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Friday
Jul122013

Edward Snowden Plans to Seek Temporary Asylum in Russia: Reports

Tanya Lokshina/Human Rights Watch(MOSCOW) -- American spy fugitive Edward Snowden emerged from his hideout in Moscow's Sheremedevo International Airport on Friday to speak with international human rights groups -- almost three weeks after he first disappeared inside the vast Russian facility -- to say he plans to seek temporary asylum in Russia, according to meeting attendees.

Human Rights Watch official Tanya Lokshina who was in the meeting, told ABC News Snowden is applying for asylum in Russia and asked the rights groups to petition Russian President Vladimir Putin to grant it to him.  Putin previously said Snowden was welcome to stay in his country, but only as long as he stops leaking information that "damages our U.S. partners."

Snowden said in the meeting that Putin's condition should not be a problem.

"No actions I take or plan are meant to harm the U.S.," Snowden reportedly said.  "I want the U.S. to succeed."

A Russian political scientist who was also in the meeting confirmed to reporters afterwards that Snowden planned to seek asylum in Russia.

Lokshina said Snowden revealed he had received asylum offers from several South American nations, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.  Snowden said he accepts all offers and plans to eventually go to South America, as he didn't see Russia as a long-term option.

The meeting comes a day after The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who has worked with Snowden to report on the National Security Agency's secret vast domestic and international surveillance programs, told ABC News that their work is not even half done.

"The majority of it remains to be done, and that includes stories that are at least as significant, if not more significant than the ones we've already done," Greenwald said.

Greenwald said that for the past six weeks he has carried around "for every second of everyday" a highly encrypted electronic copy of the secret documents leaked to him by Snowden -- some 10,000 documents from the NSA.  Greenwald said that he has other copies should anything happen to the one he carries around, and Snowden has previously said that other encrypted copies of the documents have been given to other journalists for safe keeping.

As for the concerns over whether Russian authorities could copy the documents Snowden is reportedly carrying with him -- or if Chinese intelligence agents had done so already when he was in Hong Kong -- Greenwald said such concerns underestimate Snowden's experience in the world of high-tech spycraft.

"This is a very sophisticated cyber operative," Greenwald said before referencing a report from The New York Times, which said Snowden had been especially trained by the NSA to be an offensive cyber attacker.  "This is somebody who completely knows what he's doing in terms of how to store material securely and what techniques are used by governments around the world, like the NSA, in order to gain access to places they don't have authority to access."

In the invitation to Friday's meeting, Snowden said the U.S. government had embarked on a "dangerous escalation" in his case.

"I have been extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world," the email said.  "These nations have my gratitude, and I hope to travel to each of them to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.  By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world."

"Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The scale of threatening behavior is without precedent: never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign President's plane to effect a search for a political refugee," it continued.

"This dangerous escalation represents a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution," the email concluded.

It is signed "Edward Joseph Snowden."

Greenwald, who said he has recently spoken to Snowden, said that despite Snowden's current predicament, the former NSA contractor hadn't expressed "an iota" of regret over what he's done.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio