| Edward Snowden: Obama guilty of deceit over extradition!

Edward Snowden: Obama guilty of deceit over extradition ~

Edward Snowden

In the statement released by WikiLeaks, Snowden claimed the US president had employed the ‘old, bad tools of political aggression’. Photograph: Reuters/The Guardian

Edward Snowden has accused Barack Obama of deception for promising in public to avoid diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over his extradition, while privately pressuring countries to refuse his requests for asylum.

Snowden, the surveillance whistleblower who is thought to be trapped in the legal limbo of a transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, used his first public comments since fleeing Hong Kong to attack the US for revoking his passport. He also accused his country of bullying nations that might grant him asylum.

“On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic ‘wheeling and dealing’ over my case,” Snowden said in a statement released by WikiLeaks.

“Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the president ordered his vice-president to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions. This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression.”

Snowden’s increasingly desperate predicament became further apparent on Monday night with the leak of a letter he had written to Ecuador praising its “bravery” and expressing “deep respect and sincere thanks” for considering his request for political asylum.

But the change in mood in Quito, already apparent at the end of last week, was underlined by an interview Rafael Correa, the president, gave to the Guardian on Monday in which he insisted Ecuador will not now help Snowden leave Moscow and never intended to facilitate his attempted flight to South America.

Correa blamed earlier signs of encouragement on a misunderstanding by its London embassy.

“That we are responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical. The country that has to give him a safe conduct document is Russia,” Correa said at the presidential palace in Quito. Correa said his government did not intentionally help Snowden travel from Hong Kong to Moscow with a temporary travel pass. “It was a mistake on our part.”

In his statement through WikiLeaks, which has been assisting him since he left Hong Kong on 10 June, Snowden contrasted the current US approach to his extradition with its previous support of political dissidents in other countries.

“For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum,” he said. “Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the US in article 14 of the universal declaration of human rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country.”

Snowden also accused the Obama administration of “using citizenship as a weapon”, which has apparently left him unable to leave the airport in Moscow.

“Although I am convicted of nothing, [the US] has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person,” he said. “Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”

Moscow confirmed earlier on Monday that Snowden had applied for political asylum in Russia. The LA Times said Snowden had made similar applications to a total of 15 countries.

The former NSA contractor struck a defiant tone on Monday night. “In the end, the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake,” he said. “We are stateless, imprisoned or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you.

“It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised – and it should be. I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.”

His statement also came shortly after one of Obama’s top intelligence officials, US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was forced to apologise to Congress</a> for “erroneous” claims that the US did not collect data on its own citizens.

Snowden paid tribute to those who had helped him force such disclosures.

“One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth,” he said.

“My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.”

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| Snowden needs ‘world’s protection’, says Venezuelan leader!

Snowden needs ‘world’s protection’, says Venezuelan leader ~ Alissa de Carbonnel and Alexei Anishchuk, MOSCOW, Reuters.

(Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor, deserved the “world’s protection” for divulging details of Washington’s spy programme.

Snowden, wanted by Washington on spying charges for revealing the secret U.S. electronic surveillance programme Prism, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries, in his search for safety.

The 30-year-old is in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, unable to fly on to a hoped-for destination in Latin America because he has no legal travel documents and no Russian visa to leave the airport.

On Monday, he broke a nine-day silence since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong, challenging Washington by saying he was free to publish more about its programmes and that he was being illegally persecuted.

That ruled out a prolonged stay in Russia, where a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after the Russian leader said he should give up his “anti-American activity”.

But while countries lined up to deny his asylum requests, Venezuela, part of an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America, said it was time to stop berating a man who has “done something very important for humanity”.

“He deserves the world’s protection. He has not asked us for it yet. When he does we will give our answer,” Maduro told Reuters during a visit to Moscow.

He said he would consider an asylum application if Snowden made one. His request for safety in Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of antisecrecy group WikiLeaks Julian Assange in its London embassy, has seemingly ended.

U.S. President Barack Obama, embarrassed by the affair, has made clear to a number of countries that granting him asylum would carry costs.

“MISTAKE”

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was quoted in Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Monday as saying his country could not consider an asylum request unless Snowden was on Ecuadorean territory.

He said giving Snowden a temporary travel pass to fly to Moscow from Hong Kong was “a mistake on our part”.

“Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical,” he said, adding that Snowden was now Moscow’s problem.

Moscow has been unwilling to send Snowden to the United States and look weak but is just as unwilling to damage ties with Washington over a man Putin, a former KGB spy, has little sympathy with.

“Snowden is in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport and has not crossed the Russian Federation’s border (onto Russian soil) … Russia has never extradited anyone, is not extraditing anyone and will not extradite anyone,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Tuesday.

Peskov said Snowden showed no sign of stopping releasing secret U.S. documents and added that he had “abandoned his intention (of staying in Russia)”.

