NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden invited human rights groups to meet him at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport to discuss his options for seeking political asylum from the United States. He says his government is denying his right to seek asylum in retaliation for having exposed details of the NSA's previously secret spying programs.
At today's meeting, Snowden announced that he will apply for political asylum in Russia, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's previously-stated condition that he stop publishing documents that harm America. According to tweets from people inside the meeting, Snowden's eventual goal is to reach one of the Latin American nations that has offered him asylum.
According to the Associated Press, the following people were among those at the meeting: Russian MP Vyacheslav Nikonov, Amnesty International Russia's Sergei Nikitin, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, Russian presidential human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, and attorney Genri Reznik.
Separately, Wikileaks identified another participant as one of their representatives. Wikileaks has also published a copy of Snowden's statement to human rights groups here.
Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch captured the photo above, which is the first new photograph we've seen of Snowden since the story first spread weeks ago. HRW issued this statement earlier, supporting Snowden's right to asylum.
Wikileaks tweets that the person to the left of Snowden is "Wikileaks' Sarah Harrison."
Video is not permitted inside the meeting between Snowden and roughly 8 Russian human rights figures, according to Ellen Barry of the New York Times, who is there.
Rough machine translation of the Russian description at this RT link:
Today, the former CIA officer asked for a meeting at 17:00 Moscow time in the transit area of the airport. Human rights activists and lawyers have expressed willingness to meet with Edward Snowden. Invitations to the meeting were sent to Sergey Nikitin of Amnesty International, Mikhail Krasnov of Transparency International, Inna Khadzhieva of Human Rights Watch, Yakubu Zyuleku.
Below, Paul Sonne, Moscow correspondent for The Wall Street Journal:
New York Times Moscow correspondent Ellen Barry says Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, who is inside the no-video-allowed meeting, reports Snowden says that Venezuela, Russia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have all offered him asylum. He thanked them, and says he accepts any and all offers, present and future. He now asks for help reaching Latin America safely and will submit an asylum claim to Russia today, so that he can head to Latin America.
Barry's tweets from the scene are collected below.
In a recent Washington Post op-ed on the controversy around Snowden's asylum pleas, Daniel Ellsberg wrote:
Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.Here are Boing Boing's coverage archives of the Edward Snowden story.
Snowden says he has received offers from Venezuela, Russia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and thanks them.— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Word from mtg prtcipnt: #Snowden says he accepts all offers, present and future. With Venezuela the asylum state is formal.— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Russia has sought to avoid coming down on either side of #Snowden asylum request.— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Snowden is saying he seeks to remain in Russia and travel. He wants intl orgs to petition the United States, EU not to interfere. from @hrw— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Snowden said he cannot appeal to intl organizations bc they require you to come to them, he is in airport, @TanyaLokshina says— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Snowden says he is recognized as asylum seeker by UNHCR but US doesn't acknowledge, as evident in Morales situation, @TanyaLokshina reports— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Putin said, "If he wants to stay, one condition: He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners."— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Peskov tells Ifax that previous conditions are in force: #Snowden can stay if he fully stops activities that cause damage to US.— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Peskov tells Ifax that Kremlin has no confirmation of #Snowden appeal for asylum, but conditions are the ones Putin articulated July 1.— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Based on meeting reports, #Snowden sees logic: His work is not meant to damage US, so Putin's condition is no obstacle.— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
Tanya Lokshina of @HRW tells that Snowden feels fine, sleeps here at the airport and feels safe in Russia— Olaf Koens (@obk) July 12, 2013
Snowden tells @hrw that he won't fly to Latin-America and will apply for political asylum in Russia— Olaf Koens (@obk) July 12, 2013
Has #Snowden agreed to stop leaking, or is he making the case that leaking is not damaging to American interests?— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) July 12, 2013
We will be releasing Edward #Snowden's statement to human rights groups early this evening.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 12, 2013
Vladimir Lukin, Russia's HR-ambassador, tells that Snowden considers himself a patriot.— Olaf Koens (@obk) July 12, 2013
Lukin adds: 'He doesn't look very well fed, a skinny guy. But he has a great haircut'— Olaf Koens (@obk) July 12, 2013