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Fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia, according to Russian media. He said his actions were not "meant to harm" the United States.
GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: SNOWDEN SAYS HE MEANT UNITED STATES NO HARM
UPDATE: 7/12/13 5:00 PM ET
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UPDATE: 7/12/13 2:00 PM ET
White House responds to Snowden's appearance
White House press secretary Jay Carney addressed Snowden's appearance during his daily briefing Friday.
Carney said Snowden had been charged with three felonies and should be returned to the US, adding, "We have a history of effective law enforcement cooperation with Russia."
He continued, "We've had conversations with Russian officials at a variety of high levels. The president does have a call scheduled with President Putin for later today," according to the Guardian.
WH's @PressSec says "providing a propaganda platform" for Snowden "runs contrary" to Russia's stated neutrality in the case.
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 12, 2013
On Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International's spirited defense of Snowden, Carney said, "Mr. Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident" but a leaker of highly classified information.
UPDATE: 7/12/13 1:50 PM ET
Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who met Snowden, observed:
Lukin adds: 'He doesn't look very well fed, a skinny guy. But he has a great haircut'
— Olaf Koens (@obk) July 12, 2013
The earlier clip obtained by popular Russian tabloid Life News shows a glimpse of Snowden:
As we said earlier, Snowden can be seen attempting to make his statement, before being interrupted by an airport announcement in Russian and English. Laughing, he says, "I've heard this many times in the last couple weeks."
UPDATE: 7/12/13 1:35 PM ET
US pressing Latin America on Snowden: NYTimes
As Russian media reported that Snowden has officially submitted his application for asylum in Russia, The New York Times noted that the US is putting diplomatic pressure on Latin American countries to prevent him from seeking asylum there.
During his appearance at the Moscow airport Friday, Snowden thanked Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
Snowden's plan is reportedly to seek temporary asylum in Russia and eventually move on to Latin America:
— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
However, Washington has been pressing those countries to block Snowden.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the unusual step of telephoning President Rafael Correa of Ecuador to urge him not to give asylum to Mr. Snowden. Senior State Department officials have also pushed Venezuela, one of the three countries offering to shelter him, with both sides keenly aware that hopes for better ties and an exchange of ambassadors after years of tension could be on the line.
And all across the region, American embassies have communicated Washington’s message that letting Mr. Snowden into Latin America, even if he shows up unexpectedly, would have lasting consequences.
“There is not a country in the hemisphere whose government does not understand our position at this point,” a senior State Department official focusing on the matter said recently, adding that helping Mr. Snowden “would put relations in a very bad place for a long time to come.”
UPDATE: 7/12/13 12:45 PM ET
Why Venezuela might not be a good choice for Snowden
GlobalPost's Dudley Althaus spoke to Human Rights Watch earlier this week about Snowden's asylum request to Venezuela:
MEXICO CITY, Mexico — If US whistleblower Edward Snowden takes refuge in Venezuela he might quickly wish he hadn't.
At least that's the verdict of Chilean lawyer Jose Miguel Vivanco, who heads the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group. As he seeks to flee a Moscow airport's transit lounge, "any country that speaks up in Snowden's defense should also guarantee the free speech rights of its own citizens, critics, and whistleblowers," the organization said.
"That is certainly not the case in Venezuela," Vivanco said Wednesday via email. “The accumulation of power in the executive branch and the erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the Venezuelan government to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticize the president or thwart its political agenda.”
Venezuelan officials expelled Vivanco from the country in September 2008 after he delivered a damning Human Rights Watch report criticizing the lack of judicial freedom under then-President Hugo Chavez, who died in March.
Read the full story: "HRW: Venezuela's no country for whistleblowers"
UPDATE: 7/12/13 12:40 PM ET
Mercosur bloc ends weeks of spying tension with another dig at Washington
Reuters' Malena Castaldi writes from Montevideo:
South American leaders planned to send a tough message to Washington on Friday over allegations of US spying in the region and to defend their right to offer asylum to fugitive former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Capping two weeks of strained North-South relations over the Snowden saga, presidents from the Mercosur bloc of nations were meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay. Complaints against the United States were high on the agenda.
