Pig Putin: NSA whistleblower Snowden is in Moscow airport
Russian president brings end to mystery over whistleblower's whereabouts after days of confusion
Miriam Elder in Moscow and Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing
he Guardian, Wednesday 26 June 2013
Link to video: Pig Putin says Edward Snowden will not be extradited from Russia to Americahttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/25/putin-snowden-extradition-russia-us-video
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has revealed that the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden is indeed in a Moscow airport, ending a global guessing game over the US fugitive's whereabouts.
The admission reversed days of Russian obfuscation and came just hours after Putin's foreign minister said Russia had nothing to do with Snowden's travel plans.
Putin said Snowden remained in Sheremetyevo airport's transit area and vowed that Moscow would not extradite the whistleblower to the US. He also insisted that Russia's security services had no contact with Snowden, a claim greeted with suspicion.
"Mr Snowden really did fly into Moscow," he said on an official visit to Finland on Tuesday. "For us it was completely unexpected," he claimed.
The White House responded on Tuesday by saying Russia had a "clear legal basis" to expel Snowden, which National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said was the status of his travel documents – the US has revoked his passport – and the pending espionage charges against him.
"Accordingly, we are asking the Russian government to take action to expel Mr. Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement cooperation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing," she said.
Snowden fled Hong Kong on Sunday morning to travel via Moscow to an undisclosed third country, according to WikiLeaks, which said it helped his travel. He has requested political asylum from Ecuador.
Putin said Snowden remained in Sheremetyevo's transit hall, although the high-profile whistleblower has not been spotted once by the dozens of journalists in the airport since Sunday. The airport has also hosted a heightened security service presence since Sunday afternoon.
Putin said Russia's security services "did not work and are not working" with Snowden, who fled the United States before leaking documents on secret US surveillance programmes. The US has charged him under the Espionage Act.
He defended Russia's actions and said Snowden, possibly carrying untold numbers of government secrets, was treated like any other passenger. Yet passengers at Sheremetyevo usually have 24 hours to pass through the international transit zone.
"He arrived as a transit passenger – he didn't need a visa, or other documents," Putin said. The statement appeared to back comments made earlier Sundaypreviously by his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who insisted that Snowden "did not cross the Russian border" but did not comment on whether he was at the airport.
The US has urged Moscow to hand Snowden over. Speaking in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said: "I would simply appeal for calm and reasonableness. We would hope that Russia would not side with someone who is a fugitive from justice."
Link to video: John Kerry urges Russian "friends" to hand over Edward Snowdenhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/25/john-kerry-vladimir-putin-edward-snowden-video
Putin lashed out at US accusations that the Kremlin was harbouring a fugitive. "Any accusations against Russia are nonsense and rubbish," Putin said.
He also appeared to throw his support behind Snowden, as well as the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London.
"Assange and Snowden consider themselves human rights activists and say they are fighting for the spread of information," he said. "Ask yourself this: should you hand these people over so they will be put in prison?
"In any case, I'd rather not deal with such questions, because anyway it's like shearing a pig – lots of screams but little wool."
After leaking documents that exposed the breadth of the US surveillance state, Snowden has come under fire for seeking shelter in China and Russia, both accused of clamping down on civil liberties.
Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Lavrov insisted Russia did not help Snowden travel: "I would like to say right away that we have no relation to either Mr Snowden or to his relationship with American justice or to his movements around the world.
"He chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media," said Lavrov.
"We consider the attempts we are now seeing to blame the Russian side for breaking US laws and being almost in on the plot totally baseless and unacceptable, and even an attempt to threaten us," he said.
China's top state newspaper had earlier praised Snowden for "tearing off Washington's sanctimonious mask" and rejected accusations that Beijing had facilitated his departure from Hong Kong.
The strongly worded front-page piece in the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist party, responded to harsh criticism of China from the US for allowing Snowden to flee.
The Chinese government has said it is gravely concerned by Snowden's allegations that the US has hacked into many networks in Hong Kong and China, including Tsinghua University, which hosts one of the country's internet hubs, and Chinese mobile network companies. It said it had taken the issue up with Washington.
"Not only did the US authorities not give us an explanation and apology, it instead expressed dissatisfaction at the Hong Kong special administrative region for handling things in accordance with law," wrote Wang Xinjun, a researcher at the Academy of Military Science in the People's Daily commentary.
"In a sense, the United States has gone from a 'model of human rights' to 'an eavesdropper on personal privacy', the 'manipulator' of the centralised power over the international internet, and the mad 'invader' of other countries' networks," the People's Daily said.
The White House said allowing Snowden to leave was "a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship".
