Edward Snowden's Dad Calls Him 'Modern Day Paul Revere'

Alleged NSA leaker holed up in Moscow airport, asylum options scarce.

July 2, 2013, 11:02 AM
PHOTO: Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, in Hong Kong, June 9, 2013.
Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, in Hong Kong, June 9, 2013.
The Guardian/AP Photo

July 2, 2013 </ br>MOSCOW -- As alleged NSA leaker Edward Snowden's options for political asylum appear to dwindle, Snowden's father sent a letter to his son today, calling him a "modern day Paul Revere" who helped "awaken" Congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence from a "deep slumber."

In the letter, written by attorney Bruce Fein "in collaboration with" Lonnie Snowden, the two say that by leaking information on the National Security Agency's vast domestic and international surveillance programs, the younger Snowden has "forced onto the national agenda the question of whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping..."

"You are a modern day Paul Revere summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government," the letter says.

It also references the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's comments before a Senate committee in which he denied the NSA purposefully collects, as Sen. Ron Wyden put it, "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans" -- a denial apparently disputed by reports based on Snowden's information. The letter asks whether Clapper or Snowden is the "superior patriot."

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The letter, in which the elder Snowden only requests that his 30-year-old son to "engage us in regular exchanges of ideas or thoughts... about curing or mitigating the hugely suboptimal political culture of the United States," is a departure from Lon Snowden's previous requests that his son stop the leaks and come home.

Where In the World Could Snowden Go?

Edward Snowden will presumably receive the letter as he spends another day in the Moscow airport, where he is said to have been for more than a week and from where he could be watching his options for foreign safe haven slowly vanish.

On Tuesday he withdrew his application for asylum in Russia. Meanwhile, Ecuador's president hinted that his country is pulling back its early enthusiastic support, Venezuela's president said he will not give Snowden a ride out of Moscow, and several other countries said they are not willing to host him either.

Snowden said in a letter distributed by WikiLeaks Monday that he has been left stateless by the American government after they revoked his passport. The U.S. State Department countered, saying he's still a U.S. citizen and could get travel documents to come home to face a "free and fair trial." Snowden has been charged with espionage-related crimes in the U.S.

On Sunday night, Snowden applied for asylum in 19 countries, according to Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organization that is helping him travel. That is in addition to his existing applications with Ecuador and Iceland. But some of those countries, namely India, Brazil and Poland, have already rejected his application. It appears unlikely he will receive asylum in the others.

If a country does grant Snowden asylum, he is also likely to have trouble getting there because most transit countries have extradition treaties with the United States.

On Tuesday, a Kremlin spokesman said that Snowden had withdrawn his application for asylum in Russia because he rejected President Vladimir Putin's condition a day earlier that he stop "harming" America – in other words, that he stop releasing classified information.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, meanwhile, said the Ecuadorian embassy in London made a "mistake" when is issued Snowden an emergency refugee travel document.

"The right of asylum request is one thing but helping someone travel from one country to another — Ecuador has never done this," Correa told the Guardian newspaper in an interview on Tuesday. He said Ecuador would still consider Snowden's asylum application, but reiterated that he must be on Ecuadorian soil or in their embassy for it to be granted.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro is in Moscow for at two day visit, but while he said Snowden should be supported, he ruled out giving him a lift on his plane. That would have given Snowden a route to the Western Hemisphere, and perhaps Ecuador, while avoiding potentially hostile layovers.

As for the Europeans; Iceland, Norway, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Finland all say Snowden has to be on their soil or in their embassy to apply for asylum. Since he cannot leave the airport, he does not have a Russian visa, and he does not have a valid travel document those responses seem as good as a no.

So what options does Snowden have left?

China has already reportedly kicked him out once from Hong Kong and, after failing to board flights to Havana last week, U.S. officials believe he's not welcome in Cuba either.

The only countries left on his list of 21 asylum applications are Bolivia, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Holland, Nicaragua, and Spain.

Bolivian President Evo Morales reportedly said today his country would "consider the idea," but on commercial flights, Snowden cannot cross the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans without connecting through a country with a U.S. extradition treaty, so that presumably rules out Bolivia and Nicaragua. It seems unlikely that the remaining Europeans countries are willing to risk their relationship with the U.S. and give him safe haven, even though they are angry about reports that the U.S. has been spying on their embassies.

That leaves exactly zero available countries on the initial list of 21.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is placing enormous pressure on any of the countries he could fly to from Moscow.

Though information on highly classified programs appears to still be leaking out with no sign of stopping, at least when it comes to Snowden's travel plans, it all seems to be going to plan for the U.S. A U.S. official told ABC News last week they expected Snowden to run out of options by around this time.

There is still a chance that a country could issue Snowden an emergency travel document and that a private plane, paid for by deep-pocketed backers, could pick him up from Moscow and deliver him to a sympathetic country. But Snowden looks increasingly boxed in, with his options disappearing seemingly by the minute.

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