US president pledged to avoid ‘wheeling and dealing’ while bullying countries that might grant asylum, says whistleblower
Edward Snowden has accused Barack Obama of deception for promising in public to avoid diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over his extradition, while privately pressuring countries to refuse his requests for asylum.
Snowden, the surveillance whistleblower who is thought to be trapped in the legal limbo of a transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, used his first public comments since fleeing Hong Kong to attack the US for revoking his passport. He also accused his country of bullying nations that might grant him asylum.
“On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic ‘wheeling and dealing’ over my case,” Snowden said in a statement released by WikiLeaks.
“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.”
Snowden’s increasingly desperate predicament became further apparent on Monday night with the leak of a letter he had written to Ecuador praising its “bravery” and expressing “deep respect and sincere thanks” for considering his request for political asylum.
But the change in mood in Quito, already apparent at the end of last week, was underlined by an interview Rafael Correa, the president, gave to the Guardian on Monday in which he insisted Ecuador will not now help Snowden leave Moscow and never intended to facilitate his attempted flight to South America.
Correa blamed earlier signs of encouragement on a misunderstanding by its London embassy.
“That we are responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical. The country that has to give him a safe conduct document is Russia,” Correa said at the presidential palace in Quito. Correa said his government did not intentionally help Snowden travel from Hong Kong to Moscow with a temporary travel pass. “It was a mistake on our part.”
In his statement through WikiLeaks, which has been assisting him since he left Hong Kong on 10 June, Snowden contrasted the current US approach to his extradition with its previous support of political dissidents in other countries.
“For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum,” he said. “Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the US in article 14 of the universal declaration of human rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country.”
Snowden also accused the Obama administration of “using citizenship as a weapon”, which has apparently left him unable to leave the airport in Moscow.
“Although I am convicted of nothing, [the US] has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person,” he said. “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.”
Moscow confirmed earlier on Monday that Snowden had applied for political asylum in Russia. The LA Times said Snowden had made similar applications to a total of 15 countries.
The former NSA contractor struck a defiant tone on Monday night. “In the end, the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake,” he said. “We are stateless, imprisoned or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you.
“It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised – and it should be. I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.”
His statement also came shortly after one of Obama’s top intelligence officials, US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was forced to apologise to Congress for “erroneous” claims that the US did not collect data on its own citizens.
Snowden paid tribute to those who had helped him force such disclosures.
“One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth,” he said.
“My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.”