Snowden Seeks Germany’s Support To Stop Prosecution

Fugitive US intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, has told Germany he is counting on international support to stop Washington’s ‘persecution’ of him for revealing the scale of its worldwide phone and Internet surveillance.

In an open letter to a country at the centre of the row over US spying on allies, Snowden said his revelations had helped to “address formerly concealed abuses of the public trust”.

Complaining that Washington continued to “treat dissent as defection” and speaking of a “sustained campaign of persecution” that he said had forced him into exile in Russia, Snowden wrote that “speaking the truth is not a crime.”

“I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behaviour,” read his letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German parliament and German federal prosecutors.

Snowden gave the letter to German lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele, who presented it to the media in Berlin on Friday.

Stroebele, a maverick 74-year-old member of parliament for the opposition Greens, gave the letter to reporters shortly after getting off a plane from Moscow, where he met Snowden on Thursday at a secret location. The letter did not carry any specific address, beginning simply: “To whom it may concern.”

Snowden’s leaks about the targets and methods of the National Security Agency (NSA), from alleged mass scanning of emails to the tapping of world leaders’ phones – including Merkel’s – have infuriated US allies and placed Washington on the defensive.

US authorities want him handed over to face espionage charges for illegally disclosing government secrets. The head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service has said the material he divulged to journalists was a gift to terrorists.

Grave Diplomatic Problems

The 30-year-old ex-CIA employee and NSA contractor, who fled to Moscow via Hong Kong earlier this year and was given political asylum by President Vladimir Putin, said he had been forced into exile for acting according to his “moral duty”.

Snowden said he was ready to travel to Germany to help its parliamentary inquiry into NSA bugging of Merkel’s mobile phone – but added: “I would rather go before the US Congress, or a committee of the US Congress and lay the facts on the table.”

Neither option is likely in the immediate future.

Germany’s parliament wants to talk to him about the NSA’s secret monitoring of Merkel’s phone and the communications of a host of politicians and business people, according to reports, but visiting Germany would pose grave diplomatic problems for Merkel and endanger Snowden’s asylum status back in Moscow.

“The asylum he has in Russia gives him security in Russia but not in Germany,” Stroebele, who sits on parliament’s control committee which oversees the work of the German intelligence agencies, told a news conference.

“If he left he would not be able to return to Russia. He would come to Germany if he would be safe here or in another country,” said the white-haired MP who is the first foreign politician known to have met with Snowden in Russia.

Some politicians want Snowden put on a witness protection scheme, others suggest sending a parliamentary committee to Moscow. German officials say there is no discussion of granting him asylum, which he would have to request on German soil, and there is a pending US request to arrest him if he comes.

“Edward Snowden is in Russia under a temporary refugee status and, if he leaves Russian territory, he may lose it,” the Russian lawyer representing Snowden, Anatoly Kucherena, was quoted as saying by Russian Interfax news agency.

 

‘Paranoia’ Movie Review

“Paranoia,” a new movie about a war between tech oligarchs and the corporate espionage they undertake to destroy each other, makes its debut in Los Angeles with stars Harrison Ford, Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard, and Richard Dreyfuss.The movie was directed by Robert Luketic

Singer Miley Cyrus, engaged to Liam Hemsworth and Calista Flockhart married to Ford, also attended the screening at the theater at the Directors Guild of America Headquarters in West Hollywood.

“Paranoia” is capitalizing on the currency of the Snowden  issue, a movie that delves into issues that are all too current today, with government wiretapping and the Edward Snowden saga taking center stage, with Harrison Ford adding to the conversation lamenting that privacy doesn’t really exist anymore, in essence.

The movie depicts a young and ambitious wiz-kid who becomes a pawn in a fierce rivalry between tech billionaires. As the young superstar is seduced by unlimited wealth and power, he is hired by one to spy on the other’s company from the inside, he realizes his life is in danger too late, and that he is in far too deep and knows far too much for them to let him walk away.