The People's Daily, which reflects government thinking of the government, said: China could not accept "this kind of dissatisfaction and opposition".
"The world will remember Edward Snowden," it said. "It was his fearlessness that tore off Washington's sanctimonious mask."
The exchanges mark a deterioration in ties between the two countries just weeks after a successful summit meeting between presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. But experts say Washington is unlikely to resort to any punitive action.
A commentary in the Global Times, owned by the People's Daily, also attacked the US for cornering "a young idealist who has exposed the sinister scandals of the US government".
"Instead of apologising, Washington is showing off its muscle by attempting to control the whole situation," the Global Times said.
June 25, 2013With Snowden in Middle, U.S. and Russia Joust, and Cool Off
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, ELLEN BARRY and PETER BAKER.
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Tuesday appeared to rule out sending Edward J. Snowden back to the United States to face espionage charges, leaving him in limbo even as Moscow and Washington seemed to be making an effort to prevent a cold-war-style standoff from escalating.
In his first public comments on the case, Mr. Putin said that Mr. Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about American surveillance programs — had committed no crime on Russian soil and was “a free man” who could choose his own destination. “We can only extradite some foreign nationals to the countries with which we have the relevant international agreements on extradition,” he added. “With the United States, we have no such agreement.”
But while American officials remained angry at China for letting Mr. Snowden fly to Moscow, they and their Russian counterparts toned down the red-hot language that threatened a deeper rupture in relations. Mr. Putin said he saw little to gain in the conflict. “It’s like shearing a piglet,” he said. “There’s a lot of squealing and very little wool.” Some American officials interpreted the comment as a positive signal and speculated that Mr. Snowden would be sent to another country that could turn him over.
Yet the Russian president’s remarks during an official visit to Finland also underscored what may be the lasting damage the case has caused for American relations with both Moscow and Beijing. In noting that Mr. Snowden viewed himself as a “human rights activist” who “struggles for freedom of information,” Mr. Putin made clear that it would be harder for President Obama to claim the moral high ground when he presses foreign leaders to stop repressing dissenters and halt cyberattacks.
In the days since Mr. Snowden fled Hong Kong for Moscow, the Russians and the Chinese have seized both on his revelations about surveillance and the fact that the United States is seeking his arrest to make the case for a you-do-it-too argument. Igor Morozov, a Russian lawmaker, wrote that the case exposed an American “policy of double standards.” Xinhua, the state-owned Chinese news agency, editorialized that “the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyberattacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age.”
American officials said such arguments were false equivalences, saying that there was no comparison between Congressionally sanctioned and court-monitored surveillance programs, or the prosecution of Mr. Snowden, and the actions taken by the governments in Moscow and Beijing. But it is an argument that Washington may find difficult to sell in some parts of the world, even among some American allies, and it is fueling criticism inside the United States.
“The Russians for the better part of a decade have always tried to argue that the U.S. has double standards,” said Andrew Weiss, a former Russia adviser to President Bill Clinton and now vice president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “In the Russian domestic context and international context they never get tired of looking for those kinds of axes.”
The arguments could complicate American initiatives with both countries. Chinese officials are now ramping up the critique ahead of the United States-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which starts in Washington in early July with the arrival of an array of Chinese leaders. On the top of the agenda, at Mr. Obama’s insistence, is talk about how to work out rules of the road for behavior involving computers and online.
Until lately, the United States seemed to have Beijing on the defensive, with evidence that Chinese military units were behind recent computer attacks. Then Mr. Snowden told a Hong Kong newspaper that the United States had been engaged in a vigorous hacking campaign in China.
Mr. Obama has insisted that there is a difference between common espionage and China’s behavior. “Every country in the world, large and small, engages in intelligence gathering,” he told Charlie Rose in an interview on PBS. But intelligence gathering is different from “a hacker directly connected with the Chinese government or the Chinese military breaking into Apple’s software systems to see if they can obtain the designs for the latest Apple product,” he said.
“That’s theft,” the president added, “and we can’t tolerate that.”
China does not acknowledge the theft, or buy Mr. Obama’s argument. “The timing couldn’t be worse for Obama,” one senior Asian diplomat said. “I know he draws distinctions between stealing intellectual property and spying, but for most people that difference is not significant.”
The timing is also bad with Russia, which Mr. Obama is depending on to help resolve the war in Syria. When Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Russia on Monday as a repressive country, he personally offended Mr. Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov. On Tuesday, Mr. Lavrov lashed out at the United States, saying, “There are no legal grounds for this kind of behavior from American officials toward us.”
