NSA leaker Edward Snowden has sent out appeals for asylum to six more countries, WikiLeaks reported Friday, in a sign of the marooned fugitive’s mounting desperation in the face of international indifference to his plight.
Snowden remains trapped in a diplomatic no-man’s land at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, lacking documents that would allow him to enter Russia or travel to a country willing to damage relations with Washington to give him refuge.
The 30-year-old former contract worker for the National Security Agency has been on the run for more than a month since telling journalists about massive U.S. efforts to track telephone conversations and Internet traffic around the world.
Snowden lost what was probably his best shot for reprieve on Thursday, when minor parties in Iceland’s parliament proposed granting Snowden immediate citizenship. That would have allowed him, once provided with a passport by the Icelandic Embassy in Moscow, to fly to Reykjavik and shelter in the chilly Nordic nation to evade extradition to the United States for prosecution on espionage charges.
But the proposal by the liberal Left-Green, Pirate and Brighter Future parties fizzled, with only six of the parliament’s 63 members expressing support, the Russia Today network reported. The legislature then recessed for the summer.
Before Friday’s announcement of additional asylum bids, WikiLeaks had reported that Snowden had appealed to 21 countries for political asylum. He subsequently withdrew the request to settle in Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s condition that he refrain from leaking information about U.S. surveillance practices that are “aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners.”
None of the other 20 states identified by WikiLeaks has offered Snowden refuge. Most have evaded a formal response because their asylum laws require an application to be made in person on national soil. Others, such as U.S. allies France, Germany, Poland and India, have denied him entry.
WikiLeaks, the secret-revealing website that has been aiding Snowden in his efforts to dodge U.S. extradition, announced via Twitter on Friday that six more countries had been approached.
“Edward #Snowden has applied to another six countries for asylum. They will not be named at this time due to attempted U.S. interference,” WikiLeaks tweeted.
The freedom-of-information crusaders were apparently referring to reports of U.S. pressure being applied to countries to which Snowden had previously appealed for asylum. Four U.S.-allied states -- France, Italy, Spain and Portugal -- denied airspace entry Tuesday to a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales because they had been informed that Snowden might be on board with the leftist leader, who as headed home to La Paz after a meeting in Moscow.
Snowden has been in the Sheremetyevo transit area for 13 days. Foreign journalists have been searching the publicly accessible areas of the airport between arrival gates and passport control but none have reported any encounter with the fugitive. That suggests he is in a secure area under watch by Russian border guards -- and probably security and intelligence officials keen to learn more about the secret data he reportedly carried in with him on four computers.