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Snowden claims US government violated human rights by pressuring Ecuador to deny asylum

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White House stock obama - from White House flickr
White House stock obama - from White House flickr

Edward Snowden, the man who revealed the extent of the US government's massive surveillance efforts and who is now allegedly stuck in Russia, has reportedly sent his first two statements independent of any press organization. In one, hosted at Wikileaks, he claims the US government is violating his human rights by pressuring other governments to deny his petitions for asylum and by rejecting his US passport, leaving him "a stateless person." In the other, hosted by The Guardian, he thanks Ecuador for helping to protect his right to seek asylum.

Snowden invokes Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a United Nations document ratified by the United States, which reads that "everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution" for political crimes.

"The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon."

On the surface, it sounds like a straightforward story: this is how the US government persecutes whistleblowers, and here's Ecuador to the rescue. It's more complex than that. On Saturday, Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa revealed that US VP Joe Biden had personally asked him not to grant asylum to Snowden, and on Sunday president Correa left Snowden in Russia's hands. Correa also reprimanded Ecuador's London consul for issuing Snowden a letter of safe passage. In other words, both of Snowden's statements are about Ecuador, and it's not clear that the country will actually help him further. The letters could be both carrot and stick to pressure Ecuador to "do the right thing" now that president Correa seems to be on the fence.

"As is routine and consistent with US regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to having their passport revoked."

As far as Snowden's passport is concerned, a US state department spokeswoman told reporters that passports are regularly and lawfully revoked when a person has been charged with a felony and a warrant issued for their arrest.

"As is routine and consistent with US regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to having their passport revoked. Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status. Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr. Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States. Because of the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on Mr. Snowden's passport specifically," reads the statement.

There's also some debate about whether Snowden wrote these letters at all. Grammatically, journalist Farhad Manjoo calls out his use of plural verbs to refer to the United States. Snowden's statement thanking Ecuador also contains British English variants of words, including "programme," "analysing," and "realise" that seem unlikely to have been written by a man from North Carolina.