News Column

Officials: Snowden Did Not 'Cross the Russian Border'

June 25, 2013
Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden, wanted by the United States for leaking national secrets, has not crossed the Russian border, Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday.

"I want to say right away that we have nothing to do with Snowden, or with his attitude to the American legal system, or with his movements around the world," Sergei Lavrov told a news conference. "He chose his own route, and we found out about it -- like most people here -- from the media."

"He did not cross the Russian border," the foreign minister said.

Media reported Monday Snowden flew to Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport on Sunday but had gone no further than the transit area because he did not have a Russian visa, RIA Novosti reported. Staying in the transit zone of an airport does not constitute crossing the country's border.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported Monday Snowden told it he specifically sought the job at U.S. defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. so he could collect information about the NSA's secret surveillance programs to release to the news media.

"My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked," he said in a June 12 interview. "That is why I accepted that position about three months ago."

Snowden is under a U.S. federal indictment for stealing and leaking classified documents.

While Snowden, who admitted leaking data about the NSA's cellphone and Internet surveillance programs, remained out of sight, the war of words intensified between Washington and Beijing.

"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday during a media briefing. "And we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem."

In Beijing, the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the highest authority within China's Communist Party, said Tuesday: "If Snowden had been a Chinese man, President Obama would certainly have invited him to a White House dinner. President Obama would have nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize ... for defending freedom and human rights."

A separate commentary said Snowden's "fearlessness ... tore off Washington's self-righteous facade."

U.S. officials said talks were under way with Moscow, and U.S. officials believe the Kremlin was taking the matter "seriously."

"We have a strong law enforcement cooperative relationship with the Russians, and that relationship has resulted in that past in us returning criminals to Russia," Carney said Monday.

"We are expecting the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also called on Russia to expel Snowden.

"I would urge them to live by the standards of the law, because that's in the interest of everybody," Kerry said.

At the same time, Kerry mocked China and Russia as ironically inappropriate countries for Snowden to approach.

"I wonder if Mr. Snowden chose China and Russia as assistants in his flight from justice because they're such powerful bastions of Internet freedom," Kerry said during a stop in New Delhi.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday questions about Snowden were handled by Russia's Foreign Ministry.

Officials in Ecuador said they were considering Snowden's application for asylum.

The United States is Ecuador's leading trading partner, accounting for nearly $11 billion, or 43 percent, of its exports, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A key U.S.-Ecuador trade preference measure expires next month. If Ecuador grants asylum to Snowden, U.S. lawmakers could retaliate by refusing to renew it, administration officials told the Journal.

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Source: Copyright UPI 2013

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