US ‘will not scramble jets’ to fetch NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, says Barack Obama

Speaking in Senegal at start of his African tour, US president tries to calm frenzy surrounding NSA whistleblower, currently believed to be in Moscow

Click to follow
The Independent Online

US President Barack Obama has said that there would be no “wheeling and dealing” with Russia and China to have fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden extradited to the US, adding that he would not be “scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker”.

Speaking in Senegal on the first day of his tour of Africa, Mr Obama said he had not spoken to Russian or Chinese leaders about the case, adding that he “shouldn’t have to” and that the matter should be solved through normal legal channels. Some Russian experts have suggested that Mr Snowden should be swapped for Viktor Bout, a Russian in jail in the US for arms trafficking.

Mr Snowden is believed to be in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetevo airport. He landed on a flight from Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon and has not been since. An Aeroflot flight to Havana, thought to be the likely stopover from Russia en route to his preferred destination of Ecuador, left without Mr Snowden.

China’s defence ministry hit out at the US, saying that the Prism surveillance programme exposed by Mr Snowden had “revealed the concerned country’s true face and hypocritical behaviour”. Chinese hackers have repeatedly been accused of launching cyber-attacks on American government and corporate targets.

The government of Rafael Correa in Ecuador said that it would withdraw from the Andean Trade Preference Act, waiving tariff concessions with the US that reduce the cost of exports such as oil, flowers and tuna.

Communications secretary Fernando Alvarado said Ecuador would not submit to US threats after the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez suggested on Wednesday that the deal may not be renewed next month if Mr Snowden ended up in Quito. Mr Alvarado offered to give the US a grant for education on human rights of $23m a year – the value of the trade deal. Ecuadorean officials added that Mr Snowden’s case had not been processed because he had not reached any of its diplomatic missions.