Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. security contractor, appeared to break his silence Monday for the first time since he flew to Moscow eight days ago. WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group, issued a statement attributed to Snowden that denounced President Barack Obama for revoking his passport, opposing his asylum requests and leaving him a “stateless person.”
The statement posted on the website of WikiLeaks, which has been assisting Snowden, also accused Obama and the U.S. government of seeking to intimidate him and deceive the world because of his disclosures about the vast global surveillance efforts of U.S. intelligence agencies.
The statement attributed to Snowden cited Obama’s assertion last week that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” with other countries that might wish to grant him asylum. Nonetheless, it said, Vice President Joe Biden had been pressuring “the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.”
Biden telephoned President Rafael Correa of Ecuador last week and asked him not to grant Snowden asylum, Correa said Saturday.
“The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon,” the statement attributed to Snowden said. “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.”
A later post, which appeared early Tuesday on the WikiLeaks website, said Sarah Harrison, the group’s legal adviser in the Snowden matter, had “submitted by hand a number of requests for asylum and asylum assistance on behalf” of Snowden to 19 countries. They were listed as Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.
The post said the requests, which “outline the risks of persecution Mr. Snowden faces in the United States,” were delivered to an official at the Russian Consulate at the Moscow airport where, according to Russian officials, Snowden is ensconced in an international transit lounge, trying to determine his next step, and has technically not entered Russian territory. It said the consulate had started delivering the requests to the relevant embassies in Moscow.
The statement Monday attributed to Snowden appeared to be the first direct word from him about his predicament since his flight to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 despite a U.S. request to the Hong Kong authorities to arrest Snowden, who is accused of violating espionage laws. His disclosures have embarrassed the Obama administration and caused tensions with other countries, including China, Russia and members of the European Union.