Last week President Obama was downplaying the status of NSA leaker Edward Snowden No, I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.” That line was follow by the president talking about the more important things he had on his project list. Putting aside the fact that Snowden turned 30 on 6/21, calling him a “hacker” seemed like an attempt to re-frame these leaks as something other than the inside job it was and something that didn’t release American secrets to the world.
Apparently the President changed his mind. According to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (via the AP) the SCHMOTUS, Joe Biden gave him a friendly call:
never entirely closed the door to Snowden, whom he said had drawn vital
attention to the U.S. eavesdropping program and potential violations of
human rights. But Correa appeared to be sending the message that it is
unlikely Snowden will ever end up in Ecuador. He repeatedly emphasized
the importance of the U.S. legal process and praised Vice President Joe
Biden for what he described as a courteous and appreciated half-hour
call about the Snowden case on Friday.
He similarly declined to
reject an important set of U.S. trade benefits for Ecuadorean exports,
again a contrast with his government’s unilateral renunciation of a
separate set of tariff benefits earlier in the week.
“If he really
could have broken North American laws, I am very respectful of other
countries and their laws and I believe that someone who breaks the law
must assume his responsibilities,” Correa said. “But we also believe in
human rights and due process.”
He said Biden had asked him to send
Snowden back to the United States immediately because he faces criminal
charges, is a fugitive from justice and has had his passport revoked.
told him that we would analyze his opinion, which is very important to
us,” Correa said, adding that he had demanded the return of several
Ecuadoreans who are in the United States but face criminal charges at
“I greatly appreciated the call,” he said, contrasting it
with threats made by a small group of U.S. senators to revoke Ecuadorean
trade privileges. “When I received the call from Vice President Biden,
which was with great cordiality and a different vision, we really
welcomed it a lot.”
Correa also talked about Obama’s hypocrisy (shocking I know) brothers Roberto and William Isaias (now living in Miami) former owners of a bank at the center of a 1990s financial meltdown that cost Ecuadorian taxpayers more than $8 billion, were sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for embezzlement. The Ecuadoran government has asked President Obama to extradite the two brothers.
“Let’s be consistent,” Correa said. “Have rules for everyone, because that is a clear double-standard here.”
Correa believes that he will not have the opportunity to decide about Snowden:
“This is the decision of Russian authorities,” Correa told the AP during a visit to this Pacific coast city. “He doesn’t have a passport. I don’t know the Russian laws, I don’t know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can’t. At this moment he’s under the care of the Russian authorities. If he arrives at an Ecuadorean Embassy we’ll analyze his request for asylum.”
Last week, several members of Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights spoke out in support of Snowden, saying he deserved to receive political asylum in the country of his choice and should not be handed over to the United States. And a handful of protesters picketed outside the Moscow airport in what appeared to be an orchestrated demonstration on Friday, holding signs reading “Edward, Russia is your second motherland” and “Russia is behind Snowden.”
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Ekho Moskvy radio that while Snowden is not Russia’s concern, the Kremlin is aware of the viewpoints of Russian experts and representatives of human rights organizations.
“Public opinion on the subject is very rich,” Peskov said in the radio interview. “We are aware of this and are taking it into account.”
Ecuadorean officials believe Russian
authorities stymied the country’s efforts to approve a political asylum
application from the former NSA systems analyst, according to government
officials with direct knowledge of the case. So in the end whether or not Snowden is forced to come back to the United States may be up to Russian President Putin, who does not have the greatest relationship with Obama.