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Snowden breaks silence during asylum quest to slam Obama

July 1, 2013 at 9:56 PM   |   Comments

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MOSCOW, July 1 (UPI) -- Fugitive U.S. intelligence leak source Edward Snowden broke his silence Monday to accuse President Obama of using the "old, bad tools of political aggression."

Snowden, who is holed up in Moscow while he seeks a country that will grant him political asylum, charged in a statement posted on WikiLeaks.com the leader of the world's most powerful country has been "pressuring" other countries to shun him.

"On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic 'wheeling and dealing' over my case," Snowden wrote. "Yet now 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.

"This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me."

He went on to say while the United States has a history of being "one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum," the Obama administration "has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon."

"Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person," Snowden continued. "Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum."

Snowden then put himself in the category of whistle-blowers Bradley Manning and Thomas Drake.

"We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless," he said, adding the Obama administration is "afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised -- and it should be."

After Ecuador rejected his plea for protection, the American fugitive sought political asylum in 15 countries, a Russian diplomatic official said.

The former National Security Agency contractor met with Russian diplomatic officials and handed them an appeal to 15 countries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"It was a desperate measure on his part after Ecuador disavowed his political protection credentials," an unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official said.

The official did not disclose the names of the countries, but the British Broadcasting Corp., citing Foreign Ministry Consul Kim Shevchenko, said a request to Russia for political asylum was made Sunday night.

The meeting took place in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where Snowden has apparently been in residence since fleeing Hong Kong in search of a nation that will harbor him, the BBC said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday Snowden can stay in Russia but "must stop his work aimed at harming our U.S. partners," Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Putin added Russia has no immediate plans to extradite Snowden and denied Snowden ever had ties to the Russian intelligence services.

Snowden's situation will not upset U.S.-China relations, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday during a summit in Brunei.

The United States has been critical of China's involvement in the Snowden affair, but Kerry struck a conciliatory chord, saying international relationships are "often complicated."

Snowden's ability to avoid detention in Hong Kong and travel to Moscow despite a U.S. request he be arrested prompted an angry response by Obama administration officials as the drama first played out.

The White House last week described the development as a "serious setback" to U.S.-China relations and Kerry warned it would have "consequences" for ties with Beijing.

China was accused of facilitating a flight to Moscow by Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information about cellphone and Internet monitoring programs. At first he was holed up in Hong Kong, then fled to Moscow and reportedly was seeking to travel to another country to avoid being returned to the United States, where he faces at least two spy-related charges.

Kerry, after meeting with his Chinese counterpart during a conference in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, hosted by Southeast Asian nations, said the Snowden matter was one of many diplomatic issues and noted that Beijing has been helpful in pressuring North Korea to refrain from provocative actions, The New York Times reported.

"Life in international relationships is often complicated by the fact that you have many things you have to work on simultaneously, and so we will continue to do that even as we are obviously concerned about what happened with Mr. Snowden," he said.

What happens to Snowden is Russia's call, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said.

"He's in the international area of the Moscow airport, but basically under the care of the Russian authorities," Correa told Times. "Strictly speaking, the case is not in our hands."

Snowden's U.S. passport has been revoked. With no valid passport, he would normally not be able to pass through Russian immigration control or travel on to another country.

A Russian immigration official told the Times Snowden had not applied for a visa. The official said Snowden could remain in the transit zone of Moscow's airport indefinitely if he wanted.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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