No wonder CIA-employee-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden has been out of the picture for the past seven days – he’s been busy filling out asylum applications for a slew of countries in a bid to escape the clutches of US government.
Believed to be currently holed up somewhere in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, the man who spilled the beans – and continues to spill the beans – on the undercover work of the National Security Agency (NSA) has so far applied for political asylum to a total of 21 countries, according to whistleblowing site Wikileaks.
Austria, Brazil, China, Cuba….
Nations receiving documents from Snowden, who’s wanted by US authorities on charges of espionage, include Austria, Brazil, China, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Nicaragua, and Russia. Ecuador, the country to which Snowden was last week expected to fly, is also on the list, as is another country mentioned early on as a possible refuge for 30-year-old Snowden, Iceland.
“The documents outline the risks of persecution Mr. Snowden faces in the United States and have started to be delivered by the Russian consulate to the relevant embassies in Moscow,” Wikileaks said on its website on Tuesday.
Snowden still has many obstacles to overcome to reach a ‘safe’ country. First, he has to hope Russia doesn’t hand him to the US authorities; second, he needs one of the aforementioned countries to offer him political asylum; and third, if a country does offer him asylum, he has to actually get there, a feat easier said than done if it involves entering US airspace – as it most likely would if he was flying to, for example, Cuba. Oh, and he also has the added problem of no longer having a passport.
Wikileaks also published a statement from Snowden on its website, marking the first time we’ve heard from the ex-CIA man since he left Hong Kong last month.
In the statement Snowden said that despite being for decades “one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum”, the US government was now doing everything it could to deny him that right.
News of Snowden’s multiple asylum requests comes days after new leaks revealed that the US intelligence agencies have also been spying on countries in the European Union, a revelation which has upset a number of politicians there.
Speaking this week, President Obama tried to defuse the situation by insisting that intelligence services everywhere were up to the same behavior.
“If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service,” he said, while at the same time acknowledging European concerns and promising to look into the claims.
Snowden first hit the headlines almost a month ago when he exposed the NSA’s top secret PRISM program involving the systematic surveillance of telephone calls and Internet communications.
The former Hawaii resident said the NSA has “direct access” to the servers of Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. However, these companies have said that any information passed between them and the government is always done so within the framework of existing laws, and that no such “back door” access has ever been possible.