Within hours, though, the two sides appeared to pull back. Mr. Kerry told reporters traveling with him in Saudi Arabia that the United States was “not looking for a confrontation.” And American and Russian officials meeting in Geneva on Tuesday scheduled a session next week between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov to discuss Syria.
Mr. Putin, who is scheduled to host Mr. Obama in St. Petersburg and Moscow in September, said he hoped the Snowden case would “not affect in any way the businesslike character of our relations with the United States.”
But the case may be drawing Russia and China closer together, and Beijing’s action may influence Moscow’s decision. The two governments have consulted on the case, with the Chinese explaining why it allowed Mr. Snowden to leave Hong Kong even though the United States had revoked his passport and requested his arrest, said Dimitri K. Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest, a policy research group in Washington.
“These conversations clearly make it more difficult for Russia to appear weak by making a concession while Beijing stood its ground,” Mr. Simes said.
Aleksei K. Pushkov, chairman of the Russian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in a Twitter post early Wednesday that “the U.S. threats toward Russia and China over the Snowden affair will not give results, but only bring Moscow and Beijing together even more strongly. Unreasoned pressure.”
The Obama administration was relying on Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, a low-key, respected former ambassador to Russia, to negotiate with Moscow. The administration argued Tuesday that even though the United States and Russia did not have an extradition treaty, Washington had regularly sent back Russians sought by Moscow. Over the last five years, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday, the United States had returned 1,700 Russian citizens, with more than 500 of them being “criminal deportations.”
But in Moscow, Mr. Snowden was being compared to cold war dissidents. “I have never heard of any case when the United States would extradite someone’s fugitive spy,” said Vlacheslav Nikonov, a member of Parliament. “It just never happened. Why would they expect that would happen?”
As for the subject of all this attention, Mr. Snowden remained in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Mr. Putin said Russian intelligence agencies had not questioned him, although some independent analysts cast doubt on that assertion. “If I still worked there, I would talk to him,” said Aleksandr Kondaurov, a retired K.G.B. general.
Mr. Snowden, who remained out of sight for another day, has requested asylum from Ecuador. There are no direct flights from Moscow to Quito, the Ecuadorean capital, so if he were to head there, he might travel through Havana. The next flight from Moscow to Havana is Thursday.
David M. Herszenhorn and Ellen Barry reported from Moscow, and Peter Baker from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Andrew Roth from Moscow; David E. Sanger, Steven Lee Myers and Charlie Savage from Washington; and Michael R. Gordon from Jidda, Saudi Arabia.
June 25, 2013China Brushes Aside U.S. Warnings on Snowden
By JANE PERLEZ and CHRIS BUCKLEY
BEIJING — China brushed aside on Tuesday the Obama administration’s warning that allowing Edward J. Snowden, the former national security contractor, to flee Hong Kong would have negative consequences, and said that the relationship between the United States and China should continue unimpeded.
On Monday, the White House effectively put responsibility for Mr. Snowden’s departure on Beijing, not on the Hong Kong authorities.
At a Foreign Ministry briefing Tuesday, a government spokeswoman called the warning by the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry “groundless.” The administration’s comments “really make people wonder,” said the spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.
China expected an important annual meeting between the United States and China, known as the Security and Economic Dialogue, to proceed as scheduled for July in Washington, Ms. Hua said.
She reiterated official Chinese criticism of the Obama administration for public statements that have accused China of cyberattacks against American interests. “I’d like to advise these people to hold up a mirror, reflect and take care of their own situation first,” she said.
Russian officials confirmed Tuesday that Mr. Snowden was inside the Moscow airport after landing there from Hong Kong on Sunday.
In Beijing, people with knowledge of how China handled Mr. Snowden’s exit from Hong Kong were claiming a tactical victory for China, saying that the government had acted in China’s best interests, and in the long-term interests of its relationship with the United States.
“What did the United States expect China to do? Hand him over? That would be very stupid,” said Sun Zhe, director of the Center for U.S.-China Relations at Tsinghua University. “This was the best China could do.”
According to a Chinese journalist who often talks with Hong Kong government and mainland Chinese officials in Hong Kong, the Chinese authorities organized an ad hoc group, led by Yang Jiechi, a former foreign minister and now a state councilor, to handle the Snowden matter. The group answered to President Xi Jinping, the journalist said.
The Chinese mainland authorities decided to keep a distance from Mr. Snowden personally to ensure that if Mr. Snowden eventually ended up in American hands he would not be able to disclose what Chinese officials said to him, the journalist said.
Beijing determined early on that Mr. Snowden would have to leave Hong Kong, and should not be allowed to stay to go through a protracted legal battle in the Hong Kong courts to resist the United States extradition demand, the journalist said. “That would have lasted years, and then the United States would also wonder what he was telling China,” the journalist said. “What would the United States prefer?”