Hemsworth, an Australian actor best known for his role as Gale Hawthorne in the “Hunger Games” films, said acting between heavyweights Ford and Oldman was a tall order.

The talk on the red carpet wasn’t all about “Paranoia,” with news breaking this week of Harrison Ford replacing Bruce Willis in the upcoming third installment of the “Expendables” film.

When asked why he was participating in the series, “the first two have earned a combined $575 million dollars  world-wide Ford” said.

“Paranoia” opens nationwide on August 16.

 

 

 

Venezuela Offers Asylum To U.S. Fugitive Snowden

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on Friday in defiance of Washington, which is demanding his arrest for divulging details of secret U.S. spy programs.

Snowden, 30, is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport and has been trying to find a country that would take him since he landed from Hong Kong on June 23.

“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Maduro told a military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.

“He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world.”

Russia has kept the former National Security Agency contractor at arm’s length, saying the transit area where passengers stay between flights is neutral territory and he will be on Russian soil only if he goes through passport control.

It was not immediately clear how Snowden would react to Maduro’s offer, nor reach Venezuela if he accepted.

There are no direct commercial flights between Moscow and Caracas, and the usual route involves changing planes in Havana – to which there is a flight from Sheremetyevo at 6:05 ET. It is not clear if the Cuban authorities would let him transit.

Given the dramatic grounding in Vienna of the Bolivian president’s plane this week over suspicions that Snowden was onboard, using European airspace could prove problematic.

Russia has shown signs of growing impatience over Snowden’s stay in Moscow. Its deputy foreign minister said on Thursday that Snowden had not sought asylum in that country and needed to choose a place to go.

Moscow has made clear that the longer he stays, the greater the risk of the diplomatic standoff over his fate causing lasting damage to relations with Washington.

Both Russia’s foreign ministry and President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman declined to comment on Venezuela’s offer.

“This is not our affair,” Dmitry Peskov told Reuters.

The White House also declined to comment.

Raising the possibility of at least one other option, Nicaragua said it had received an asylum request from Snowden and could agree to it “if circumstances permit”.

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, said on Friday that Snowden had asked six more nations for asylum, bringing to about 20 the number of countries he has appealed to for protection from U.S. espionage charges.

WikiLeaks said on Twitter it would not reveal which six new countries Snowden had applied to for asylum, due to “attempted U.S. interference”.

Maduro said Venezuela was ready to offer him sanctuary, and that the details Snowden had revealed of U.S. spy programs had exposed the nefarious schemes of the U.S. “empire.”

“Who is the guilty one? A young man … who denounces war plans, or the U.S. government which launches bombs and arms the terrorist Syrian opposition against the people and legitimate President Bashar al-Assad?” he asked, to applause and cheers from ranks of military officers at the parade.

“Who is the terrorist? Who is the global delinquent?”

‘COLONIES OF THE UNITED STATES’

Since narrowly winning a presidential election in April that followed the death of his mentor, Hugo Chavez, from cancer, Maduro has often lambasted the United States – even accusing the Pentagon and former U.S. officials of plotting to kill him.

But the former bus driver and union leader has at times also struck a much more conciliatory note, saying he is ready for better relations with Washington, based on mutual respect.

Already one of Snowden’s most vocal supporters on the world stage, Maduro has sharpened his rhetoric in recent days.

It peaked after Bolivia said France, Portugal, Italy and Spain banned a plane carrying its president, Evo Morales, from using their airspace because of suspicions Snowden was aboard.

Snowden’s Search For Asylum Is Fruitless So Far

Several countries on Tuesday spurned asylum requests from Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor wanted for leaking secrets, despite an appeal from Venezuela for the world to protect him.

Snowden, who revealed the secret U.S. electronic surveillance program Prism, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries in his search for safety from the espionage charges in the United States.

The 30-year-old is in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, unable to fly on to a hoped-for destination in Latin America because he has no legal travel documents and no Russian visa to leave the airport.

