National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has released his first public statement since leaving Hong Kong. It shows that he remains resolute in his conviction that what he did by providing documents to Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian was right. He continues to press for some country to grant him asylum, but he is concerned about how he thinks the United States government is obstructing his ability to exercise his human right and seek asylum.
The statement posted by WikiLeaks is as follows:
One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. 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.
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. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.
For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. 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.
In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. 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.
Edward Joseph Snowden
Monday 1st July 2013
While it contains no information on what exactly happened that led to him not boarding the flight from Moscow to Havana and why he has remained in the Moscow airport for over a week, its significance may be to show that he still has the spirit of a whistleblower and has not turned into a spy, despite the wild speculation of commentators on cable news networks like CNN.
“We’ve got a whole lot of business that we do with Russia and China and I’m not going to have one case of a suspect, who we’re trying to extradite, suddenly being elevated to the point where I’ve got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues simply to get a guy extradited so he can face the justice system in the United States,” President Barack Obama said during a press conference on June 27.
More importantly, he said that Russia and China should “recognize that they are part of an international community and they should be abiding by international law.” But the right of asylum is a part of international law and being a “part of an international community” should mean respecting requests for asylum.
Snowden also sent a letter to Ecuador President Rafael Correa expressing gratitude:
There are few world leaders who would risk standing for the human rights of an individual against the most powerful government on earth, and the bravery of Ecuador and its people is an example to the world.
I must express my deep respect for your principles and sincere thanks for your government’s action in considering my request for political asylum.
The government of the United States of America has built the world’s largest system of surveillance. This global system affects every human life touched by technology; recording, analysing, and passing secret judgment over each member of the international public.
It is a grave violation of our universal human rights when a political system perpetuates automatic, pervasive and unwarranted spying against innocent people.
In accordance with this belief, I revealed this program to my country and the world. While the public has cried out support of my shining a light on this secret system of injustice, the government of the United States of America responded with an extrajudicial manhunt costing me my family, my freedom to travel and my right to live peacefully without fear of illegal aggression.
As I face this persecution, there has been silence from governments afraid of the United States government and their threats. Ecuador however, rose to stand and defend the human right to seek asylum.
The decisive action of your consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, guaranteed my rights would be protected upon departing Hong Kong – I could never have risked travel without that. Now, as a result, and through the continued support of your government, 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. If any of those days ahead realise a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank.
Please accept my gratitude on behalf of your government and the people of the Republic of Ecuador, as well as my great personal admiration of your commitment to doing what is right rather than what is rewarding.
Edward Joseph Snowden
According to Ecuadorian newspaper, El Universo, Fidel Narvaez, consul of Ecuador in London, gave Snowden a “transit permit” or travel document to reach Ecuador. This was not cleared by the Ecuador government and Correa said the document lacked authority.
“What is the validity of a pass issued by a consul in London for someone who traveled from Hong Kong to Moscow? None,” said the president, according to El Universo.
This has prompted reports that there is tension or friction between Ecuador and WikiLeaks, that Ecuador does not want WikiLeaks to appear as if it is running the show. It has even seemed like Correa has cooled to the idea of granting Snowden asylum. And WikiLeaks editor-in-chief even sent an email saying he ”hoped his role in the Snowden matter hadn’t embarrassed the government,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The letter to Correa is likely an effort to help smooth over any conflict that may have arisen. Snowden has been with WikiLeaks Legal Defense team member, Sarah Harrison, and likely remained in communication with staff members of WikiLeaks on what is happening.
The latest report is that Harrison “approached the consular office in Sheremetyevo’s Terminal F [Moscow airport] carrying a request for political asylum in Russia.” A consular officer on duty named Kim Shevchenko accepted the request and “called the foreign ministry.” A courier was sent over an hour later to study the request. Putin said that same day that Snowden needed to stop harming Russia’s “American partners” if he wished to remain in Russia.
While it is entirely speculation, one could presume Snowden would be conscious of the fact that he would be perceived to be more of a defector and spy than he would be if he made it to Ecuador. The publishing of a statement on WikiLeaks and the letter to Ecuador made public could be part of a next move to try and improve the possibility that Ecuador grants him asylum.