The Hong Kong government also hit back at American criticisms, saying that the United States had received ample warning that its request for Mr. Snowden’s detention was incomplete.
Rimsky Yuen, the secretary for justice, said that the Hong Kong government mentioned that it had concerns about the request before Friday. He disputed the White House’s characterization of Hong Kong as having done little with the American request before letting Mr. Snowden go to the airport on Sunday morning and leave the territory on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow.
The United States concentrated its diplomatic efforts on the Hong Kong authorities, not Beijing, two Chinese who monitored the process said. The request for Mr. Snowden’s extradition was made to Hong Kong, which has an extradition treaty with the United States.
Hong Kong said that the request did not fully meet its legal requirements, and after that China gave the green light for Mr. Snowden to fly to Moscow. The Chinese government decided that he had to leave before Washington made a request that might be acceptable to the Hong Kong courts, the journalist said.
An editorial published Tuesday by the state-run Xinhua news agency said the Snowden case “might not be a completely bad thing after all.”
“Beijing and Washington can actually use the case to facilitate ongoing efforts to deal with the issue” of cybersecurity, it said. “The two sides can sit down and talk through their mutual suspicions.”
The Chinese state-controlled news media continued Tuesday to roll out a barrage of praise for Mr. Snowden.
“The world will remember Edward Snowden,” said People’s Daily, the chief mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. “It was his fearlessness that tore off Washington’s sanctimonious image.”
Jane Perlez reported from Beijing, and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong. Keith Bradsher contributed reporting from Hong Kong.
June 25, 2013Ecuador Risks Trade Problems With U.S. if It Grants Asylum to Snowden
By WILLIAM NEUMAN and MARK LANDLER
QUITO, Ecuador — President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has more than just the ire of United States to consider as he weighs an asylum request from Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive intelligence contractor trying to dodge American authorities.
Mr. Correa has some tangible factors to think about as well — namely Ecuadorean exports like fresh-cut roses and frozen broccoli.
In recent months, Mr. Correa’s government has been in Washington, lobbying to retain preferential treatment for some key Ecuadorean products. But that favored status, which means keeping thousands of jobs in Ecuador and cheaper goods for American consumers, could be among the first casualties if Mr. Correa grants asylum to Mr. Snowden.
While the downside for Ecuadorean rose growers, artichoke canners and tuna fishermen (whose products also get preferential treatment) is clear, the material benefits of granting asylum to Mr. Snowden are far less so. The decision could ultimately rest on the combative personality of Mr. Correa and his regional ambitions.
“The risks are enormous,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy group in Washington. Referring to Mr. Correa, he said, “It would bring the United States down very hard on him.”
Mr. Correa, fresh off a landslide re-election victory, glories in a fight. He relishes tweaking the United States and may aspire to take on the mantle of leader of the Latin American left that was once worn by Hugo Chávez, the loudly anti-imperialist president of Venezuela, who died in March.
“Rhetorically, he aspires to be a leader, and this may be a situation that’s hard for him to resist just given his nature and his temperament,” Mr. Shifter said.
Relations with the United States have been rocky almost since Mr. Correa first took office in 2007. He stopped American antidrug flights from an Ecuadorean military base. In 2011, he kicked out the American ambassador, angered by a diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks that suggested he was aware of police corruption and looked the other way.
Last year, he gave asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, on the grounds that he risked persecution and possibly the death penalty if he were to be charged in the United States for revealing secret State Department cables and other materials.
The two countries exchanged ambassadors again last year, but things have not always gone smoothly for the new American envoy, Adam E. Namm.
Last month, Mr. Correa, who has warred continually with the news media in his country, reacted angrily after Mr. Namm attended an event in favor of freedom of expression that was organized by the National Journalists Union. Mr. Correa called Mr. Namm a meddler and warned him to behave. The foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, said darkly that the next time he might get more than just a warning.
The last sustained high-level contact between the two countries may have come in 2010, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Ecuador. During that visit, Mr. Correa told her, “We’re not anti-American; we love America,” and he described his years as a student at the University of Illinois as the happiest of his life.
But Mrs. Clinton pressed him on his government’s crackdown on the news media, and when an Ecuadorean journalist challenged him about his policies at a news conference, the president rebuked him while Mrs. Clinton watched stone-faced.
The most likely casualty of sheltering Mr. Snowden would be the trade preferences, which have been in place since the early 1990s. Originally designed for several Andean nations, Ecuador is the last remaining recipient. But the preferences, which applied to about $429 million in non-oil exports last year, expire at the end of July unless they are renewed by Congress.