On Monday, he broke a nine-day silence since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong, challenging Washington by saying he was free to publish more about its programs and that he was being illegally persecuted.

That ruled out a prolonged stay in Russia, where a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after the Russian leader said he should give up his “anti-American activity”.

But while country after country denied his asylum requests on technical grounds, Venezuela, part of an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America, said it was time to stop berating a man who has “done something very important for humanity”.

“He deserves the world’s protection,” President Nicolas Maduro told Reuters during a visit to Moscow.

“He has a right to protection because the United States in its actions is persecuting him…Why are they persecuting him? What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war.”

Maduro said he would consider an asylum application. Snowden’s request for safety in Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of antisecrecy group WikiLeaks Julian Assange in its London embassy, has seemingly ended.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made clear to a number of countries that granting him asylum would carry costs.

“MISTAKE”

Snowden has prepared asylum requests in countries including India, China, Brazil, Ireland, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, WikiLeaks has said.

But several countries, including Snowden’s favored Ecuador, said on Tuesday they could not consider an asylum request from Snowden unless he was on their territory.

Norway said he was unlikely to get asylum there, and Poland said it would not give a “positive recommendation” to any request. Finland, Spain, Ireland and Austria said he had to be in their countries to make a request, while India said “we see no reason” to accept his petition.

France said it had not received a request.

Officials in Russia, which has made clear it wants Snowden to leave, say an embassy car would be considered foreign territory if a country picked him up – possibly a message to leaders of oil-producing countries in Moscow for talks this week.

Snowden’s options have narrowed sharply.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was quoted in Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Monday as saying he could not consider the asylum request and that giving Snowden a temporary travel pass to fly to Moscow was “a mistake on our part”.

“Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical,” he said, adding that Snowden was now Moscow’s problem.

Moscow is unwilling to send Snowden to the United States, a move that could make it look weak, and has no extradition treaty with Washington. But it also does not want to damage ties with the United States over a man with whom Putin, a former KGB spy, has little sympathy.

At a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brunei, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had raised Snowden “from our point of view” despite the affair not being in their domain.

“Russia has never extradited anyone, is not extraditing anyone and will not extradite anyone,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.

Peskov said Snowden showed no sign of stopping releasing secret U.S. documents and added that he had abandoned his intention of staying in Russia.

In an undated letter to Ecuador’s Correa seen by Reuters, Snowden said he was “dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world”. “I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest,” Snowden said in the letter.

U.S. Cyber Leaker Snowden Sits Tight In Moscow Transit

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was believed to still be at a Moscow airport on Thursday and officials said he had not booked a flight out despite pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin to leave.

Snowden fled the United States to Hong Kong this month after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs, then flew to Moscow on Sunday. He had been expected to fly on to Havana on Monday but did not board the aircraft.

The 30-year-old American, who faces espionage charges in the United States and has asked Ecuador for political asylum, has not been seen since his arrival. Russian officials said he remained in a transit area at Sheremetyevo airport.

A source at Russian airline Aeroflot said that neither Snowden nor his travelling companion Sarah Harrison, a researcher for the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, had booked a seat on Thursday’s flight to Havana.

An Aeroflot representative said earlier that Snowden had not booked a flight departing in the coming days.

An immigration official said Snowden had not applied for a visa to enter Russia and that he could remain in the transit area “as long as he wants” without applying for a transit visa.

Putin has rejected U.S. calls to expel Snowden to the United States and said on Tuesday that he should choose his destination and leave the Moscow airport as soon as possible. Ecuador has said it could take weeks to decide on his asylum request.

Russia Defiant As U.S. Raises Pressure Over Snowden

Russia defied White House pressure on Monday to expel former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to the United States before he flees Moscow on the next stop of his globe-crossing escape from U.S. prosecution.

Snowden, whose exposure of secret U.S. government surveillance raised questions about intrusion into private lives, was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday after Washington asked the Chinese territory to arrest him on espionage charges.