Snowden has prepared requests for asylum in countries including India, China, BrazilIreland, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, GermanyItaly, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, WikiLeaks said on Monday.

By Tuesday, the list of rejections was growing.

Norway said he was unlikely to get asylum there, and Poland said it would not give a “positive recommendation” to any request. Finland said it could not accept his request as Finnish law required him to be in the country. France, Iceland and Italy said they had not received any formal request for asylum.

Snowden’s options are narrowing. His U.S. passport has been revoked so he has no travel documents and he does not have a valid Russian visa to leave the airport.

In a statement released by WikiLeaks on Monday, he accused the Obama administration of deception in a campaign to prevent him from finding political asylum and of “leaving me a stateless person” by revoking his U.S. passport.

“This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile,” he said.

“Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right,” Snowden said. “A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum … Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”

U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre rejected Snowden’s allegation “since he is still a United States citizen and his country is willing to take him back.”

Snowden said he was being illegally persecuted in a undated letter sent to Ecuador’s Correa seen by Reuters.

“I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest,” Snowden, who had been a contract employee for the U.S. National Security Agency, said in the letter.

“No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world. If any of those days ahead realise a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank.”

(Writing by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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| Rafael Correa: we helped Snowden by mistake!

Rafael Correa: we helped Snowden by mistake ~

  •  in Quitoguardian.co.uk.

    Ecuador’s president reveals travel pass was granted ‘without authorisation’ and says whistleblower is now Russia’s problem.

    Rafael Correa Ecuador president Edward Snowden

    Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa said Snowden ‘must be on Ecuadorean territory’ to make an asylum request. Photograph: Martin Mejia/AP

    Ecuador is not considering Edward Snowden‘s asylum request and never intended to facilitate his flight from Hong Kong, president Rafael Correa said as the whistleblower made a personal plea to Quito for his case to be heard.

    Snowden was Russia’s responsibility and would have to reach Ecuadorean territory before the country would consider any asylum request, the president said in an interview on Monday.

    “Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical. The country that has to give him a safe conduct document is Russia.”

    The president, speaking to the Guardian at the presidential palace in Quito, said his government did not intentionally help Snowden travel from Hong Kong to Moscow with a temporary travel pass. “It was a mistake on our part,” he added.

    Asked if he thought the former NSA contractor would ever make it to Quito, he replied: “Mr Snowden’s situation is very complicated, but in this moment he is in Russian territory and these are decisions for the Russian authorities.”

    Asked if he would like to meet him, he said: “Not particularly. He’s a very complicated person. Strictly speaking, Mr Snowden spied for some time.”

    The comments clashed with expressions of gratitude the 30-year-old fugitive issued hours later, before Correa’s views had been published.

    “I must express my deep respect for your principles and sincere thanks for your government’s action in considering my request for political asylum,” said a letter, in Spanish and attributed to Snowden.

    “There are few world leaders who would risk standing for the human rights of an individual against the most powerful government on earth, and the bravery of Ecuador and its people is an example to the world.”

    Snowden contrasted the silence of governments afraid of US retaliation with Ecuador’s help in his flight to Moscow on 22 June. A temporary Ecuadorean travel document substituted for his cancelled US passport.

    “The decisive action of your consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, guaranteed my rights would be protected upon departing Hong Kong – I could never have risked travel without that. Now, as a result, and through the continued support of your government, I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest.”

    The letter will boost Ecuador’s reputation with Snowden’s supporters but sat awkwardly with the president’s attempt to distance Quito from the saga. Correa said Quito respected the right of asylum and appreciated Snowden exposing the extent of US spying, but would not consider an asylum request unless he made it to an Ecuadorean embassy or the country itself – a remote possibility while he remains reportedly marooned in Sheremetyevo airport‘s transit lounge. “He must be on Ecuadorean territory,” the president said.

    Correa said his government had not, and would not, give Snowden an authorised travel document to extract himself from the airport. “The right of asylum request is one thing but helping someone travel from one country to another — Ecuador has never done this. ”

    He said the temporary travel document issued by his London consul on 22 June – and publicly disowned five days later — was a blunder.

    “It was a mistake on our part. Look, this crisis hit us in a very vulnerable moment. Our foreign minister was touring Asia. Our deputy foreign minister was in the Czech Republic. Our US ambassador was in Italy.”

    Narvaez and the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has sheltered at Ecuador’s London embassy for the past year to escape extradition, took matters into their own hands because they feared Snowden risked capture, Correa said.

    “The consul, in his desperation, probably he couldn’t reach the foreign minister … and he issued a safe conduct document without validity, without authorisation, without us even knowing.”

    Correa said the consul was a “cultured” man and cited the example of Ecuadorean diplomats in Czechoslovakia giving Jews visas in defiance of their foreign ministry during the second world war.

