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WikiLeaks: Snowden makes expanded asylum requests

Posted: July 2, 2013 7:00 a.m.
Updated: July 2, 2013 7:00 a.m.
 

WASHINGTON (AP) — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, believed to be in legal limbo in the Moscow airport, is expanding his requests for asylum to another 19 countries, including China, according to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that has adopted Snowden and his cause, on Monday night posted a statement said to be from Snowden that slammed President Barack Obama for "using citizenship as a weapon."

"Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person," Snowden says in the statement. "Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

"Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me."

WikiLeaks legal adviser Sarah Harrison delivered the requests for asylum to an official at the Russian consulate at the Moscow airport on Sunday, according to the website. WikiLeaks says some of the requests have already been delivered to the appropriate embassies.

The WikiLeaks statement said requests were made to China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, India and several European countries. Snowden had planned earlier to seek asylum in Ecuador and has requested asylum in Russia.

The asylum requests reported by WikiLeaks and the Snowden statement could not be independently authenticated.

Snowden, who has been on the run since releasing sensitive NSA documents, is believed to have been in Moscow airport's transit zone since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23. The U.S. has annulled his passport, and Ecuador, where he had hoped to get asylum, has been giving mixed signals about offering him shelter.

After Snowden applied for political asylum to remain in Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow that Snowden would have to stop leaking U.S. secrets if he wanted asylum there — and he added that Snowden seemed unwilling to stop publishing leaks of classified material.

At the same time, Putin said he had no plans to turn over Snowden to the United States.

The expanded requests for asylum come as the Obama administration contends with European allies angry about the release of documents that alleged U.S. eavesdropping on European Union diplomats.

Obama, in an African news conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, said the U.S. would provide allies with information about new reports that the NSA had bugged EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. But he also suggested such activity by governments would hardly be unusual.

"We should stipulate that every intelligence service —not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there's an intelligence service — here's one thing that they're going to be doing: They're going to be trying to understand the world better, and what's going on in world capitals around the world," he said. "If that weren't the case, then there'd be no use for an intelligence service."

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