contractor caused fresh uproar over the weekend. On Sunday, German weekly Der Spiegel, citing information from Mr. Snowden, reported that the U.S. had placed listening devices in a European Union office in Washington, infiltrated its computers and carried out cyberattacks against EU bodies. The report prompted strong criticism from several European governments.
Mr. Snowden had hoped for asylum in Ecuador, but that seems less likely now. President Rafael Correa on Sunday retreated further from his country's early support of Mr. Snowden, telling the Associated Press it was up to Russian authorities to decide whether Mr. Snowden could travel to the Ecuadorean embassy in Moscow to seek asylum.
Mr. Snowden's limbo is the product of a series of rapid decisions made during his final 24 hours in Hong Kong, when he was struggling over whether to remain there or seek asylum elsewhere.
According to people familiar with his case, Mr. Snowden at first wanted to stay in Hong Kong, and sought to build public support there by giving a local newspaper information about U.S. hacking activities in the city. His Hong Kong legal team, which included local opposition legislator Albert Ho, was preparing for a long fight.
At least part of his legal team believed Hong Kong represented the best option to protect their client's safety and interests, one of the people familiar with his case said. Mr. Snowden, though, was getting a different message from WikiLeaks. On June 12, Mr. Snowden through an intermediary asked the antisecrecy organization to help him seek asylum in Iceland, WikiLeaks said on June 19. In the days after his approach, WikiLeaks asked other governments about asylum possibilities on Mr. Snowden's behalf.
"He obviously chose to go to Moscow, though I don't know why. I wouldn't have," said Patricia Ho of Hong Kong law firm Daly & Associates, who isn't involved in the case. She said Mr. Snowden had had a range of options still open to him before he left Hong Kong, including filing for asylum or contesting the U.S.'s request in the city's robust judicial system.
But Mr. Snowden's escape plan stalled when he got stuck in the transit area of the Moscow airport.
He touched down in Moscow a week ago on his way to Ecuador "via Russia and other states," according to WikiLeaks. Some two days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied a U.S. request to expel Mr. Snowden and urged the fugitive to get on his way. He has since been stuck in Sheremetyevo Airport's transit zone without a valid U.S. passport or a Russian visa, facing an increasingly uncertain path.
The Obama administration sought to systematically cut off Mr. Snowden's asylum options once he left Hong Kong, said senior U.S. officials working on the strategy.
One focus, these officials said, has been to repeatedly stress to Moscow that hopes for better cooperation on issues ranging from counterterrorism to Syria could be jeopardized without cooperation on Mr. Snowden.
On Ecuador, senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have told Quito that its economic engagement with the U.S. could diminish if Mr. Snowden is granted asylum. The Latin American country has a dollar-based economy and is reliant on the U.S. for 40% of its exports. Oil accounts for about 80% of Ecuador's exports to the U.S., but the country also exports significant amounts of fish and seafood, bananas and flowers.
The Obama administration has used the outrage in Congress over Mr. Snowden to pressure Mr. Correa, said U.S. officials.
White House officials declined to discuss in detail Mr. Biden's phone conversation with Mr. Correa. But U.S. officials said this threat of congressional action against Quito continues to be used by the administration to try to gain Mr. Correa's cooperation. They said they still believed the Ecuadorean leader was worried about the economic costs to his country.
The U.S. point man on dealing with Russia on Mr. Snowden has been the State Department's No. 2 diplomat, Undersecretary William Burns, said senior U.S. officials. Mr. Burns is a former American ambassador to Moscow who has regularly worked with Russia on issues from Middle East peace initiatives to Islamic militancy in the Caucasus. Mr. Burns also coordinated extensively with Russia when he served as the U.S. point man on Iran's nuclear program.
Mr. Burns and Secretary of State John Kerry have coordinated a message to Moscow that Russia can't expect the same level of support on counterterrorism and law-enforcement issues without cooperation on Mr. Snowden, U.S. officials said. Mr. Kerry particularly noted in talks with Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that over the past two years, the U.S. has extradited seven people who were wanted for crimes to Moscow.
One factor driving Mr. Snowden from Hong Kong, according to the people familiar with his case, was the likelihood that he would be held in jail while his extradition case was fought. In jail, he would have lost his Internet access. "I don't think he'd mind being in prison, so long as he could have the Internet," one of the people said.
It isn't known whether Mr. Snowden has Internet access at the Moscow airport, but others in the transit zone have access to the Web and other communications.
