Snowden still at airport, Ecuador asylum decision may take weeks

People spend time in a waiting room at the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport June 26, 2013.  Credit: Reuters
People spend time in a waiting room at the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport June 26, 2013.
Credit: Reuters

A former U.S. spy agency contractor facing charges of espionage remained in hiding at a Moscow airport on Wednesday while the prospect grew of a protracted Russian-U.S. wrangle over his fate.

Ecuador, where Edward Snowden has requested asylum, said a decision could take weeks and asked Washington to argue its case for extradition. Russia said Snowden, whose flight is proving a growing embarrassment for President Barack Obama, was still in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs, then flew on to Moscow on Sunday. There was no sign on Wednesday of him registering for onward flights out of Russia.

“They are not flying today and not over the next three days,” an Aeroflot representative at the transfer desk at Sheremetyevo said when asked whether Snowden and his legal adviser, Sarah Harrison, were due to fly out.

“They are not in the system.”

The logical route for Snowden to take out – and one for which he at one point had a reservation – would be an Aeroflot flight to Havana and a connecting flight to Ecuador.

The choice of alternative flights, while the United States presses other countries not to take him in or to arrest him on arrival, would appear to be be limited.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated Putin’s stated opinion that he should choose a destination and fly out as soon as possible, state-run Itar-Tass news agency reported.

But Ecuador’s foreign minister indicated a decision on Snowden’s asylum request could take two months.

“It took us two months to make a decision on Assange so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time,” Foreign Minister Richard Patino said in Kuala Lumpur, referring to the founder of anti-secrecy group Wikileaks, Julian Assange.

He added that Ecuador would consider giving Snowden protection before that if he went to Ecuador’s embassy – but Russian officials say Snowden does not have a visa to enter Russia, and the United States has revoked his passport.

Snowden, with his surveillance information, remains within the grasp of a Russian state clearly not in a hurry to dispatch him from its territory. Ecuador, which has not in the past flinched from taking on Western powers, is similarly not rushing to banish the uncertainty now plaguing U.S. authorities.

Behind the scenes U.S. officials have been meeting Russian counterparts on a resolution.

“RAVINGS AND RUBBISH”

Snowden has not been seen in the transit area – the zone between the departure gate and formal entry into the country.

Putin denied he was being interviewed by Russian intelligence and said any U.S. accusations that Moscow was aiding him were “ravings and rubbish”.

That prompted a new extradition demand by Washington, which said there was a clear legal basis to do so.

Putin says he will not extradite Snowden. By declaring that he is in the transit area, albeit unseen, Russian authorities maintain the position that he has not formally entered Russia – a step that would take the dispute to another level.

The row could, however, further fray ties between the United States and Russia, which have argued over human rights and Putin’s treatment of opponents in a third term and have squared off over the Syria conflict in the U.N. Security Council.

Snowden, who worked as a systems administrator at a U.S. National Security Agency facility in Hawaii, has been called a “traitor” in the United States for revealing its secrets.

Putin, a former KGB officer, may feel little sympathy for someone who has broken the secrecy code. He has suggested the surveillance methods revealed by Snowden were justified in fighting terror, if carried out lawfully.

But Snowden could be a useful propaganda tool for Moscow, which accuses the United States of violating rights and freedoms it vocally urges other countries, including Russia, to protect.

Russia’s upper parliament house said it planned to investigate whether U.S. intelligence agencies had violated the rights of Russians by collecting data from Internet companies.

Snowden was the source of disclosures about U.S. government surveillance, including details about a program that collected emails, chat logs and other types of data from companies such as Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc – all widely used in Russia.

Upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko said a working group would be formed to look into the Russian operations of Internet companies to determine “whether human rights have been violated, whether there has been interference in the personal lives of citizens,” Itar-Tass reported.

A member of the Kremlin’s advisory Human Rights Council, anti-corruption activist Kirill Kabanov, appealed to colleagues to ask Putin to invite Snowden to remain in Russia.

“We have shown that we are a weak country,” state-run RIA quoted Kabanov as saying. “We could provide him with some kind of asylum. Surely we are not weaker than Ecuador.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.