Snowden: US engaging in “unlawful” attempt to block my asylum; Update: Asks for asylum in Russia?

posted at 10:01 am on July 12, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Unlawful“? Would that be something like taking material one doesn’t own, breaking security agreements one made, and publishing state secrets while fleeing to human-rights paradises like China and Russia?  Edward Snowden lashed out at the US’ aggressive attempts to force its former national-security worker back to face charges of illegal distribution of classified material by claiming the right to avoid prosecution:

The United States is preventing Edward Snowden from seeking asylum despite offers from “brave countries,” a new letter sent to human rights groups from the whistleblower says.

“I have been extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world,” Snowden writes in the letter and posted by a Human Rights Watch staff member to Facebook.

“Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Snowden continues.

Previously, Snowden complained about the Obama administration using his passport “as a weapon,” stranding him in the international transit area of a Moscow airport.  Apparently, Snowden never bothered to actually read his passport (or his clearance paperwork either), where on Page 5 it makes clear that passports are the property of the US government, not the holder.  Passports are a government-to-government request for safe conduct for the holder, which can be revoked by the issuing government at any time.  Similarly, governments have the right to revoke that status when the holder is wanted for felonies committed before fleeing the country.  Article 14 is not the Get Out Of Jail Free card from Monopoly, and the US isn’t exactly, er … China.

Today, Snowden’s complaint is about the grounding of a flight on which Snowden didn’t fly, but Bolivian president Evo Morales did.  That has few people desiring to help Snowden out of his current predicament, which understandably makes him unhappy, but planes don’t have unfettered rights to fly through the airspace of other countries, either.  Morales may have cause for diplomatic complaint — and he probably does — but Snowden is only president of his own fan club, which doesn’t carry any diplomatic consideration.

Snowden is meeting with human-rights groups in the Moscow airport sometime today to put pressure on the US to back off and allow him to leave:

In the letter posted on the Facebook page of Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina, Snowden said the meeting was intended to discuss “the next steps forward in my situation”, but did not disclose any specific details.

Human rights groups Transparency International and Amnesty International also confirmed they had received emails inviting them to a meeting at the airport.

“Yes, I have received a brief email. It said that he would like to meet with a representative of a human rights organization – there was not much information there. I’m planning to go,” said Sergei Nikitin, the head of Amnesty International Russia.

Interestingly, Russia is sending its own envoy to the meeting:

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports the Russian government’s official ombudsman and human rights commissioner Vladimir Lukin — who, incidentally, was also Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S. during the early 1990s — said he was going to the meeting and that Snowden’s official immigration and travel status would be discussed.

Political analysts in Russia believe the airport meeting might be the Russian government’s way of trying to end the Snowden standoff, suggesting that if human rights campaigners emerge with a consensus that the former intelligence official does have a legitimate claim to asylum as a political refugee, that may provide Russia the geopolitical company (and the cover) it needs to defy the U.S. and put him on a plane to Latin America.

According to the email invite received by HRW’s Lokhshina, Snowden would give the officials attending the meeting at Sheremetyevo “a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward” in his travel predicament.

Having put himself in Russia, Snowden’s only route out of his predicament is through Russia.  It’s either that or find himself given the Evo Morales treatment.  In the end, I think Putin will risk the diplomatic headache and allow himself the fun of tweaking Barack Obama by offering Snowden either refuge or safe passage to an embassy of his choice in Moscow.  Obama doesn’t exactly put forward a menacing figure on the world stage to prevent it, after all.

Update: Is Biden better at pressuring world leaders into staying away from Snowden? We’ll see:

The United States is conducting a diplomatic full-court press to try to block Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American intelligence contractor, from finding refuge in Latin America, where three left-leaning governments that make defying Washington a hallmark of their foreign policies have publicly vowed to take him in.

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.

If Biden scores a diplomatic victory, it’ll be one more than Hillary Clinton had during her entire tenure as Secretary of State.

Update: If the BBC has this right, it seems that Snowden has reached the same conclusion:

https://twitter.com/BBCBreaking/status/355683202641305601

The AP also picks up on a Russian report saying the same thing:

https://twitter.com/AP/status/355684628801134593

The WSJ believes the request is temporary in nature, and designed to get him to South America at some point:

https://twitter.com/WSJbreakingnews/status/355684542868226048


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