Mr. Snowden's chances of avoiding surrender to the U.S. by Hong Kong authorities were slim, some lawyers in Hong Kong said. "If he'd stayed in Hong Kong, authorities would only have been able to stall for so long, and then they would've had to comply under their obligations," said Kevin Egan, a Hong Kong lawyer who has handled surrender cases but who wasn't involved in the Snowden case. Since 1998, the city has handed back people to the U.S. in 65 cases under its surrender agreement. In at least one other case—involving someone charged by the U.S. with smuggling—Hong Kong didn't send the person back.
Other Hong Kong lawyers said one of Mr. Snowden's best options, and one that remains open to him if he returned to Hong Kong, is to file an asylum claim either with the Hong Kong government or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, something he could have done while in Hong Kong. Another avenue for Mr. Snowden would have been for China to block the surrender by exercising its right to intervene in issues involving national security and foreign relations, though it is believed that Beijing signed off on his departure, according to diplomats and Hong Kong legislators.
China's Foreign Ministry didn't respond to questions last week about what role Beijing had played in negotiations over Mr. Snowden. "The central government obviously respects the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government's handling of affairs in accordance with law," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing.
Mr. Snowden could return to Hong Kong, Ms. Ho of Daly & Associates said, attempting to apply for asylum after he arrived from the Hong Kong government or the UNHCR. The Hong Kong government has asked airlines to bar him from flying there, but he could get around that restriction because Russia would be "returning" him to Hong Kong, which would be different than "allowing" him to fly to Hong Kong like a normal passenger, she said.
Mr. Snowden's time in Hong Kong was cloaked in secrecy, beginning with his initial approach to his lawyers. On June 10, the day after he exposed his identity in the Guardian newspaper, a Hong Kong-based intermediary called a local lawyer known for his work on human-rights issues to seek assistance, according to a person familiar with the case. The lawyer, who didn't know the caller, was told to meet him on a street in Hong Kong and they would ride together in a taxi to meet Mr. Snowden, the person said.
Soon after, reporters found Mr. Snowden in the Mira Hong Kong Hotel in the densely packed Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood and he fled from there with the lawyer, the person said. Mr. Snowden moved locations only under cover of darkness and wore a cap and sunglasses on the rare occasions he went out, the people familiar with his case said.
In the days before Mr. Snowden's exit from Hong Kong, Mr. Ho, the opposition legislator, unsuccessfully sought clarification from the city's government on Mr. Snowden's case, the people familiar with the case said. He was growing increasingly worried that stepped-up pressure by the U.S. would push Hong Kong's government to detain him, these people said.
Around June 21, the same time the U.S. unsealed charges against him, according to one of the people familiar with his case, Mr. Snowden received an encrypted message that claimed to represent a government authority who urged him to leave Hong Kong, and assured him he would be able to clear immigration if he tried to do so. Mr. Ho tried to contact Hong Kong's government to determine whether the message's assurances were genuine, but didn't receive an immediate reply.
Mr. Snowden woke on Saturday, June 22, to news that the U.S. had unsealed the charges accusing him of crimes under the U.S. Espionage Act and theft of government property. He began looking for flights out of Hong Kong, a person familiar with his case said.
Moscow wasn't his only pick, this person said: His goal was to get somewhere he believed would protect him from the U.S. government's reach. He knew he needed to avoid U.S. airlines but didn't have a final destination in mind, people familiar with his case said. Throughout the day, he vacillated between staying and going, and about where he would go if he left, the person said.
Around midnight on Saturday, Mr. Snowden told his legal team that he wanted to leave town, the person said, and he was urged to get a good night's sleep and to think about it some more.
The next day, June 23, Mr. Snowden made up his mind and headed for the airport in a private car, the person said. In part because they weren't using mobile phones to communicate, one of his lawyers had gone ahead to the airport not knowing if Mr. Snowden would appear. At the airport, the lawyer bought a plane ticket to Shanghai—the cheapest one he could find—to ensure that he could accompany Mr. Snowden past immigration checks. He arrived at the airport just in time to make his Aeroflot flight to Moscow. He had no luggage to check. He cleared immigration and security and quietly boarded the flight.
—Jay Solomon, Chester Yung, José de Córdoba, Jeremy Page and Paul Sonne contributed to this article.
Write to Te-Ping Chen at te-ping.chen@wsj.com and Ken Brown at ken.brown@wsj.com
A version of this article appeared July 1, 2013, on page A1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Snowden In Limbo As Options Narrow.
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Senate Plebiscite Hearing August 1st

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