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POLITICS: PennAve

In quandary, Edward Snowden weighs asylum options

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Beltway Confidential,National Security,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,NSA,Edward Snowden,Analysis,Whistleblowers

Still stuck in a Moscow airport, U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden is weighing asylum offers from leftist Latin American countries but still may face several hurdles in escaping U.S. authorities for good.

Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba have said to differing degrees that they would welcome Snowden, but the 29-year-old former intelligence analyst might still have to stop to refuel in a third country that would be less hospitable toward him.

“It’s speculating a few steps down the path here because obviously we know that he would need to transfer somewhere out of [Russia],” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Monday. “We’ve been very clear to governments across the board of our desire to have Mr. Snowden returned to the United States. I don’t think there’s any secret of that.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. has been in touch with countries through which Snowden might transit or which might serve as final destinations for him.

“We’ve made very clear that he has been charged with a felony – or with felonies – and, as such, he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than travel that would result in him returning to the United States,” Carney said Monday.

The quandary may be delaying Snowden’s decision. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said he has not heard back from Snowden and was waiting Monday for a reply.

“There has been no communication,” Jaua told state-run VTV over the weekend. “We are waiting for Monday, to, well, first of all, to find out if he confirms his desire for asylum in Venezuela, and in the second place also we will have to be in contact with the government of the Russian Federation.”

The former National Security Agency contractor who leaked massive troves of information about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs faces espionage charges in the United States and has remained in limbo at a Moscow airport for more than two weeks trying to plan his next step.

On Sunday, Cuba appeared to be the latest country to express a willingness to harbor Snowden, according to a Wikileaks tweet.

“If Raul Castro’s solidarity on #Snowden is serious Cuba will publicly offer Snowden asylum.”

The tweet was referring to remarks by the Cuban president to the Cuban National Assembly, which were broadcast on state-run television Sunday.

“We support the sovereign right of … Venezuela and all states in the region to grant asylum to those persecuted for their ideals or their struggles for democratic rights,” Castro reportedly said.

While the report didn’t say Castro offered Snowden asylum out-right, it earned a strong rebuke from several members of Congress. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., left Cuba with her family as a young child and has little tolerance for the island’s communist dictators.

“#Cuban thug quiet now. #Castro “in solidarity” with/#Ortego #Maduro #Morales 2 help #Sowden because…”democratic rights.” Sure…,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, The Guardian, which first broke the Snowden story, released a new video excerpts of its June 6 interview with him in which he says he grew disillusioned with the U.S. government even though he once believed in America’s “nobility.”

He also said he had no intention of getting into the intelligence business in order to leak aspects of its most secret programs. In fact, he had enlisted in the Army as a young man because he believed in the U.S. government.

“I believed in the goodness of what we were doing. I belied in the nobility of our intention to free oppressed people overseas,” he said.

“But over time, over the length of my career, as I watched the news and I increasingly was exposed to true information that had not been propagandized in the media, that we were actually involved in misleading the public … in order to create a certain mindset in the global consciousness,” he continued. “And I was actually a victim of that.”

Even after his international game of cat and mouse with U.S. authorities, he said he still believes the U.S. is a “good” country, though he said the way it tries to protect itself has gotten way out of hand.

“America is fundamentally a good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing, but the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their own capabilities at the expense of the freedom of our publics,” he said.

He also said he didn’t want to live in a world where “everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded.”

“And that’s not something I’m willing to support. It’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under,” he added.

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Susan Crabtree

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner