US calls on Russia to expel NSA whistleblower
White House says Russia has legal basis for expelling Edward Snowden
A TV screen in a St Petersburg pool hall shows former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden during a news bulletin. Photograph: Alexander Demianchuk/The Irish Times
A crew member of Aeroflot’s SU150 Moscow-Havana flight takes pictures of reporters at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport . The Aeroflot flight from Moscow that was being closely tracked by media organizations in case Edward Snowden was on board, landed in Cuba uneventfully on Monday. Photograph: Desmond Boylan/Reuters
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the legal basis for expelling Snowden are the status of his travel documents and the pending espionage charges against him.
“Accordingly, we are asking the Russian government to take action to expel Mr Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement co-operation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing,” she said.
The White House statement came after Russian president Vladimir Putin ruled out handing over Snowden, who leaked details of US surveillance programs.
Ms Hayden said the United States had seen comments from Mr Putin and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and “we understand that Russia must consider the issues raised by Mr Snowden’s decision to travel there.”
“We agree with president Putin that we do not want this issue to negatively impact our bilateral relations. While we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia, there is nonetheless a clear legal basis to expel Mr Snowden, based on the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him,” she said. Speaking on a visit to Finland earlier today, Mr Putin added that Russian security agencies “didn’t work and aren’t working” with Mr Snowden. He gave no more details.
Commenting on a US request to extradite him, Mr Putin said Russia doesn’t have an extradition agreement with the US and thus would not meet the US request. He said he hoped Mr Snowden will depart as quickly as possible and that his stopover at Moscow’s airport wouldn’t affect bilateral ties.
Russia earlier denied a role in Mr Snowden’s efforts to evade prosecution and said he has not crossed the border into Russia.
Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the former US spy agency contractor “chose his itinerary on his own. We learned about it ... from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border.
“We consider the attempts to put blame on the Russian side ... absolutely groundless and unacceptable,” he said.
Mr Snowden, who booked a Havana-bound flight from Moscow yesterday, did not show up on the plane.
A Moscow airport source told Reuters today that Mr Snowden had arrived in Moscow on Sunday on and was due to depart for Havana the following day, but did not use the ticket.
The source said he was travelling with Sarah Harrison, a British legal researcher working for the anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks. “She came together with Edward Snowden from Hong-Kong on June 23rd around 5pm,” the source said. “He had a ticket to go to Havana on the 24th, but he did not use it. She also had one, but she didn’t use it either.”