    “Look, he [Assange] is in the embassy, he’s a friend of the consul, and he calls him at four in the morning to say they are going to capture Snowden. The [consul] is desperate – ‘how are we going to save the life of this man?’ – and does it.

    “So I told him: OK, if you think you did the right thing, I respect your decision, but you could not give, without authorisation, that safe conduct pass. It was completely invalid, and he will have to accept the consequences.”

    Narvaez would be “sanctioned”, the president said, without elaborating.

    Some Ecuadorean diplomats have complained that Assange appeared to usurp Quito but the president said there was no rupture. “Mr Assange continues to enjoy our total respect and is under the protection of the Ecuadorean state.”

    Correa, a standard bearer for the left in Latin America, has joined European and other Latin Americans leaders in denouncing US espionage.

    However he softened his tone over the weekend and praised vice-president Joe Biden for a gracious phone call, saying he would consider Washington’s request to refuse any asylum claim from Snowden while retaining Ecuador’s sovereignty.

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    Related articles

| Edward Snowden’s letter to the president of Ecuador – full text!

Edward Snowden’s letter to the president of Ecuador – full text ~

  • Press Assocation, guardian.co.uk.

    The NSA whistleblower, who is currently in Moscow, has written to Rafael Correa regarding his request for political asylum.
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    Text of a letter by Edward Snowden to the President of EcuadorRafael Correa. Written in Spanish; obtained and translated by the Press Association, London.
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    “There are few world leaders who would risk standing for the human rights of an individual against the most powerful government on earth, and the bravery of Ecuador and its people is an example to the world.

    I must express my deep respect for your principles and sincere thanks for your government’s action in considering my request for political asylum.

    The government of the United States of America has built the world’s largest system of surveillance. This global system affects every human life touched by technology; recording, analysing, and passing secret judgment over each member of the international public.

    It is a grave violation of our universal human rights when a political system perpetuates automatic, pervasive and unwarranted spying against innocent people.

    In accordance with this belief, I revealed this programme to my country and the world. While the public has cried out support of my shining a light on this secret system of injustice, the government of the United States of America responded with an extrajudicial man-hunt costing me my family, my freedom to travel and my right to live peacefully without fear of illegal aggression.

    As I face this persecution, there has been silence from governments afraid of the United States government and their threats. Ecuador however, rose to stand and defend the human right to seek asylum.

    The decisive action of your consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, guaranteed my rights would be protected upon departing Hong Kong – I could never have risked travel without that. Now, as a result, and through the continued support of your government, I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest.

    No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world. If any of those days ahead realise a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank.

    Please accept my gratitude on behalf of your government and the people of the Republic of Ecuador, as well as my great personal admiration of your commitment to doing what is right rather than what is rewarding.”

    Edward Joseph Snowden.
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| Ecuador Caught in Lie Over Snowden “Safe Pass!”

Ecuador Caught in Lie Over Snowden “Safe Pass” ~ ADAM WEINSTEIN, ABC NEWS.

A “safe pass” allowing NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s travel to Ecuador to seek political asylum was reportedly reviewed and approved by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correaaccording to Univision news. This is after Correa’s government distanced itself from the Snowden affair today and declared the pass invalid.

The pass, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by Univision, is dated June 22 and asks authorities in other nations to allow Snowden safe passage to Ecuador as a political refugee. That’s also the date that U.S. officials revoked Snowden’s American passport, effectively halting his international travel. He is believed to be in hiding at Moscow’s airport.

In an ironic twist, Univision used metadata attached to an electronic copy of the safe pass to verify that it was composed at the work computer of Javier Mendoza, the Ecuadorian deputy consul in London (see photo above). Mendoza has acted as an intermediary for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden in connection with sexual assault allegations, but maintains that U.S. authorities are hunting him for Wikileaks’ political activities.

Metadata also showed that the Snowden pass was last edited, for 48 minutes, by the consul in London, Fidel Narvaez.

Ecuadorian Press Secretary Betty Tola did not directly address the pass’ authenticity but told Univision today that “any document in this regard is not valid and is the sole responsibility of the person who has issued [it],” suggesting that the London consulate might have acted alone in issuing it.

That does not appear to be the case, however. According to communications obtained by Univision, Narvaez wrote the pass at President Correa’s request, and the consul recounted speaking directly with the president about the “unique circumstances” of Snowden’s case.

After the pass was revealed publicly, sources tell Univision, Correa instructed his staff to deny any role in its creation. “The official position is that the Ecuadorian government has NOT authorized any pass for anybody,” those instructions read. “Any document that exists about has no validity.”

It is unclear why Correa’s government would deny a role in assisting Snowden. U.S. authorities have charged the former IT worker with espionage for his role in leaking top-secret documents about American domestic surveillance programs. While they have signaled that countries harboring Snowden could face harsh trade consequences, Ecuador has remained cavalier about the U.S. threat.

