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Snowden Hopes For Temporary Asylum In Russia

Edward Snowden, center, at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Friday. At left is WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison. The woman at right is unidentified at this time.
Courtesy of Human Rights Watch
Edward Snowden, center, at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Friday. At left is WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison. The woman at right is unidentified at this time.

(We most recently added information to the top of this post at 11:15 a.m. ET. Click here for more updates. )

"NSA leaker" Edward Snowden is hoping to go to Latin America but also plans to apply for temporary asylum in Russia, it was reported Friday at a news conference in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport where he appeared with representatives of Russian and international human rights organizations.

Getting even temporary safe haven in Russia could mean that Snowden will have to at least suspend his spilling of secrets, given that Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Snowden can stay in the country only if he stops releasing information that might damage U.S. national security.

During his brief remarks to a large gaggle of correspondents, Snowden also said that "no actions I take or plan are meant to harm the U.S. I want the U.S. to succeed," according to reports from the scene.

And he said of his decision to leak secrets about National Security Agency surveillance programs that "I did what I believed right."

The former CIA contractor's appearance offered the first public view of the young man who last month revealed secrets about NSA programs that U.S. officials say have harmed national security but Snowden's supporters say have exposed violations of civil liberties.

Snowden, who is wanted for prosecution in the U.S. over the secrets he revealed to The Guardian and The Washington Post about the surveillance programs, has been living in legal limbo at the airport since he arrived there from Hong Kong on June 23. Snowden has reportedly been in the airport's transit zone since then. He's seeking asylum in another country.

Among the most likely places he could end up: Boliva, Nicaragua or Venezuela. As we reported Thursday, many are watching closely (and jumping at any and all rumors) to see where he ends up.

Snowden's meeting with the groups began in the late afternoon, local time — around 9 a.m. ET.


-- 11:15 a.m ET. Snowden's Statement:

WikiLeaks, which has been assisting Snowden in his efforts to get asylum, has posted what is says is a transcript of the statement he made Friday at the airport. A few highlights:

"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. ...

"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. ...

"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. ...

"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. ...

"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."

-- 10:05 a.m. ET. Conditions At Airport Are "Fine":

According to Human Rights Watch officials who were at the session, Snowden said the living conditions at the airport are fine. But he realizes he cannot stay there forever, The Guardian adds.

-- 9:25 a.m. ET. Snowden Will Apply To Russia For Asylum, But Eyes Going To Latin America:

The New York Times' Ellen Barry continues to tweet (@EllenBarryNYT) about the news conference that Snowden and human rights activists are now holding. She writes:

"Snowden says he has received offers from Venezuela, Russia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and thanks them."

"From @TanyaLokshina @hrw Today, he will submit an asylum claim to Russia, plans to go to Latin America eventually."

"From @TanyaLokshina @hrw #Snowden says he can only have guaranteed safety to stay temporarily in Russia is with asylum, so asking for it."

"Big news is that #Snowden is applying for political asylum in Russia, despte Putin's condition that he stop publishing."

-- 9:10 a.m. ET. Meeting Has Begun, Photo Posted:

The New York Times' Ellen Barry tweets that "video not allowed in meeting btw #Snowden and around 8 Russian human rights figures. It begins."

And Human Rights Watch has posted a photo of, it says, Snowden at the meeting.

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Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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