"Any act of espionage that violates human rights, above all the basic right to privacy, and undermines the sovereignty of nations, deserves to be condemned by any country that calls itself democratic," Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff told reporters on arrival at the meeting.
UPDATE: 7/12/13 12:15 PM ET
US ambassador denies report that he said Snowden is not a "whistleblower"
Michael McFaul, the US ambassador to Russia, reportedly emailed the New Yorker, denying reports that he conveyed a message that Snowden is not considered a "whistleblower."
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) July 12, 2013
A statement published by WikiLeaks included this detail:
"The Human Rights Watch representative used this opportunity to tell Mr Snowden that on her way to the airport she had received a call from the US Ambassador to Russia, who asked her to relay to Mr Snowden that the US Government does not categorise Mr Snowden as a whistleblower and that he has broken United States law. This further proves the United States Government’s persecution of Mr Snowden and therefore that his right to seek and accept asylum should be upheld."
The Guardian reported earlier that Tanya Lokshina, the HRW representative in question, confirmed a call from the US embassy asking her to pass on a message to Snowden that he was not a whistleblower.
UPDATE: 7/12/13 12:05 PM ET
Russian lawmaker says Snowden's asylum application received
Russian Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, who attended Friday's meeting with Snowden, confirmed to state news agency RIA Novosti that the whistleblower has officially applied for asylum in Russia.
UPDATE: 7/12/13 11:50 AM ET
The women next to Snowden
By now, this latest picture of whistleblower Snowden has made the rounds:
— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
The woman seen on the left in the picture is Sarah Harrison, of WikiLeaks.
The Washington Post profiled Harrison earlier in July:
"Harrison’s role within WikiLeaks has taken many forms over the years. A short biography on the WikiLeaks Web site describes her as a member of the group’s “legal defence team.” But Harrison is not a lawyer and studied English while at Queen Mary, University of London."
UPDATE: 7/12/13 11:35 AM ET
Short video of Snowden emerges
Despite a reported ban on video recording equipment in the area, popular Russian tabloid Life News managed to obtain a video clip of the meeting.
In it, Snowden can be seen attempting to make his statement, before being interrupted by an airport announcement in Russian and English. Laughing, he said: "I''ve heard this many times in the last couple weeks."
UPDATE: 7/12/13 11:30 AM ET
Russian lawyer says Snowden has applied for asylum
A prominent Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said that Snowden had applied for political asylum with the Federal Migration Service after meeting with Snowden.
Kucherena also said he would be willing to provide Snowden legal counsel with his asylum application.
However, the Federal Migration Service, as of 6:30 p.m. local time in Moscow, said it had not received an application from Snowden.
Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who also met Snowden, said the whistleblower was asking for temporary asylum in order to be able to travel to another country later.
Lukin said that Snowden could potentially ask for refugee status from the migration service. After that, he could approach the UN Human Rights Commission to receive international refugee status and obtain a travel document.
Lawyer Kucherena explained the potential procedure that Snowden would have to undergo, starting with applying to the Federal Migration Service. His application would then go to the presidential commission on citizenship if approved. The Russian president would have to sign an order granting Snowden asylum.
The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, said Russia must grant Snowden political asylum to save him from the death penalty in the US, according Ekho Moskvy Radio.
Naryshkin, however, declined to comment on whether and how quickly Snowden would receive an offer of asylum from Russia, in an interview with Russia 24 state network. He added that he hopes it will not negatively affect relations with "our American partners."
Influential Duma deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov, who attended the meeting, told the Russia 24 network that it's clear Snowden feels he has "a mission" — and that the whistleblower said multiple times he was acting in the interest of the American people.
Nikonov added: "I haven't met anyone from among my electorate who would consider him to be a criminal."
UPDATE: 7/12/13 11:15 AM ET
Snowden's statement via WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks posted a long statement from Snowden on their site, timestamped 5 p.m. July 12. The preface to the statement noted that:
"The Human Rights Watch representative used this opportunity to tell Mr Snowden that on her way to the airport she had received a call from the US Ambassador to Russia, who asked her to relay to Mr Snowden that the US Government does not categorise Mr Snowden as a whistleblower and that he has broken United States law."
The statement begins:
"Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.
"It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US 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. 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."
Here is another photo of Snowden taken today:
— PaulTOwen (@PaulTOwen) July 12, 2013
UPDATE: 7/12/13 11:00 AM ET
Russians respond to Snowden
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said the Kremlin has not received a request for asylum from Snowden personally. Peskov added that Russia's conditions for granting asylum have not changed.
Those conditions were set forth by Putin earlier in July, when he said, "If [Snowden] wants to stay here, there is one condition — he must stop his work aimed at bringing harm to our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my mouth."
Mikhail Fedotov, the head of Russia's presidential human rights council, said Friday that Russia should not give Snowden asylum, because "The conditions under which Russia was ready to provide political asylum did not suit Mr. Snowden."
Fedetov added that Snowden's actions appeared inconsistent.
Alexei Pushkov, the head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said "If Snowden requests asylum from Russia, the request will be considered, but it will be granted only if he carries out those conditions set out earlier by the president."
Earlier this week, Pushkov tweeted that Snowden had accepted asylum from Venezuela, but later deleted the tweet. He attributed the information to a Russian TV report.
"Inasmuch as there have been no other official statements from the Russian authorities, we can assume that [Putin's] statement is still in force," Pushkov said, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
Pushkov said that Snowden probably decided to stay in Russia because of concerns for his security. "The search of Bolivian President Morales' plane in Vienna showed that those who are searching for Snowden can undertake the must extreme measures in order to catch him."
UPDATE: 7/12/13 9:55 AM ET
Snowden asks Russia for asylum
Contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden made his first public appearance Friday since last month's National Security Agency leaks.
Flanked by WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison on one side at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Snowden said he was applying for political asylum in Russia. He reportedly said, "I am only in a position to accept Russia's offer because of my inability to travel."
No video cameras were allowed in the airport meeting, but The New York Times' Ellen Barry was in touch with Human Rights Watch researcher Tanya Lokshina, who was in the meeting and relayed Snowden's words.
Russia has avoided taking a stance on Snowden's asylum request, with President Vladimir Putin saying early in July, "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition — he must stop his work aimed at bringing harm to our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my mouth."
Snowden responded to Putin's condition Friday, saying, "No actions I take or plan are meant to harm the US. ... I want the US to succeed," according to Lokshina.
Lokshina said Snowden plans to submit an asylum request once again to Russia, though he plans to travel to Latin America eventually. He also thanked Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador for their offers of asylum.
Snowden petitioned rights groups and the rights workers present at the meeting to plead his case, according to Lokshina.
— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Several Russian rights workers had confirmed they would attend the Friday meeting requested by Snowden in response to an “unlawful campaign” against him by the United States government.
Sergei Nikitin, the head of Amnesty International’s Moscow office, and Vladimir Lukin, the Kremlin-appointed human rights ombudsman, are among those who confirmed to Russian news agencies that they would accept the invitation to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, reportedly sent Thursday from an email address supposedly belonging to Snowden.
The note, which could not be verified, requested the attendance of a slew of well-known rights workers and lawyers “for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation,” according to a copy of the invitation posted Lokshina.
It was sent from the email address “firstname.lastname@example.org,” according to Lokshina’s post, and signed “Edward Joseph Snowden.”
More from GlobalPost: Back to the future: Kremlin invests in typewriters to avoid leaks
Airport officials confirmed to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that the meeting would indeed take place.
Snowden applied for asylum in more than 20 countries, though after a series of rejections only Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia still appear open to hosting the whistleblower.
But it remains unclear how he would be able to leave the airport, where he is believed to have been hiding since his arrival in Russia on June 23. US authorities revoked his passport as Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow.
“Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the US Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the note said.
Respected Russian lawyer Genri Reznik speculated that Snowden, should the meeting prove to be genuine, may ask to remain in Russia, news agency Interfax reported before the meeting took place.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax that no representatives of the Russian government were invited, and that the Kremlin has nothing to do with Snowden.
More from GlobalPost: 11 disturbing things Snowden has taught us (so far)