In a press conference Thursday with Tola, Ecuadorian Communications Minister Fernando Alverado said the nation didn’t want America’s trade dollars.

In fact, he said, Ecuador was willing to offer the U.S. $23 million a year “in order to provide training in human rights and help avoid attacks on individual privacy.”

PHOTO:  Electronic metadata on the Snowden safe pass shows it originated at the computer of the Ecuadorian deputy consul in London.

Electronic metadata on the Snowden safe pass shows it originated at the computer of the Ecuadorian deputy consul in London. (UNIVISION)
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| Spy-leaker Edward Snowden asks Ecuador for asylum!

Spy-leaker Edward Snowden asks Ecuador for asylum ~ BBC.

Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor who leaked classified documents revealing US internet and phone surveillance, has asked Ecuador for asylum.

The request was confirmed by Ecuador’s foreign minister on Twitter.

Mr Snowden had fled the US for Hong Kong but flew out on Sunday morning and is currently in Moscow.

A US extradition request to Hong Kong failed but Washington insists he should now be denied international travel.

The US justice department has called Hong Kong’s decision not to arrest Mr Snowden “troubling”.

On Sunday, a US official said Washington had contacted “Western Hemisphere” nations that Mr Snowden might travel to, or through.

“The US is advising these governments that Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States,” the state department official said.

Earlier, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, who is in Vietnam, said on Twitter: “The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden.”

 

Senator Feinstein on CBS News: “I thought China would see this as an opportunity to improve US ties”

Wikileaks said in a statement that Mr Snowden was “bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from Wikileaks”.

Ecuador is already giving political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been sheltering in its London embassy for the past year.

The anti-secrecy group said Mr Snowden’s asylum request would be formally processed when he arrived in Ecuador.

Spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told the BBC he believed history would show that the former analyst had performed “a great public service”.

Extradition ‘incomplete’The US state department said Mr Snowden’s passport had been revoked, saying this was “routine and consistent with US regulations”.

However, one US official told the Associated Press that if a senior official in a country or airline ordered it, a country could overlook the lack of a passport.

Hong Kong officials said Mr Snowden had left “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel” because the US extradition request was incomplete and there was no legal basis to restrict him from departing.

Wikileaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson told the BBC he believed the fugitive would eventually be recognised as a hero.

The US justice department said it was “disappointed” that Hong Kong did not arrest Mr Snowden and that it “disagrees” with its reasons for not doing so.

An official said that at no point during talks on Friday did Hong Kong raise issues regarding the sufficiency of the US request.

“In light of this, we find their decision to be particularly troubling,” the official said.

Mr Snowden left on Aeroflot flight SU213 and landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport shortly after 17:00 local time (13:00 GMT) on Sunday, where he was reportedly picked up by either a Venezuelan or Ecuadorean embassy car.

Reports suggest he will fly out of Russia on an early afternoon flight to the Cuban capital Havana, where he is booked on another flight to Caracas, Venezuela.

Following that route would enable him to fly on to Ecuador without risk of arrest by US authorities.

It is unclear where Mr Snowden currently is, but he is reported to have not left the airport, and the Ecuadorean ambassador was spotted at an airside hotel.


Who is Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden
  • Age 30, grew up in North Carolina
  • Joined army reserves in 2004, discharged four months later, says the Guardian
  • First job at National Security Agency was as security guard
  • Worked on IT security at the CIA
  • Left CIA in 2009 for contract work at NSA for various firms including Booz Allen
  • Called himself Verax, Latin for “speaking the truth”, in exchanges with the Washington Post

The US and Ecuador have a joint extradition treaty, but it is not applicable to “crimes or offences of a political character”.

The US justice department has said it will seek co-operation from whichever country Mr Snowden arrives in.

But if Mr Snowden ends up in Ecuador, it is going to be extremely difficult for the Americans to get him, the BBC’s Paul Adams in Washington reports.

Mr Snowden had left his home in Hawaii after leaking details of his work as an NSA (National Security Agency) analyst and the extensive US surveillance programme to the UK’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post.

He has been charged in the US with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.

Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. The complaint is dated 14 June – although it was made public only on Friday.

NSA chief Keith Alexander told ABC News on Sunday there had been no warning that Mr Snowden had taken the documents.

“Clearly, the system did not work as it should have,” he said.

Gen Alexander on ABC News: “He betrayed that confidence and stole some of our secrets”

Gen Alexander also said the spying agency was overhauling its operations to tighten security on contractors.

The leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under an NSA programme known as Prism.

Mr Snowden said earlier that he had decided to speak out after observing “a continuing litany of lies” from senior officials to Congress.

US officials have defended the practice of gathering telephone and internet data from private users around the world.

They say Prism cannot be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the US, and that it is supervised by judges.

More on This Story

| 365 days on ice: Assange still holed up in Ecuador’s London Embassy!

