The Edward Snowden letters in full: NSA whistleblower accuses US government of 'persecution'

 

Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who blew the whistle on a huge spying programme by US authorities, has spoken out for the first time since fleeing to Moscow to accuse the American government of “persecution”.

He thanked Ecuador for standing beside him and, in a separate statement released shortly after by WikiLeaks, he accused the US of putting pressure on world leaders over his case.

The content of the statements gives a rare insight into the thinking of a man who has seen his options depleted in recent days. And the timing of the second statement’s release by WikiLeaks also highlights the growing tensions between the organisation’s founder Julian Assange and his Ecuadorean hosts. 

This newspaper revealed yesterday that relations were becoming “incredibly strained” over perceived “grandstanding” by Mr Assange during the Snowden affair. And, shortly after Edward Snowden’s letter to the Ecuadorean government appeared late yesterday, WikiLeaks released a second statement in the whistleblower’s name; further upstaging and angering Quito.

The escalating row could place Mr Assange's position in Ecuador's west London embassy, where he is sheltering from extradition to Sweden, in increasing peril.

In Mr Snowden's letter to Ecuador’s government, seen by this newspaper and believed to have been written before the weekend, the whistleblower praised the country for placing the “human rights of an individual against the most powerful government on earth”.

The whistleblower added in the letter that he remained “free and able to publish information that serves the public interest”. And he praised the “bravery of Ecuador and its people” and expressed his “deep respect for [its] principles and sincere thanks for [its] government’s action in considering [his] request for political asylum”.

He wrote: “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 program 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.”

Mr Snowden’s letter to Ecuador emerged hours after reports he had applied for asylum in a host of countries; including short-lived attempts gain shelter in Russia, Spain, Germany and other nations. Its release appeared to suggest that Mr Snowden was attempting to enhance relations with Ecuador, one of the viable options open to him.

But the WikiLeaks statement soon caused consternation in Quito. It read: “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.”

Despite initial optimism that his flight to Ecuador would be relatively straight-forward, Mr Snowden’s position in that respect has become less certain recently. President Rafael Correa revoked a document ensuring him safe passage to the country and rebuked the consul who handed it to him.

President Correa has also said that Mr Snowden’s destination was in Russian hands. President Vladimir Putin appeared to side with his US counterpart Barack Obama when he indicated last night that he would like to see the whistleblower cease a campaign, which has embarrassed the US government.

Edward Snowden’s letter to Ecuador in full…

“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 [sic], 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 program 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 realize 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

Edward Snowden’s statement – released by WikiLeaks – in full…

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

“On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" over my case. 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. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

“For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. 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.

“In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. 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.”

Edward Joseph Snowden

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