Published July 02, 2013
NSA leaker Edward Snowden broke his weeklong silence on Monday, defending his “right to seek asylum” while separately claiming he remains “free and able” to publish sensitive information on U.S. surveillance.
The statements came as Wikileaks revealed that Snowden had made requests for asylum or asylum assistance to 19 additional countries around the world, following earlier requests made to the countries of Ecuador and Iceland.
In a statement issued on the WikiLeaks website, Snowden attacked the Obama administration, saying, “On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic ‘wheeling and dealing’ over my case. 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."
He 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."
Separately, in a letter in Spanish sent by Snowden to Ecuador President Rafael Correa and obtained and translated by Britain's Press Association, he declared, "I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest. No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world.”
It was the first known statement from Snowden since he flew out of Hong Kong into Moscow more than a week ago.
Late Monday, Wikileaks released the names of the 19 additional countries to which Snowden had made requests. Those countries are: Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Venezuela. The organization said the requests were delivered to a Russian consulate official at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport Sunday evening by Wikileaks' legal adviser in the Snowden case, Sarah Harrison, and were due to be delivered by the consulate to the various national embassies in Moscow.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Norway's foreign ministry said an asylum application had been received by that country's embassy in Moscow. Frode Andersen told Reuters that the request was received by fax Monday afternoon and was "allegedly signed by" Snowden, but added "we have no way of checking that." Andersen did not elaborate on the content of the application and declined to disclose from where it was sent.
The Interfax News Agency quoted a Russian official as saying that Harrison had also delivered Snowden's request for political asylum in Russia Sunday.
Yet Russia's President Vladimir Putin publicly issued a condition for any asylum request from Snowden -- he must stop leaking America's secrets.
"If he wants to go somewhere and there are those who would take him, he is welcome to do so," Putin said. "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips."
Snowden’s letter to Ecuador gave no indication he plans to meet that condition, though the letter may have been sent before Putin’s comments.
Putin addressed the controversy as Obama, during a visit to Tanzania, reiterated that he's "hopeful" Russia will take up the United States' request for extradition.
"There have been high-level discussions with the Russians about trying to find a solution to the problem," Obama said.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told Reuters Tuesday that Snowden "deserves the world's protection." He told the news agency that Caracas had not received a request for asylum.
Officials still believe Snowden is in the transit zone somewhere in the Moscow airport. He found his status even more in limbo late last week, after Ecuador revoked travel documents that WikiLeaks, which is aiding Snowden, got from a lower-level Ecuadorian official.
With the U.S. also revoking Snowden's passport, Snowden has no apparent way -- at the moment -- to leave the Moscow airport without risking arrest.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, while saying he could not confirm Snowden's latest asylum request, reiterated that the U.S. can issue Snowden "one-entry travel documents" back to the United States, where he would presumably face the charges against him.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.