Screw it, says NSA leaker Snowden: I’m applying for asylum in Russia
Cornered NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has surfaced in Moscow’s Sheremetevo International Airport – and he’s seeking temporary asylum in Russia.
Snowden, who blew the lid off the Americans’ mass surveillance of the planet’s internet, previously requested asylum in the country, but withdrew it after President Vladimir Putin said that would only be possible if the leaker stopped harming the US (he must “cease his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners”, as the ex-KGB officer put it).
But it was revealed during a press conference today that the whistleblower has again applied for political asylum in Moscow to avoid extradition to the States.
Snowden sat before the media alongside representatives from WikiLeaks, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch in the airport where he has been in hiding for weeks.
The American government, seeking to capture the ex-spook contractor, has been lobbying countries to turn away Snowden, and cancelled his passport shortly before he travelled between Hong Kong and Moscow on 23 May.
The US authorities are also suspected of incorrectly warning European nations that Snowden was onboard the presidential jet of Bolivian premier Evo Morales as it flew over Austria from Russia last week.
That rumour prompted officials to ground the aircraft in Vienna and search the plane for Snowden. Morales’ private jet was en route from an energy conference in Moscow to his home in La Paz, Bolivia. In addition, the US has preemptively filed extradition requests to countries considering offering Snowden a bolt-hole.
Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia all said they would offer asylum to the NSA leaker in the wake of the Bolivian president plane inspection, which ignited indignation among left-leaning Latin American governments. That still leaves the problem of how he might reach South American soil without passing through either US or a friendly nation’s airspace.
Snowden and his team reckon the only way he can guarantee his safety for now, before attempting to obtain asylum in Latin America countries, is to gain temporary asylum in Russia. Snowden’s physical security in his precarious position ultimately depends on keeping the Russians on-side so the move makes sense, it would seem.
Disappointingly, there was no word from the press conference on what Snowden made of smoking-hot though ineffective former Russian spy-turned-TV-presenter/model Anna Chapman’s marriage proposal, which would presumably involve a more permanent stay in Russia. ®