"I did the right thing."
That's what NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said Friday at a meeting held at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow where he sat down with representatives from international human rights groups to explain his case and ask for their support.
"I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing," Snowden said to those gathered at the meeting.
"I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice." –Edward Snowden
"I did not seek to enrich myself," he said. "I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice."
"That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly," Snowden continued, "but... I have no regrets."
In addition, Snowden clarified that his asylum status remained perilous. Though he formally accepted all offers of asylum that have been granted him so far—including Russia's—Snowdent said that until he can travel without fear the US will attempt to capture him, his rights are being unlawfully abridged.
"As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law," he said, making a clear reference to the forced landing of Bolivian President Evo Morales' airplane earlier this month. "This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights."
Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International's Moscow office, was at the meeting and said his organization was please to reiterate its previously stated support for Snowden in person.
“We will continue to pressure governments to ensure his rights are respected - this includes the unassailable right to claim asylum wherever he may choose," Nikitin said. “What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified. He has exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programmes that unquestionably interfere with an individual’s right to privacy."
He said that US behavior so far has been an affront to international protections for asylum seekers and an attack on the freedom of expression.
“Instead of addressing or even owning up to these blatant breaches, the US government is more intent on persecuting him. Attempts to pressure governments to block his efforts to seek asylum are deplorable,” he concluded.
Common Dreams has posted his full statement here, but the Guardian provided this breakdown of key points (bolding theirs):
• He said that his revelations of his professional “capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications, anyone’s communications, at any time” had drawn attention to “a serious violations of the law”, under the US constitution and the universal declaration of human rights. He hit back at US claims that secret court rulings legalised such surveillance, saying: “These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done.”
• He invoked the second world war and the crimes of the Nazis by claiming he was acting according to principles set down at the Nuremburg trials, namely that individuals have a duty to humanity over and above their duty to their country. “individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring,” he said.
• Snowden said that he had not aimed to enrich himself by passing on his secrets, and nor had he “partnered” with any foreign government to guarantee his safety.
• He said the US had violated international laws in putting pressure on other countries not to take him in, something he said represented a threat to “the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum”.
• He said nations including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador had offered him asylum and said he accepted all of the offers and any others he may be given in the future. Referring specifically to Venezuela, he said his “asylee status” was now formal and said no country had a right to limit his right to take up that offer. But because of the “unlawful threat” of the US and European countries it was currently “impossible” for him to travel to Latin America to take up such an offer.
• He asked Human Rights Watch and Amnesty to assist him in securing guarantees of safe passage to Latin America, and to help him with his asylum request to Moscow.