365 days on ice: Assange still holed up in Ecuador’s London Embassy ~ RT.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange took shelter in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London one year ago Wednesday, sparking a standoff with UK authorities that could leave the world-renowned whistleblower cooped up for years to come.

When Assange first made his asylum bid 365 days ago, the tense standoff that ensued seemed likely to ignite an international incident.

British authorities “warned” Ecuador that they could raid its embassy and arrest Julian Assange if he was not handed over, a move the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister charged would be a “flagrant violation” of international law.

Although the situation has significantly calmed since then, the UK’s commitment to arresting Assange remains unwavering.

Britain has vowed it will do everything in its power to block Assange’s passage to Ecuador despite being granted asylum by Quito in August 2012. Downing Street commitment to securing Assange’s extradition to Sweden, where is wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations by two women, has manifested itself in a year-long police presence outside of the embassy building in Knightsbridge, London. As of Wednesday, the Telegraph estimates that the policing the Ecuadorian Embassy has cost British taxpayers in excess of $6.6 million dollars.

Following talks between Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino and his British counterpart William Hague on Monday, both sides agreed to keep the channels of communication open, but “no breakthrough” was made on the Assange case.

Patino said he remained in good spirits despite his limited living accommodations which Assange likened to living in a space station.

The Ecuadorean government stood by its decision to grant Assange asylum, vowing there would be no changes in his circumstances.

This photo courtesy of the Ecuador Foreign Ministry shows British Foreign Minister William Hague and Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino(L)as they hold a meeting in New York on September 27, 2012 to discuss the situation of granting asylum to Julian Assange in Ecuador. (AFP Photo / Fernanda Lemarie)This photo courtesy of the Ecuador Foreign Ministry shows British Foreign Minister William Hague and Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino(L)as they hold a meeting in New York on September 27, 2012 to discuss the situation of granting asylum to Julian Assange in Ecuador. (AFP Photo / Fernanda Lemarie)

Patino met with Assange on Sunday and said that, despite his ordeal, he remains in good spirits.

“I got to tell him for the first time, face-to-face, that the government of Ecuador maintains its firm decision to protect his human rights,” Patino said. The Wikileaks founder expressed his willingness to spend the next half-decade cooped up in the basement room of a building which he described as so dim, he utilizes a lamp mimicking blue sky, set to a timer, least he work all night, the Guardian’s Esther Addley reports.

But with a steady stream of supporters providing him amenities, a personal trainer, a treadmill and high speed Internet, Assange believes five years in those conditions are vastly preferable to the alternatives.

His detractors believe he is using his notoriety to escape the Swedish justice system. Assange, in writing to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa one year ago, said he was being persecuted and could not return to his native Australia, fearing he could be extradited to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition.”

Ecuador concluded “his fears are legitimate.”

Assange claims the same imperilment been the driving force behind his decision to avoid returning to Sweden for questioning. He has previously expressed his willingness to answer queries from Swedish investigators on condition that he receives strong guarantees that he won’t be extradited the United States, where he believes he will be tried for his role in the 2010 US diplomatic cables leak – the largest such disclosure in the country’s history. Those guarantees have not been forthcoming.

Despite his willingness to remain in limbo, Assange believes the US is softening towards his plight, claiming a deal could be reached between Ecuador and the UK which would see him finally step foot outside of the embassy “within a year.”

“I think the position in the UK is softening,” he told the AFP news agency“Of course, it will never publicly humiliate the United States by offering me safe passage in a manner that doesn’t seem to be forced.”

A balloon marking the first anniversary of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's entry to Ecuador's embassy is tethered above the building in central London June 16, 2013. (Reuters / Chris Helgren)A balloon marking the first anniversary of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s entry to Ecuador’s embassy is tethered above the building in central London June 16, 2013. (Reuters / Chris Helgren)

The anniversary comes as the US authorities are hot on the tracks of Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee responsible for leaking details of the National Security Agency’s massive Internet surveillance program PRISM.

“Mr Snowden is as good an example of a hero as any. He has performed an extremely courageous act,” Assange said lauding him for exposing America’s “creeping mass surveillance state”.

“What we don’t want to see is him ending up the same way as Bradley Manning — detained without trial, abused in prison and now facing life imprisonment.”

While Assange is seeking to flee the UK, he believes “The British Government should be offering Mr Snowden asylum, not excluding him from their borders.”

“I am sure if you asked the people of the UK what they wanted, they would be in favor of protecting Mr Snowden. The UK doesn’t want to say no to the US under any circumstances – not in my case, and not in the case of Mr Snowden,” he continued.

If Snowden ever made his way to the single story mansion black just around the corner from Harrods department store, he might find more than one supporter.

“If he [Snowden] wants to ask asylum from the Ecuadoran government, he can do it,” Patino said from London on Monday, “and we, of course, would analyze it.”

