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Human Rights Watch Meets with Edward Snowden, Who May Stay in Russia *Updated*

First pic of Edward Snowden in Moscow airport - taken by @tanyalokshina of Human Rights Watch [via PaulTOwen on Twitter]

First pic of Edward Snowden in Moscow airport – taken by @tanyalokshina of Human Rights Watch [via PaulTOwen on Twitter]

THE FIRST picture of Edward Snowden comes from Human Rights Watch, who met with him in Moscow. It comes from Paul T. Owen of the Guardian, who has reporting of the meeting.

Ellen Barry of the New York Times reports that Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, who is in the meeting, says Snowden has said he has received offers from Venezuela, Russia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador. He thanks them. He says he accepts all offers, present and future. The offer from Venezuela has been made formally. He wants help in guaranteeing his safe passage to Latin America, she says. He will submit an asylum claim to Russia today, but he plans to go to Latin America eventually, she says.

In the last half hour, RT is reporting that Edward Snowden has agreed not to do damage to U.S., as condition for accepting asylum in Russia. It may be the answer if getting to Latin America proves unwieldy, with interception likely.

The ACLU lays out what they believe the Obama administration’s actions have done to the ability of people to seek asylum.

Ironically, U.S. actions (including whatever role the United States played in the incident involving President Morales’ plane) have arguably strengthened Mr. Snowden’s claims for asylum based on political persecution. In addition to infringing on Mr. Snowden’s right to asylum, U.S. actions also create the risk of providing cover for other countries to crack down on whistleblowers and deny asylum to individuals who have exposed illegal activity or human rights violations.

The ACLU also stresses Edward Snowden’s asylum request:

…because of the risk of being persecuted by the government of the United States and its agents in relation to my decision to make public serious violations on the part of the government of the United States of its Constitution, specifically of its Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and of various treaties of the United Nations that are binding on my country. As a result of my political opinions, and my desire to exercise my freedom of speech, through which I’ve shown that the government of the United States is intercepting the majority of communications in the world, the government of the United States has publicly announced a criminal investigation against me…I believe that, given these circumstances, it is unlikely that I would receive a fair trial or proper treatment prior to that trial, and face the possibility of life in prison or even death.

Human Rights Watch announcing that Edward Snowden is headed for Latin America is unsurprising. It comes after speculation in the media that he was “trapped” in the Russian airport, which started with a report by McClatchy, then was quickly picked up and blasted on the front page of Huffington Post. From McClatchy:

Beginning a third week holed up in a Moscow airport’s transit zone, Edward Snowden finds himself far enough away to evade U.S. authorities, but also too far from any of the sympathetic nations willing to shelter him.

Aviation experts say that even if Snowden accepts the tentative offers of Venezuela, Nicaragua or Bolivia to give him shelter, it’s virtually impossible to chart a flight plan to those nations that doesn’t include traveling over or refueling in a U.S.-friendly country that could demand inspection of the plane – and detain him.

Nations have full, exclusive jurisdiction over their airspace, so any plane carrying Snowden could be forced to land if it flies over the territory of a country that’s willing to help American authorities capture the fugitive intelligence contractor.

Now we wait to see if Edward Snowden takes a flight out of Russia, which may not be a straight through flight to his destination.

If Snowden stays in Russia, it may be his work and career in disclosing the United States spying tactics is over.

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