PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden has blasted the US government and President Obama for "deception" and trying to sabotage his right to asylum, as news breaks that the former NSA contractor has withdrawn his application for asylum in Russia. Snowden, who made headlines last month when he revealed confidential details on how the US security services monitor, collect, and analyze electronic communications, is believed to be in Russia after having petitioned for safe asylum there among 21 countries, and released a strong critique on how Obama's government has handled the furore. However, the BBC now reports, it seems Russia won't be Snowden's final destination.
According to the Russian Kremlin, the news service says, Snowden has withdrawn his request for asylum in the country. The decision may have followed mixed comments on the matter by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who while insisting that the country "never hands over anybody anywhere and has no intention of doing so," also made a direct reference to Snowden ceasing his leaks if he wanted to remain.
Snowden "should cease his work aimed at damaging our American partners" President Putin said in a statement on Monday, the BBC reports. He also predicted that the former US intelligence services contractor was unlikely to do that. "Since he's seeing himself as a human rights activist fighting for human freedoms he will not cease his activities," Putin argued, "so he has to choose the country of state and move there."
A statement by Snowden himself, published on the Wikileaks site, accused the US of "using citizenship as a weapon" and leaving him a "stateless person" after canceling his American passport. The whistleblower also blames President Obama of trying to sabotage his asylum petitions.
"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" Edward Snowden
Those petitions include Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Venezuela, according to a new statement by Wikileaks. "The requests were delivered to an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow late in the evening" by legal advisor Sarah Harrison, the organization says. "The documents outline the risks of persecution Mr Snowden faces in the United States and have started to be delivered by the Russian consulate to the relevant embassies in Moscow."
Although some expected Ecuador - the London embassy of which is sheltering Wikileaks' own founder, Julian Assange - to embrace Snowden, the country has in fact been reluctant to seem too eager. Processing Snowden's request could take up to two months, an Ecuador spokesperson told the NYTimes. The comments are being seen as an indication that Ecuador is not keen to accept the leaker.
One alternative possibility is Venezuela, the president of which is already in Moscow and set to meet with President Putin today.
The PRISM revelations and other Snowden leaks have had significant international impact, with Germany leading the angry charge demanding answers on claims of political spying in EU offices. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Google have requested greater freedom to report FISA data disclosure applications, in an attempt to salvage their reputation and contest Snowden's claims that the US NSA and other security agencies had "back door" access to their servers and users' data.