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| 2012 in review – 2013: Give us your best shot!

2013: Give Us Your Best Shot! ~  Antiwar.com.

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Here a few highlights — some that lay bare the rot behind the Potemkin Village of our national security state, others that indicate that change, thanks to a few brave individuals and collective dedication, may be afoot in 2013.

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As they say: it’s a wrap!

In many ways, 2012 was a status quo year. At its end, Barack Obama is still president, and our global war continues to march in varied incarnations across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. At home, Americans toil and play in a constant state of denial, hardly blinking at the loss of personal privacy, growing government surveillance, the militarization of domestic law enforcement, the shrinking influence of people-powered change in the face of entrenched special interests.

And yet at the same time, so much is happening to challenge all of that. While 2012 seemed to roll tediously on its current depressing trajectory, there were things the media could not ignore, provocative insights into the corruption, events that exposed the weakness of the American conceit that we can control, contain and shape anything to our will. We’ve seen the limits to political and military hubris, narcissism and hate.

Here a few highlights — some that lay bare the rot behind the Potemkin Village of our national security state, others that indicate that change, thanks to a few brave individuals and collective dedication, may be afoot in 2013.

(Clark Stoekley/Flickr)

(Clark Stoekley/Flickr)

1.)Bradley Manning in a Cage: For the first time since Pvt. Bradley Manning was arrested and jailed for allegedly downloading some 750,000 government files and giving them to WikiLeaks, he took the stand in his own defense. The most recent string of hearings in December illuminated the period of time that Manning had spent confined and isolated at the Quantico detention facility shortly after his 2010 arrest. While Army physicians and counselors insisted Manning was no danger to himself or to others, various testimony bore out that he was routinely humiliated by the guards, forced to sleep naked in a “suicide smock,” and endured long periods alone with nothing but a mirror in his dark, cramped cell.

David Coombs, Manning’s civilian attorney, who has done an extraordinary job defending a man who the government has made out to be nothing less than a gender-confused traitor and monster — said in his first public comments outside the courtroom that these conditions were not only “stupid and counter-productive,” but “criminal.”

Positive indications for 2013Manning’s impressive demeanor, and the obvious devotion of his lawyer (who is ex-military) only served to flesh out the portrait of a serious individual who did what he allegedly did because he thought it was the right thing to do, and that the military is overplaying its hand in trying to make him an example. Meanwhile, airing out the heinous conditions of his imprisonment, juxtaposed with the growing awareness that the now-infamous “dump” of secret diplomatic and military files did nothing but embarrass governments and expose the truth about our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, should only help to soften public opinion of Manning, not erode it, as he faces his court martial in February.

2.) Julian Assange Seeks Asylum — Assange generated a stream of headlines and a near global uproar when he sought and received asylum from Ecuador in August. The WikiLeaks founder had exhausted all appeals against British extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning on nebulous sex assault charges. While some critics call him a megalomaniac who is using political sanctuary to avoid facing the consequences of his alleged rakish if not criminal behavior, others question why he would seek the protection of a government beset by its own questionable record on free speech and human rights.

But the Brits’ insistence that Assange be arrested the moment he sets foot outside the protection of the Ecuadoran embassy in London should give us pause. Assange’s fears of extradition — that his passage would lead him right into U.S. captivity — aren’t fully unfounded. The Australian government has all but abandoned him, and we know there is a U.S. Justice Department investigation into WikiLeaks ongoing. The British government is ready to send him packing, and has done itself no great service in treating Assange like a cornered animal for the last six months.

What to look for: Whatever critics might say, WikiLeaks played no insignificant role in the political and social revolution now roiling across the globe. Assange could be made a martyr for all times if the U.K and U.S. governments proceed in persecuting him for it. If the DOJ presses charges, it will further polarize us, put at risk our own constitutional rights, and expose the authoritarian impulses we sensed were in our government, and among our neighbors, all along.

3.) The Drone Wars — Not only has been there been a continuing drone war —- thousands of kills in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia by the Obama Administration since 2009 — but this year a war over the drone war emerged in great earnest. More specifically, an effective opposition has risen against the heretofore unchecked forces in the media and the government who have been defending their use all along.

This couldn’t have come at a better time. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has served as the spear point in this opposition, providing the cold facts and data often hidden from view, says the Obama Administration conducted its 300th drone strike against Pakistan this year. Overall, since 2002, there have been 400 strikes killing upwards of 1,117 civilians, according to the Bureau. The most recent attacks took place on Christmas Eve, killing seven alleged militants in Yemen. “It appears they waited until Christmas Eve on purpose to conduct a couple strikes as there had not been action in the covert drone war in Yemen for well over a month,”observed writer Kevin Gosztola.

