23 Jun 2013

Edward Snowden ‘asks Ecuador for asylum’

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino says that former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has asked Ecuador for asylum.

A plane believed to be carrying Mr Snowden landed in Russia on Sunday but airport officials could not confirm that he was on board.

The Aeroflot flight, SU213, landed in Moscow at 17:10 local time, 13:10 GMT. A source at the Russian airline said he had booked a seat on the flight.

Snowden, an intelligence analyst, fled to Hong Kong in May after revealing details of extensive internet and phone surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

On Saturday, the White House contacted Hong Kong to try to arrange his extradition.

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The South China Morning Post reported that Snowden’s final destination may be Ecuador or Iceland, but Russian news agencies Interfax and Itar-Tass say that he is booked on a flight from Moscow to Cuba on Monday. Itar-Tass cited its source as saying Snowden would fly from Havana to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that Mr Snowden had asked Ecuador for asylum.

“The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden,” Patino, who is on an official visit to Vietnam, said on Twitter.

The US Justice Department says it will seek cooperation of countries where the whistleblower may be heading.

An ‘assault against people’

WikiLeaks tweeted on Sunday morning that it had assisted Edward Snowden’s political asylum and his “safe exit” from Hong Kong.

It then said in a statement on Sunday afternoon that Mr Snowden was bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum.

Former Spanish Judge Mr Baltasar Garzon, legal director of WikiLeaks and lawyer for Julian Assange said: “The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person.

“What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people.”

Snowden ‘betrayed’ trust

The head of the National Security Agency said he did not know why his agency failed to prevent Edward Snowden from leaving Hawaii for Hong Kong with a trove of secrets about US surveillance programmes.

“It’s clearly an individual who’s betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This is an individual who is not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent,” General Keith Alexander told the ABC News “This Week” programme.

Snowden had been working as a contractor for the NSA in Hawaii when he fled to Hong Kong and he flew to Moscow on Sunday.

Asked if he knew why the NSA did not catch Snowden before he left Hawaii, Alexander said: “No, I don’t.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Edward Snowden’s reported choice to fly to Cuba and Venezuela undermines his whistleblower claims.

“Everyone of those nations is hostile to the United States, the Michigan Republican said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” news talk show.

The US government must exhaust all legal options to get Snowden back to the United States, Rogers said.

“When you think about what he says he wants and what his actions are, it defies logic,” said Rogers, who repeated his assertion that Snowden’s leaks of secret government surveillance programs had damaged US national security.