Edward Snowden Threatens New U.S. Leaks, Applies for Russian Asylum
Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden broke his silence on Monday (July 1) for the first time since fleeing to Moscow to say he remains free to make new disclosures about U.S. spying activity.
In a letter to Ecuador, Snowden said the United States was illegally persecuting him for revealing its electronic surveillance programme, PRISM, but made it clear he did not intend to be muzzled.
"I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest," he said in an undated letter in Spanish sent to Ecuador's President Rafael Correa.
"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 realise a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank."
The WikiLeaks organisation on Monday released a statement that said Snowden claimed the Obama administration was denying him his right to seek asylum.
"It is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions," Snowden said in a statement published on the WikiLeaks website, referring to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
"This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile."
The United States has been on an international manhunt for Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who faces espionage charges for leaking classified information about secret U.S. phone and internet surveillance activity. He is believed to be holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
Snowden's intervention came after he had applied for political asylum in Russia. President Vladimir Putin had earlier said he was not welcome unless he stopped harming U.S. interests.
[Edward Snowden, EX-CIA Employee]:
"When you see everything, you see them on a more frequent basis, and you recognise that some of these things are actually abuses. And when you talk to people about them, in a place like this where this is the normal state of business, people tend not to take them very seriously and you know, move on from them. But over time, that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up and you feel compelled to talk about it. And the more you talk about it, the more you're ignored, the more you're told it's not a problem, until eventually you realise that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who's simply hired by the government."
Believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, Snowden poured scorn on the U.S. government.
"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," he wrote in the letter to Ecuador.
Wikileaks activist Sarah Harrison, who is travelling with Snowden, handed his asylum application to a consular official in the transit area at Sheremetyevo airport late on Sunday (June 30), Kim Shevchenko, a consul at the airport, told Reuters.
The Los Angeles Times, citing an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official, reported that Snowden had met Russian diplomats and given them a list of 15 countries where he wished to apply for asylum. Foreign Ministry and Kremlin officials declined immediate comment on the reports.
Putin, speaking eight days after Snowden landed in Moscow, repeated that Russia had no intention of handing him over to the United States, where he faces espionage charges.
For the second time in a week, Putin said Russian intelligence agencies were not working with the 30-year-old American.
Correa said on Sunday that Snowden's fate was in Russia's hands because Ecuador could not consider the plea until he reached Ecuador or one of its embassies.