Snowden's Purgatory: Whistleblower Speaks Out as Saga over Asylum Continues
In addition to a pair of personal statements from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that have surfaced in the last twenty-four hours, Snowden's attempt to gain safe passage to a destination country willing to offer him political asylum has become increasingly complex.
The first statement from Snowden, an open letter to the global public and released late Monday, accused Barack Obama of betraying earlier assurances that he would not permit diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" over the whistleblower's case after news reports indicated Vice President Biden had made a series of calls to countries where Snowden is believed to have sought asylum, urging them to refuse the applications.
"This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile," said Snowden in the statement. "These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me."
Though it was reported Monday that Russia was among fifteen countries where Snowden had applied for political asylum, the Guardian reports Tuesday that Snowden "withdrew the request" after Russia's President Vladimir Putin made it "clear that he would be welcome only if he stopped 'his work aimed at bringing harm' to the United States."
Ecuador, the country that seemed the most eager to help Snowden in his international and diplomatic travails, took a giant step back from the controversy after its president, Rafeal Correa, said the nation's issuance of travel documents to Snowden by a lower-level diplomat before he left Hong Kong nearly two weeks ago was a "mistake".
Though Correa said his country would still honor and review Snowden's asylum request if he arrived in Ecuador or one of its foreign embassies, he said that Ecuador could do nothing to help him escape the Moscow airport where he remains.
"The right of asylum request is one thing but helping someone travel from one country to another — Ecuador has never done this," said Correa.
The timing of Correa's latest statements on the matter came just hours before a second communique from Snowden became available. This was a letter addressed to Correa in which the whistleblower thanked the Latin American leader for his support and his nation's willingness to stand up to the United States when it came to human rights and free speech.
In the letter, written in Spanish but obtained and translated by the Press Association, Snowden says:
The decisive action of your consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, guaranteed my rights would be protected upon departing Hong Kong – I could never have risked travel without that. Now, as a result, and through the continued support of your government, I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest.
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.
Whether irony, poor timing, or a calculated gesture to improve his standing with Correa, the letter does little to solve Snowden's immediate problem of finding a way to leave Russia while still avoiding the clutches of the US government.
According to WikiLeaks, Snowden has requested asylum from Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela.
It remains unclear, of course, how his travel situation will unfold or whether or not the Russians will continue to make the Sheremetyevo airport a refuge for homeless—and now stateless—whistleblowers.