"Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person."
Edward Snowden (30) lashed out at the Obama administration this week, stating via Wikileaks’ website that attempts by Washington to force countries to deny him asylum were unjust as was the “extralegal penalty of exile”.
In his first formal statement since The Guardian and Washington Post carried the exposés, Mr. Snowden, in particular, blasted the efforts of U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden to “pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions”.
An international manhunt has been under way after Mr. Snowden fled the U.S., initially to Hong Kong, and then on to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where he has been stuck in legal limbo in the international transit area.
From there, with the help of Wikileaks officer Sarah Harrison, he has filed asylum applications to 21 countries, many of which have been denied, including one made to New Delhi.
Mr. Snowden’s remarks on Monday were however in reference to Mr. Biden’s attempts over the weekend to urge Ecuador — the first country to have spoken of asylum to him — to deny Mr. Snowden’s request.
Since then, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has said that Mr. Snowden would have to reach Ecuadorean territory before Ecuador could consider any asylum request.
With the U.S. cancelling Mr. Snowden’s passport last month, Mr. Correa said his government would not supply him authorised travel documents to exit Moscow airport.
“The right of asylum request is one thing, but helping someone travel from one country to another — Ecuador has never done this,” he was quoted as saying.
In his statement against U.S. actions targeting him, Mr. Snowden commented on the matter of his passport being revoked, saying: “The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person.”
‘Still an American’
However, the State Department clarified that in the case of Mr. Snowden, as applicable to “people who are accused of serious felony crimes”, Washington was prepared to issue single-entry travel documents. “He’s still a U.S. citizen. He still enjoys the rights of his U.S. citizenship, which include the right to a free and fair trial for the crimes he’s been accused of,” said Patrick Ventrell, State Department Spokesman, at a media briefing on Monday.
Mr. Snowden, however, pulled no punches in criticising U.S. President Barack Obama for making an empty promise that he would not engage in “wheeling and dealing” in the case.
He said, “In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake.
“We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.”