Snowden’s fate unclear despite asylum offers
FILE - This June 23, 2013 file photo shows a TV screen shows a news report of Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, at a shopping mall in Hong Kong. The saga of Edward Snowden and the NSA makes one thing clear: The United States' central role in developing the Internet and hosting its most powerful players has made it the global leader in the surveillance game . Other countries, from dictatorships to democracies, are also avid snoopers, tapping into the high-capacity fiber optic cables to intercept Internet traffic, scooping their citizens' data off domestic servers, and even launching cyberattacks to win access to foreign networks. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)
Venezuelas President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a military promotion ceremony at the 4F military museum in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, July 5, 2013. Venezuela marks on Friday the 202 anniversary of independence from Spain. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega speaks during a ceremony marking the 34th anniversary of the withdrawal to Masaya, a tactical move by the Sandinistas that was critical in the overthrow of Anastasio Somoza's dictatorship in 1979, in Managua, Nicaragua, Friday, July 5, 2013. The presidents of Nicaragua and Venezuela offered Friday to grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, one day after leftist South American leaders gathered to denounce the rerouting of Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane over Europe amid reports that the American was aboard. (AP Photo/Lucia Silva)
This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, in Hong Kong, Sunday, June 9, 2013. According to a Department of Justice official on Friday, June 21, 2013, a criminal complaint has been filed against Snowden in the NSA surveillance case. (AP Photo/The Guardian) MANDATORY CREDIT
Edward Snowden has found supporters in Latin America, including three countries that have offered him asylum. But many obstacles stand in the way of the fugitive NSA leaker from leaving a Russian airport – chief among them the power and influence of the United States.
Because Snowden’s U.S. passport has been revoked, the logistics of him departing are complicated. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have made asylum offers over the past few days, but the three countries haven’t indicated they would help Snowden by issuing a travel document, which he would need to leave Russia.
The former NSA systems analyst, who is charged with violating U.S. espionage laws, is believed to be stuck in the transit area of Moscow’s main international airport after arriving June 23 from Hong Kong.
Russia doesn’t appear willing to help him leave the airport, with Kremlin spokesman Alexei Pavlov saying yesterday the issue of Snowden’s travel documents is “not our business.” On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Snowden would be offered asylum in Russia if he stopped leaking U.S. secrets. Snowden then withdrew his Russian asylum bid, a Russian official said.
While President Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden’s movements, saying last month that he wouldn’t be “scrambling jets” to capture him, other senior U.S. officials have used unusually harsh language that they want him back.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said China had “unquestionably” damaged its relationship with Washington for not returning Snowden, who recently turned 30, from semi-autonomous Hong Kong while he was still there.
“The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust,” Carney said last month. “We think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem.”
China may be reluctant to further complicate its relationship with the U.S. by allowing Snowden back in Hong Kong, even if only as a transfer point to Latin America.
Snowden has asked for asylum in more than 20 countries and many have turned him down. WikiLeaks, which has been helping Snowden, said Friday he had submitted asylum applications to six new countries, which the secret-spilling website declined to identify “due to attempted U.S. interference.”
The asylum offers from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia came after leftist South American leaders gathered to denounce the rerouting of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane over Europe amid reports that the fugitive American was aboard.
Spain said it had been warned along with other European countries that Snowden was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane, an acknowledgement the manhunt for the fugitive leaker had something to do with the plane’s unexpected diversion to Austria. It is unclear whether Washington warned Madrid about the Bolivian president’s plane.
Yesterday, Morales offered asylum to Snowden, but didn’t say if Bolivia had received a request from him.
“I want to tell those Europeans and North Americans that as a just protest we now will give asylum to that North American who is persecuted by his compatriots,” Morales said during an appearance in the indigenous town of Chipaya.
U.S. officials have declined to comment on the grounding of Morales’s plane. They said they won’t give details about their conversations with European countries, except to say that they have stated Washington’s general position that it wants Snowden back.