That renewal was already in doubt, not least of all, officials said, because the oil giant Chevron has been lobbying hard against Ecuador. The campaign is part of Chevron’s response to an $18 billion penalty against the company ordered by an Ecuadorean court in a case over environmental damages related to oil drilling in the Amazon.
But Ecuador has begun its own campaign to keep the preferences, including a Web site called Keep Trade Going, that urges Americans to contact their legislators to ask them to vote in favor of the pact.
At the same time, Ecuador has staked out a fallback position, petitioning to include roses, frozen broccoli and canned artichokes in a separate trade program, the Generalized System of Preferences. That decision is controlled by the White House, so Ecuador is essentially asking President Obama’s help in getting around opposition in Congress.
Mr. Obama must decide by Monday whether he will include those items — a move that becomes increasingly thorny as the standoff over Mr. Snowden continues.
The question remains how heavily Mr. Correa will weigh such economic considerations.
“It is something that will adversely affect the Ecuadorean economy,” said Dan Restrepo, an adviser to Mr. Obama on Latin American policy until last year. “But I don’t know whether it’s enough to stop him.”
Analysts said that if Mr. Correa gives asylum to Mr. Snowden the United States could also try to isolate Ecuador politically, asking allies in the region to step up pressure on issues like press freedom. The same weekend that Mr. Snowden’s asylum request was made public, Mr. Correa signed a new media law that critics say would quash much critical coverage of the government.
But Orlando Pérez, the director of El Telégrafo, a government-owned newspaper, said that granting asylum to Mr. Snowden should not provoke a confrontation with the United States. “What is at play is to guarantee human rights,” he said. “Rather than hurt Ecuador it puts it in a kind of political vanguard in Latin America.”
Many in Latin America feel that the Obama administration has not made relations in the region a priority, and the episode may become another example of Washington’s waning influence.
The standoff last year over Mr. Assange, who took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London to escape being sent to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on allegations he sexually assaulted two women, gave Mr. Correa a chance to portray himself as the defiant leader of a tiny country standing up to a world power. Mr. Snowden’s request allows him to do the same again.
Both cases also helped Mr. Correa defend himself against charges that he is too harsh with the press, allowing him to portray himself as a champion of transparency.
Mauricio Gándara, a former ambassador to London who is critical of Mr. Correa, said the president aspired to become an admired Latin American leftist like Mr. Chávez or Fidel Castro.
“How much damage it does to Ecuador is another matter,” Mr. Gándara said. “They want to go beyond Chávez, they want to challenge the world.”
William Neuman reported from Quito, Ecuador, and Mark Landler from Washington. Maggy Ayala contributed reporting from Quito.
June 25, 2013A Stakeout Grinds On in Airport Limbo
By ANDREW ROTH and ELLEN BARRY
MOSCOW — The airport transit area here where Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American national security contractor, is believed to be planning his next move has a Burger King, a T.G.I. Friday’s and a bar called Pub, or as rendered in Russian, “Pab.” It also has a vast number of locked doors, something you might not notice without spending 17 hours looking for Mr. Snowden.
Many reporters, holding plane tickets that give them access to the area, have spent sleepless nights patrolling the long halls of the transit zone, looking for witnesses among the area’s janitors, cashiers and flight attendants.
By Tuesday, some airport staff members were getting cranky. “I know who you’re looking for,” said a receptionist at a business-class lounge called Jazz. “This is a business-class place, not a no-visa kind of place.”
At another V.I.P. hall, the receptionist answered a query about Mr. Snowden by saying, “So you can do this?” and mimicking machine-gun fire.
But a police officer, who would not give his name, found humor in the situation. As several journalists explained why they were leaving the terminal without boarding their flights, he asked: “Are you looking for someone? You won’t find him.” Asked if he had seen him, the officer said: “I see him all the time. You won’t find him, though.”
But mostly, during the predawn hours, it is quiet. Passengers stretch out on the floor, some with newspapers on their faces.
In the early hours of the stakeout, men who were apparently plainclothes security officers mingled among the journalists. And when the Havana-bound Aeroflot plane departed on Monday afternoon without Mr. Snowden on board, some bystanders looked both foreign and very curious, prompting speculation that they, too, might have been spies.
So far the search for Mr. Snowden has been thankless. Early Tuesday morning, reporters from a Russian tabloid covertly photographed a correspondent for The New York Times, wondering if she might be Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks adviser who is believed to be traveling with Mr. Snowden.
The policeman, who seemed to know more than anyone else, held out little hope that the stakeout would end anytime soon.
“He’s going to sit here like Assange,” he said, referring to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder currently taking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, “until the situation works itself out.”