This hardly invokes our idea of heroism, nor the humanity of the oft-told story of the Christmas truce in the trenches. Then again, this was the year we found out that the White House harbors a “kill list,” and that counterterrorism czar John Brennan has the authority to carry out foreign executions in secret, outside judicial scrutiny.

Look on the bright side: 2012 for the first time brought the debate over drones into the mainstream. When CNN’s Peter Bergen dared to say there had been no civilian deaths by drone, an organized wave of opposition was there to refute him. While the pendulum — and the defense establishment — continues to swing in favor of these killer flying machines, the public’s unease (especially over the prospect of their domestic use) and foreign blowback, grows.

4.) The blight of Benghazi — The death of ambassador Christopher Stevens, a State Department information officer and two CIA contractors on Sept. 11 in Benghazi was a full-on gut check of U.S. policies in the Global War on Terror. First, the raw anger against America among our supposed allies in Egypt and Afghanistan and other places across the Muslim world over a crudely made anti-Islamic video could not be ignored. Then, the recognition that our intervention in the Libyan revolution was poorly planned and, as in the case of Iraq, not well thought-out in terms of what might come afterward. In Benghazi, America came face-to-face with the limits of the military solution, which has carried our foreign policy for the last ten years.

Now, it has become clear that we have, however inadvertently, enabled al Qaeda movements in North Africa and created more areas of vulnerability in the region.

The good, bad and the ugly: While the Benghazi disaster exposed the weakness of our interventionist policies, it is now being used to justify further military forays into Africa, with Mali being one in several possible new battlegrounds on the horizon. This could get much uglier before the full lesson of Benghazi is realized.

5.) The Green on Blue Red Line — After 11 years of fighting in Afghanistan the U.S. last year faced an enemy that could have very well turned out to be the final psychological straw: our own allies. Despite the fact the U.S. has spent $642 billion so far in Afghanistan, much of it to train 352,000 Afghan security forces to take our place come 2014, members of those security forces are killing U.S. and coalition forces with greater frequency than ever in so-called “green on blue” attacks. And there seems to be no ready solution, save picking up and getting out sooner.

What it means for 2014: While premature withdrawal is not likely to happen (2014 seems to be the hard date; the debate now is over how many troops will be left behind, if any), it is clear that some of the biggest die-hards for staying the course have been demoralized by the attacks on our soldiers. No longer do we hear the chest-thumping — everything now quietly revolves around how we get out, and the mess we leave behind. Sadly, none of the blaring messages of failure had gotten through before — the rising influence of the Taliban, the corruption, the lack of support from the people, the horrendous IED injuries sustained by our troops. Green on blue appears to be a red line, however, one that signals the real beginning to an actual end.

6.) The 2012 Election — If Benghazi exposed the weakness of our U.S. foreign policy abroad, the presidential election exposed the weakness of our foreign policy in Washington. In fact, all arguments that the Beltway is filled with pusillanimous brown-nosers, knuckle-dragging meatheads, salivating war profiteers, clucking chickenhawks — not to mention courtiers masquerading as journalists — were fully realized in 2012’s quadrennial spectacle.

With nary a word in favor of peace or restraint, the campaign wore on with every Republican candidate striving foolishly to out-hawk the proven hawkishness of the Obama Administration. Ladled with all of the flag-waving, tobacco spitting, God-fearing gusto they could muster, the Republican Party again took their cues from the neoconservative wing, and pursued their unabashed fealty to the American civil religion — war — to absurd lengths. Meanwhile, all Obama had to do was look nominally more informed and less bombastic than his ill-fated opponents. He did, and quite easily, won.

Under the radar: was Ron Paul’s impact on the foreign policy debate. While he was eventually forced from the stage, it was not before he could show the rest of the nation that not all conservatives get their credentials getting off on Gitmo and the smell of napalm in the morning. Far from being booed, Paul’s arguments against preemptive war, bombing Iran and isolating Cuba, got cheers from the largely GOP audiences. Furthermore, he made candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann look more foolish than usual, and so incited the righteous Rick Perry that the man seemed at risk of exploding all over the stage.

Upside? We like seeing conventional pro-war prigs upstaged. More importantly, more non-interventionist conservatives are joining the ranks now, and are not afraid to say so publicly.

7) Major Victory Against the War on Drugs: One of the most underreported stories of the election was the passage of referendums in both Colorado and Washington State that make possession and the use of marijuana legal for the first time. In fact, Colorado just made it official and will be the first state to tax the sale of pot on the open market.

Why do we care? Two major reasons — one, the states’ will be ignoring federal law, making this a major test of the 10th Amendment and the lengths to which the Obama Administration will go to enforce Washington’s will on the people. Despite his promises to the contrary, Obama has cracked down on more marijuana dealers and users than even the Bush Administration. Now he says he won’t go after “recreational users” in the states that legalize it, but sorry, we’ve heard that tune before.

