Snowden Releases Statement: Unbowed in Convictions
(CNN) — The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks released a statement attributed to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Monday, blasting the Obama administration for trying to block his efforts to seek asylum in another country.
“These are the old, bad tools of political aggression,” Snowden said in the statement issued through WikiLeaks, which has been assisting his effort to find a haven from U.S. espionage charges. “Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
He added, “I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.”
Snowden had sought asylum in Ecuador after revealing details of secret U.S. surveillance programs to reporters. He flew to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 after the United States requested his extradition, and there were conflicting reports Monday about whether he was now seeking asylum in Russia.
Snowden argued that he had a right to seek asylum under international law, and he criticized the Obama administration for yanking his passport once criminal charges were filed, “leaving me a stateless person.” But he said the administration isn’t afraid of people like him or others accused of disclosing U.S. secrets.
“No, the Obama administration is afraid of you,” he said. “It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.”
Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Monday that Snowden had requested asylum there, quoting a consular official at the Moscow airport. But the semi-official Interfax news agency continued to report that the head of Russia’s immigration services denied any asylum request had been made.
The confusion reflected the diplomatic tensions over the status of Snowden, the former NSA computer contractor who has admitted leaking classified documents on U.S. surveillance programs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the door to Snowden possibly remaining in Russia on Monday, saying he “must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wants to stay. Putin had said Snowden should depart the airport for his final destination, wherever it might be.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters that “We don’t have information one way or another” about a new asylum request. Snowden still appears to be in Russia, “and our position is the same that he should be expelled and returned home here to the U.S.”
Earlier Monday, President Barack Obama said Snowden traveled to Russia without a valid passport or legal papers and that he hoped that Moscow would handle the case as it would any other travel-related matter. He confirmed that the United States and Russia have had “high-level” discussions about Snowden, after an earlier report from Russia that the two nations’ top law enforcement officials were working together to resolve the situation.
Snowden has revealed himself as the source of classified documents outlining U.S. surveillance of overseas e-mails related to terrorism, as well as the collection of phone records as a database for further court-approved investigation. Though he sought asylum in Ecuador, that country’s president said over the weekend that it was up to Russia to decide where Snowden travels next.
Correa said Vice President Joe Biden has asked Ecuador “to please reject” Snowden’s request.
Snowden was in Hong Kong when his initial leaks were published by the Guardian newspaper in London and then the Washington Post. He has been in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, which is international territory, since landing there June 23.
Snowden says he is leaking the classified information because he believes the U.S. surveillance programs being revealed exceed constitutional limits.
According to the RIA Novosti report Monday, a British woman aiding Snowden handed over documents requesting political asylum in Russia to the consular station of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday night. It attributed the information to Kim Shevchenko, a duty consul at the Russian consular station at the Moscow airport.
Meanwhile, Interfax reported that the head of Russia’s immigration services, Konstantin Romodanovsky, denied such an asylum request had occurred.
CNN’s Steve Brusk, Barbara Starr, Miriam Falco, Kathryn Tancos, Alexander Hunter, Claudia Rebaza, Patrick Oppmann, Josh Levs, Catherine Shoichet and Susanna Palk contributed to this report.