With Breaking News analysis by Dave Lindorff (see addendum)
By Edward Snowden
Edward Joseph Snowden delivered a statement to human rights organizations and individuals at Sheremetyevo airport at 5pm Moscow time today, Friday 12th July. The meeting lasted 45 minutes. The human rights organizations included Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and were given the opportunity afterwards to ask Mr Snowden questions.
The Human Rights Watch representative used this opportunity to tell Mr Snowden that on her way to the airport she had received a call from the US Ambassador to Russia, who asked her to relay to Mr Snowden that the US Government does not categorise Mr Snowden as a whistleblower and that he has broken United States law. This further proves the United States Government’s persecution of Mr Snowden and therefore that his right to seek and accept asylum should be upheld. Seated to the left of Mr. Snowden was Sarah Harrison, a legal advisor in this matter from WikiLeaks and to Mr. Snowden’s right, a translator.
Transcript of Edward Joseph Snowden statement, given at 5pm Moscow time on Friday 12th July 2013. (Transcript corrected to delivery)
Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.
It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice — that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.
I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”
Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.
That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.
Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression. The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement — the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.
Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.
I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.
This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.
If you have any questions, I will answer what I can.
For further information, see:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edward Snowden, an example for the rest of humanity, is the famed NSA leaker who fled the USA to Hong Kong, then Moscow.
RT-TV Reports that Snowden has Accepted Russian Asylum Offer
Russian TV is reporting that Edward Snowden, the bete noir of the US national security state, who has leaked information that the National Security Agency is spying on all electronic communications of Americans, and on hundreds of millions of others around the globe, as well as on the leaders and the embassies of even many US allies, is accepting an offer of political asylum that has been extended by Russia, where he has been spending weeks in limbo in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, unable to fly to asylum elsewhere.
According to the RT-TV report , Snowden, in accepting the Russian offer, will have to abide by a condition set by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he not continue releasing documents harmful to the US.
This deal leaves a lot of questions unanswered:
First of all, Snowden has already turned over a huge amount of information to reporters at the Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper in the UK, as well as lesser amounts of documents to Der Spiegel magazine in Germany and to other publications in other countries. It is not clear whether he can control, at this point, whether or not those news organizations continue to publish articles based on the documents in their possession, It is also unclear what the Russian government response would be concerning Snowden’s protected status should any of those organizations continue to publish embarrassing or damaging disclosures about the NSA. Asked by reporters at an airport press conference whether he would continue to release details about the NSA himself while in Russia, Snowden’s answer was an ambiguous, “My job is done.” That job, though, was providing the leaked information to reporters. Snowden himself has not publicly disclosed the information.
Snowden also correctly pointed out the distinction between “damaging America,” and exposing the NSA. “No actions I take or plan are meant to harm the US… I want the US to succeed,” he said in answer to a question. Would Putin consider further leaks about the US government’s spying on its own citizens “damaging” to America? Open question.
In any event, Putin has made clear that Russia would never extradite Snowden. As he put it, “Russia has never extradited anyone and is not going to do so. Same as no one has ever been extradited to Russia.” Besides, the cat’s already out of the bag, in terms of the big revelations Snowden made public.
The RT-TV report also suggests that Snowden and Russia may be looking at the asylum grant as less than a lifetime arrangement. It appears to be a way for Russia to get him out of the airport, into Russia, to further tweak the US, and to put Snowden in an official status where he could be provided with travel documents as a matter of course, as would an asylum grantee in the US
This could enable him to quietly leave Russia later for another location after some time has passed. The RT story significantly quotes Tatyana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, as saying Snowden is seeking to stay in Russia because he “can’t fly to Latin America yet.”
Three Latin American countries so far–Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua– have offered Snowden asylum without conditions, but he has been unable to safely travel to any of them, given the already demonstrated US threat to force his plane to land. (American authorities exerted pressure on French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish governments to refuse their airspace, in violation of international law, to a presidential plane carrying Bolivia’s leader, Evo Morales, to fly home from a state visit to Russia, forcing it to land in Austria, where the government was pressed to illegally inspect the plane, which the US incorrectly suspected was transporting Snowden to asylum in Bolivia.) At the airport conference, Snowden said he had accepted all three offers of asylum, as well as Russia’s. “I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future,” Snowden said after meeting with human rights lawyers earlier.
The likelihood that Russia’s offer of asylum with conditions limiting his further leaking of documents is part of some behind-the-scenes maneuver by the US with Russian support seems mighty slim to me. It already hands Russia a huge propaganda coup as it preemptively blocks further US criticism of Russia’s human rights shortcomings and violations.
If anything, the Obama administration and the commissars of the US security establishment surely have to view the prospect of Snowden’s staying in Russia with his stack of laptops loaded with NSA secrets — which he claims he has never opened up or provided to Russian or Chinese intelligence experts — as deeply worrying. More likely, the initial offer from Putin was a way to end the awkward circus at the airport, while on Snowden’s part, it was a way to end his surely frustrating weeks-long airport purgatory.
It is hard to imagine that Snowden would be accepting becoming trapped inside Russia for life, so I expect he will end up being provided with full rights of travel (Russia is, after all, a free-travel country now, not the old Soviet Union with its closed borders), so I assume he will be issued a travel document as a matter of course as part of the asylum process. That would simply push back the time that he might decide to move on to get out from under any onerous conditions on his stay in Russia. (Once he’s had time to put on weight, grow his hair long and maybe change the color, get fitted for a pair of contacts, maybe of a different eye color, grow a good Russian physicist’s beard, and once he has a Russian travel document, which the US would not have the ID number for, it would be fairly easy for him to hop a Russian commercial flight with official Russian permission and assistance, and to fly via Cuba to Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua. The US ability to constantly monitor all flights visually and to spot a disguised Snowden are actually quite limited.)
As Snowden said at a meeting with 13 representatives of human rights organizations from Russia and around the world  who assembled at the airport, as reported in RT’s article, “I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted.”
The Snowden story, and the ongoing exposure of the NSA’s spying outrage, is clearly not over. Stay tuned.