Friday, June 28, 2013

Obama Says He Won't Bargain for Return of 'Hacker'

At the Wall Street Journal, "Ecuadorean Disarray Clouds Snowden Bid":

Disarray within the Ecuadorean government over the role of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange in Edward Snowden's asylum bid is complicating the outcome, according to diplomatic correspondence that appears to shed light on the mixed signals from Quito over the American fugitive's fate.

Mr. Assange—the antisecrecy-group founder who for the past year has been sheltered inside Ecuador's London embassy—wrote to Ecuadorean officials Monday that he hoped his role in the Snowden matter hadn't embarrassed the government, according to an internal Ecuadorean diplomatic correspondence obtained by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Networks and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

But in the note, Mr. Assange also offered public-relations advice to top Ecuadorean officials about how to handle the crisis. Mr. Assange's earlier efforts on Mr. Snowden's behalf had prompted one diplomat to caution that Mr. Assange could be perceived as "running the show" in Ecuador.

In addition, it was an Ecuadorean diplomat who has said he is close with Mr. Assange—Fidel Narvaez, the consul at Ecuador's London embassy—who issued a controversial temporary travel document intended for Mr. Snowden, according to another of the Ecuadorean diplomatic correspondences.

WikiLeaks and Mr. Assange didn't immediately respond to requests for comment late Thursday. Representatives for Ecuador's foreign ministry declined to comment on the authenticity of the correspondences.

Several representatives at Ecuador's mission in London also declined to comment and said Mr. Narvaez was out of the office and unavailable to comment. He didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

Mr. Snowden has been charged by U.S. authorities with theft of government property and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information. On Sunday, Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow, according to WikiLeaks, after spending several weeks in Hong Kong after he admittedly leaked details of U.S. National Security Agency intelligence-gathering programs.

Russian officials have said he remains in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, and have said he should move along. The question now is where Mr. Snowden—stripped of his U.S. passport and apparently without an Ecuadorean travel document—can go.

The validity of any Ecuadorean travel document, or "safe pass," has been the subject of intense speculation this week. Mr. Assange said this week Ecuador issued such a document to Mr. Snowden and Ecuadorean officials haven't denied it exists. But officials have said that such a safe conduct pass, if it is in Mr. Snowden's possession, isn't valid.

On Tuesday, Alexis Mera, the legal adviser to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, was sent a correspondence from an address bearing Mr. Narvaez's name. "Dear Alexis," read the note, which included a copy of an Ecuadorean safe-conduct pass issued in Mr. Snowden's name, "I am responding to your request."

Another email from the same account, dated Wednesday and addressed to the legal adviser as well as to a presidential spokesman, said: "I trust you received the requested document yesterday." Mr. Narvaez was in Moscow at the time, according to the message.

But by then, Ecuadorean officials were publicly disputing that Mr. Snowden had been given such travel papers—a position voiced most strenuously by Mr. Correa on Thursday. Even if such a document existed, the president said, "the person who issued it will be totally without authority and [the document] would have no validity."
Snowden's pretty screwed over right now, obviously. It's not fun holing up in an airport, and as folks were saying on Fox News' All-Stars, especially so at Moscow's airport.

In any case, more at the link.