The White House spiraled into panic mode late Friday after Edward Snowden’s earlier appearance in Russia, with President Obama moving forward with plans to personally call Vladimir Putin to urge the Russian president to deny Snowden asylum.
Snowden went public earlier Friday to announce his intention to apply for temporary stay in Russia until he is able to arrange safe travel to Latin America. The whistleblower forcefully defended his moral choice to expose the vast US spying dragnet, declaring “I did the right thing.”
He was flanked by international human rights and civil liberties campaigners, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and others.
Yet, White House press secretary Jay Carney termed the meeting with renowned human rights groups a “propaganda platform” for Snowden and denounced the Russian government for allowing it to take place, declaring it a move against ‘US interests.’
Furthermore, Matt Williams of the Guardian reports that the US ambassador to Russia even tried to use Human Rights Watch as a tool to send the threatening message to Snowden that, in the eyes of the US government, he is no whistleblower.
The threats and public statements coming from the White House insinuate that those who cross US power should not have access to human rights campaigners.
Yet, human rights groups declare Snowden has every right to human rights protections. Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International’s Moscow office, declared at the Friday meeting with Snowden:
We will continue to pressure governments to ensure his rights are respected – this includes the unassailable right to claim asylum wherever he may choose. What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified. He has exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programmes that unquestionably interfere with an individual’s right to privacy.
Human Rights Watch insisted Friday that Snowden has a legitimate claim to asylum that deserves fair treatment:
“Edward Snowden has a serious asylum claim that should be considered fairly by Russia or any other country where he may apply,” said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel at Human Rights Watch. “He should be allowed at least to make that claim and have it heard.”
The efforts to lobby Putin come after the Obama administration made several personal phone calls to Latin American leaders urging them to reject Snowden’s bids for asylum.