Snowden, 29, has kept out of sight in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport as Ecuador says it considers his request for asylum.

His decision to fly to Russia, which like China challenges U.S. dominance of global diplomacy, is another embarrassment to President Barack Obama who has tried to “reset” ties with Moscow and build a partnership with Beijing.

The White House said it expected the Russian government to send Snowden back to the United States and lodged “strong objections” to Hong Kong and China for letting him go.

“We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

The Russian government ignored the appeal and President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary denied any knowledge of Snowden’s movements.

Asked if Snowden had spoken to the Russian authorities, Peskov said: “Overall, we have no information about him.”

He declined comment on the expulsion request but other Russian officials said Moscow had no obligation to cooperate with Washington after it passed legislation to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russians accused of violating human rights.

“Why should the United States expect restraint and understanding from Russia?” said Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament.

Putin has missed few chances to champion public figures who challenge Western governments and to portray Washington as an overzealous global policeman. But Russian leaders have not paraded Snowden before the cameras or trumpeted his arrival.

ECUADOR’S ROLE

Since leaving Hong Kong, where he feared arrest and extradition, Snowden has been searching for a country which can guarantee his security.

Ecuador said it had received an asylum request and Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, on a trip to Vietnam, said it would be analyzed with a “lot of responsibility”. He was expected to hold a news conference around 7.00 p.m. (8 a.m. EDT) in Hanoi.

A source at Russian airline Aeroflot said Snowden was booked on a flight due to depart for Havana on Monday at 2:05 p.m. (6.05 a.m. EDT). The gate for the Cuba flight was blocked and security was tightened.

A State Department official said Washington had told countries in the Western Hemisphere that Snowden “should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States”.

Despite the Kremlin denials, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said Putin had probably known about and approved Snowden’s flight to Russia.

“Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States,” Schumer, a senior Senate Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union”. He also saw “the hand of Beijing” in Hong Kong’s decision to let Snowden leave.

But taking the higher ground after being accused of hacking computers abroad, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern” over Snowden’s allegations that the United States had hacked computers in China.

It said it had taken up the issue with Washington.

CHILL

Some Russians have praised Snowden’s revelations. Others fear a new chill in relations with the United States.

“We are a pretty stubborn country and so is the United States. Both are mighty countries, so I would say this has a good potential to turn into a big fuss in bilateral relations,” said Ina Sosna, manager of a Moscow cleaning company.

“I guess it would be best if they just let him move on from Russia to avoid any more controversy over him being here.”

Snowden was aided in his escape by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization whose founder Julian Assange said he had helped to arrange documents from Ecuador.

Ecuador, like Cuba and Venezuela, is a member of the ALBA bloc, an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America that pride themselves on their “anti-imperialist” credentials. The Quito government has been sheltering Assange at its London embassy for the past year.

The New York Times quoted Assange as saying in an interview that his group had arranged for Snowden to travel on a “special refugee document” issued by Ecuador last Monday.

U.S. sources said Washington had revoked Snowden’s passport. WikiLeaks said diplomats and Sarah Harrison, a British legal researcher working for the anti-secrecy group, accompanied him.

Snowden, who had worked at a U.S. National Security Agency facility in Hawaii, had been hiding in Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to China in 1997, since leaking details about secret U.S. surveillance programs to news media.

Snowden has been charged with theft of federal government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person, with the latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.

Ex-CIA Who Leaked U.S Top Secret Leaves Hong Kong For Moscow

Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency, left Hong Kong on a flight for Moscow on Sunday and his final destination may be Ecuador or Iceland, the South China Morning Post said.

It did not give any source for the information. A Hong Kong government spokesman said Snowden had left voluntarily.

The paper earlier quoted Snowden offering new details about America’s spy activities, including accusations of U.S. hacking of Chinese mobile phone companies and targeting China’s Tsinghua University.

Documents previously leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies, including Facebook and Google, under a government program known as Prism.