More importantly, the Colorado and Washington votes — along with a string of decriminalization measures over the years — are a critical blow to the broader War on Drugs. For years, Latin American leaders have called for a recalibration in dealing with the black market, citing legalization as one serious approach. This first step, backed heavily in these brave states by both politicians, cops and citizenry alike, could have a huge impact on the fate of this failing decades-old war going forward.

7) Thanks to the Whistleblowers — Without whistleblowers we may know even less than we already do about the nefarious things the government has been doing in our name, particularly after the 9/11 attacks raised up the artifice of “security” in order to spend gazillions of our tax dollars in pursuit of neo-empire abroad and an ever-expanding surveillance state at home.

Whistleblowers —ex-government officials who have risked everything to tell the tale, are still an endangered species. But they are brave, and getting stronger. Here at Antiwar.com, we’ve interviewed folks like Jesselyn RadackTom DrakeDiane Roark,Col. Morris Davis and Peter Van Buren, all who have lost their livelihoods and so much more for crossing the government, the most recent being John Kiriakou, who spoke out against CIA torture and just pleaded guilty to charges that he leaked a fellow agent’s name to a reporter. But thanks to social media and independent journalists and activists, they are bonding together and finding common cause and a vehicle though which to not only support each other, but to serve as a force for change: trying to get real protections passed, speaking more publicly in the mainstream, and keeping a glaring light on Washington’s dark side.

Where to find them: Twitter; the Government Accountability ProjectKevin Gosztola’s blog. Just recently, the Chaos Communication Project (29C3)

9.) Reality in Iraq — In a country where millions were killed or displaced in a matter of six years following a “shock and awe” invasion and subsequent occupation by western forces, nothing says “fail” like the continuing pain and suffering of the Iraqi people today. They began their new year in 2012 with bombings that killed upwards of 73 people. The horror continued throughout the year — daily bombings that were hardly acknowledged by their former occupiers, and ended this week with astring of more sectarian attacks.

Al Qaeda is back. Meanwhile, basic services like electricity still elude the people. The Kurds are in a current standoff with the central government, which is tight with the Iranians and accused of oppressing the Sunni population. All hopes for a regional headquarters that would do American bidding in the Middle East seem abandoned as we watched our diplomatic influence shrivel up in 2012 and Shia fighters — and Iraqi money — scrambled across the border with zealous fury to assist the pro-Assad forces in Syria.

What this means for 2013: More tumult as we see further disintegration of the security situation. There are so many lessons here that were ignored as the military took its fantastical COIN formula on to Afghanistan in 2009. Perhaps 2013 will be the year we finally face up to these massive failures as the first step in rewriting the fiction that was “Victory in Iraq.”

10.)Speaking of which, where’s King David? — This story is so instructive, so outrageous, so crackling with the karma of hubris and corruption, that it could have warranted its own column. Where to start? In November, we learned that former top general and CIA Director David Petraeus was at the center of an FBI investigation in which his alleged mistress, former biographer Paula Broadwell, had been writingnasty and potentially threatening emails to another military groupie, Jill Kelley, who turned out to be a big pen pal of Gen. John Allen, the commander of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Phew.

As the dust settled on the hair-rending lamentations by his die-hard devotees, it became clear that the man who had become a god was hurtling back to earth like Icarus with a bang — tough landings for a general who had worn a chest full of medals without serving in combat, who had been lauded as a conquering hero without really winning a war. Much has been said about his masterful ability to manipulate the media, to lead congress and defense elites around on a string, to create what will become known as the silliest, yet probably most effective “clique” inside a war zone, at least for a spell.

I have often compared Petraeus to the fictional character Don Draper from AMC’sMad Men, but until now, didn’t quite know how far their resemblances went. Petraeus and Broadwell are both married and worse, he engaged her publicly as his biographer, apprentice and adviser. She approached him first while earning a PhD., she used his story as her academic dissertation. Privately, they were allegedly using the war and the heady Beltway defense world as a backdrop to a sexual affair. When her book “All In” was published earlier in the year, most of us scoffed at it as hagiography — we already knew her as another acolyte who tried to explain away the American razing of an Afghan village in 2010. News of the affair confirmed every rotten thing we already believed about the Cult of Petraeus.

From the Ashes: David Petraeus is a mortal man who had a great run as something else. Too bad a lot of time and lives were wasted when we should have been listening to more clear-headed people about war strategy and the future of military policy. The American people are as guilty as anyone for raising the military in such superhuman regard as to allow people like Petraeus to so skillfully wrest away civilian responsibility for the war, while using it clearly as a stepping stone for his own personal ambitions. To think he is the only one, however, would be our next mistake. We must not forget.

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To all of our Antiwar.com readers, who have been so responsive and loyal, and to all newcomers, who may be coming in from the cold — Happy New Year!

Follow Vlahos on Twitter @KelleyBVlahos

Read more by Kelley B. Vlahos

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