WikiLeaks: NSA leaker Edward Snowden going to Ecuador to seek asylum

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 23 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

With each suspected flight, efforts to secure Snowden's return to the United States appeared more complicated if not impossible. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but does with Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador. Even with an extradition agreement though, any country could give Snowden a political exemption.

The likelihood that any of these countries would stop Snowden from traveling on to Ecuador seemed unlikely. While diplomatic tensions have thawed in recent years, Cuba and the United States are hardly allies after a half century of distrust.

Venezuela, too, could prove difficult. Former President Hugo Chavez was a sworn enemy of the United States and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, earlier this year called Obama "grand chief of devils." The two countries do not exchange ambassadors.

U.S. pressure on Caracas also might be problematic given its energy exports. The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports Venezuela sent the United States 900,000 barrels of crude oil each day in 2012, making it the fourth-largest foreign source of U.S. oil.

"I think 10 percent of Snowden's issues are now legal, and 90 percent political," said Douglas McNabb, an expert in international extradition and a senior principal at international criminal defense firm McNabb Associates.

Assange's lawyer, Michael Ratner, said Snowden's options aren't numerous.

"You have to have a country that's going to stand up to the United States," Ratner said. "You're not talking about a huge range of countries here."

That is perhaps why Snowden first stopped in Russia, a nation with complicated relations with Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is "aiding and abetting Snowden's escape," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States," Schumer said. "That's not how allies should treat one another, and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship."

It also wasn't clear Snowden was finished with disclosing highly classified information.

"I am very worried about what else he has," said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she had been told Snowden had perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents.

Ros-Lehtinen and King spoke with CNN. Graham spoke to "Fox News Sunday." Schumer was on CNN's "State of the Union." Sanchez appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." Feinstein was on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Associated Press White House Correspondent Julie Pace and Associated Press writers Matthew V. Lee and Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, Lynn Berry in Moscow, Kevin Chan in Hong Kong and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.

Follow Philip Elliott on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philip_elliott

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