BY MATTHEW SHI
JULY 16, 2013—In a statement released last Friday, Edward Snowden, NSA “whistleblower,” indicated intentions to apply for asylum in Russia, where he hopes to stay until he is able to fly to Latin America. Countries including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador plan to grant Snowden the right to stay if he can make it to their ports of entry.
Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena explains Snowden’s reason for seeking asylum, saying, “He faces persecution by the U.S. government and he fears for his life and safety, fears that he could be subjected to torture and capital punishment.”
Snowden has been stuck in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow ever since he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. Although several Latin American nations have offered him asylum, he is facing difficulties reaching those countries. His U.S. passport has been revoked.
Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to Snowden’s arrival as an “unwelcome present” that the U.S. imposed on Russia. These sentiments are due to Snowden’s current inability to leave Moscow. He flew to Moscow intending only for a temporary stay, but, as Putin says, the U.S. has intimidated other countries into denying Snowden’s entry, which has prevented Snowden’s departure from Moscow.
Relations between Moscow and Washington are not without tension, and Snowden’s presence has only further strained these relations. In a diplomatic move, Putin made it clear that Snowden would only be granted asylum if he stopped leaking information harmful to the United States. Vyacheslav Nikonov, Russian parliament member, confirmed that Snowden will no longer leak such information: “He said he was informed of this condition and he can easily accept it. He does not intend to damage the United States’ interests given that he is a patriot of his country.”
Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reminded the media that, though Snowden vocally agreed to Putin’s condition, he has not agreed to anything in writing.
The claims of Snowden’s patriotism may strike some people as odd. After all, he did inform on a governmental agency, simultaneously betraying his contract. Others would defend Snowden, saying that he had the people’s interests in mind, and that it was right to expose the NSA for illegal actions.
However, the legality of the NSA’s surveillance is still in question. The actions appear to clearly violate the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution and several other statutes and treaties, but the U.S. government has claimed that secret court rulings—kept private from the world—justified the affair. Snowden, on these clandestine rulings, said, “The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.”
When asked where Snowden could go in the future, Putin replied in a terse, disinterested manner: “How would I know? It’s his life, his fate.”