Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who claimed to be the source of reports revealing secret U.S. government surveillance programs, broke his silence today in a defiant statement directed at President Obama, according to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks.
"On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic 'wheeling and dealing' over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions," said a statement attributed to Snowden and distributed by WikiLeaks. "This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are old, bad tools of political aggression."
Snowden, believed to have been holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport for more than a week now, said that by revoking his American passport, the U.S. government has left him "a stateless person."
Earlier today the U.S. State Department vehemently denied that Snowden was stranded where he was, noting he is still a U.S. citizen, and said that he could be given travel documents to come back to the U.S. to face a "free and fair trial." Snowden has been charged with a series of espionage-related crimes.
Snowden's reference to the Vice President presumably refers Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa telling a local television station that Vice President Joe Biden called him Friday and requested the country not grant Snowden political asylum there. Ecuador is reportedly one of 15 countries to have received asylum requests from Snowden, including Russia. Top U.S. officials have previously urged Russia to "expel" Snowden back to the U.S., but Russian President Vladimir Putin said today, before the asylum request was reported, that he could stay in Russia, as long has he stops "his work aimed at damaging our U.S. partners." A Putin spokesperson had no comment on the asylum request and The New York Times reported earlier today it had not yet been received by Russia's foreign ministry.
The letter is allegedly the first time the public has heard directly from Snowden since the revealed himself last month as the source of a series of headline-grabbing reports concerning what he called the NSA's "horrifying" foreign and domestic surveillance programs. Over the weekend, the latest stories based on his information alleged that the U.S. routinely spies on the offices of the European Union.
"In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, [alleged WikiLeaks source] Bradley Manning or [previous NSA whistleblower] Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless," Snowden said. "No, the Obama administration is afraid of you… an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised - and it should be."
"I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many," he said.