WikiLeaks slams US for pursuing Snowden
25 June 2013 | 0
US officials should be condemned for "bullying" other nations in their attempts to get them to turn over Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor, who leaked classified information on massive surveillance programs there, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday.
Officials with WikiLeaks, assisting Snowden (pictured) in his request for political asylum in Ecuador, Iceland and other countries, said Snowden has a right under the United Nations’ Refugee Convention to seek asylum and the UN agreement supersedes espionage charges Snowden faces in the US.
The refugee pact protects people "who are being persecuted for political opinion," said Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and an attorney for WikiLeaks. Whistleblowers exposing government corruption are included in those protections, said Ratner, who helped with Assange’s application for asylum in Ecuador.
"It is counterproductive and unacceptable for the Obama administration to try and interfere with those rights," Assange said during a press briefing Monday. "It reflects poorly on the US administration, and no self-respecting country would submit to such interference or such bullying by the US in this matter."
Snowden is safe, healthy and in good spirits, Assange said. He declined to give Snowden’s location. Snowden had been in Russia, en route to Ecuador, but has gone into hiding in a possible attempt to discourage the US from seeking extradition. Snowden has beeoked a seat on a plane to Cuba yesterday but did not show up for the flight.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the Obama administration believes Snowden remained in Russia. Obama administration officials are in ongoing negotiations with their Russian counterparts on that country turning Snowden over to US authorities, he said.
The Obama administration was disappointed with Hong Kong’s "failure to act" on the US extradition request when Snowden was there, Carney added.
Ecuador is considering Snowden’s asylum request, Ricardo Patiño Aroca, Ecuador’s minister of foreign affairs, trade and integration, said Monday. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said Snowden has also applied for asylum in Iceland and other countries, but he declined to name the other countries.
Assange and Ratner slammed the Obama administration for pursuing charges against Snowden. Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of Snowden as a traitor is inaccurate and contrary to US law, Assange said.
"The Obama administration was not given a mandate by the people of the United States to hack and spy upon the entire world, to breach the US Constitution and the laws of other nations in the manner that it has," Assange said. The US attempts to extradite Snowden "further demonstrates the breakdown in the rule of law by the Obama administration".
IDG News Service