Published June 29, 2013
Vice President Biden personally intervened in the case of Edward Snowden, calling Ecuador's president to urge him to reject the NSA leaker's asylum request.
The move comes after President Obama on Thursday said he had not phoned world leaders on the matter because he "shouldn't have to" -- and because he doesn't want to start "wheeling and dealing" with other nations to extradite a "hacker."
But as the stalemate dragged on, Biden on Friday phoned Ecuador's Rafael Correa. It marked the highest-level conversation between the U.S. and Ecuador that has been publicly disclosed since Snowden began seeking asylum from that country.
Correa said he had a "friendly and very cordial" conversation with Biden, and told the vice president that Ecuador hadn't sought to be put in the situation of deciding whether to harbor an American fugitive. Correa said Ecuador can't consider the asylum request until Snowden is on Ecuadorean soil.
"The moment that he arrives, if he arrives, the first thing is we'll ask the opinion of the United States, as we did in the Assange case with England," Correa said. "But the decision is ours to make."
Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, has been given asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London.
Ecuador is just one of the countries Snowden is looking to for help in evading U.S. criminal charges. According to WikiLeaks, he's also sought asylum in Iceland. Plus he was able to leave Hong Kong last weekend without interference and travel to Moscow, where he has spent the last several days waiting in the main airport's transit zone.
Russia so far has declined to get involved in the case, despite pleas from the U.S.
The Guardian, though, reported Friday that there may be tensions between Correa and Assange, jeopardizing any potential plan to shuttle Snowden into the Latin American country.
The Guardian reported that Correa recently nullified a travel document that could have helped Snowden come to Ecuador. Snowden already had his U.S. passport revoked. Without the Ecuador documents, Snowden's options for leaving the Moscow airport further diminished.
Correa, in a weekly television address, praised Biden for being more courteous than U.S. senators who have threatened economic penalties if Ecuador doesn't cooperate.
At the same time, Correa rebuked the Obama administration for hypocrisy, invoking the case of two bankers, brothers Roberto and William Isaias, whom Ecuador is seeking to extradite from the U.S.
"Let's be consistent," Correa said. "Have rules for everyone, because that is a clear double-standard here."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.