Edward Snowden speaks at Moscow airport, seeks Russia asylum en route to Latin America

Photo: Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch

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.

The Guardian, which received leaked documents from Snowden and broke the news they revealed, has a liveblog covering the story.

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.