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article imageSnowden may make US return under certain conditions says father

By Robert Myles     Jun 29, 2013 in Politics
Moscow - Edward Snowden, wanted by the United States for espionage, currently stuck in diplomatic no-man’s land at Moscow Airport transit zone, may return to the US of his own volition, provided certain conditions are met, says his father Lonnie Snowden.
Lonnie Snowden was interviewed by NBC news investigative reporter Michael Iskioff during NBC’s Today program on Friday morning, reports the Military Times. The father of the American computer scientist Edward Snowden said yesterday his son was ready to return to the United States provided he was not imprisoned, pre-trial, upon his return, was able to speak to the media and could choose the location of his eventual trial. Edward Snowden had previously revealed the United States’ National Security Agency was at the centre of a massive surveillance program involving data-mining of millions of electronic communications made by United Sates citizens and others,
Such pre-conditions are unlikely to find favor with US prosecution authorities. A warrant has recently been issued for Snowden’s arrest and the US Justice Department had taken the first steps to begin extraditing Edward Snowden from the Chinese territory of Hong Kong before Snowden boarded a commercial flight taking him to his current location, Moscow Airport.
Speaking to NBC, Lonnie Snowden said, "At this stage, I do not feel he has committed treason. He has violated U.S. law in the sense that he revealed classified information. For those who want to label him as a traitor, he has betrayed the government but I do not think he has betrayed the people of the United States. "
Snowden’s father’s remarks must be seen in the context of his also saying that he has not spoken to his son since April, casting some doubt on whether Snowden’s father can know Edward Snowden’s current frame of mind. Lonnie Snowden said that, via his lawyer, he had sent a letter to US Justice Secretary Eric Holder explaining that the former NSA consultant planned to return to the US provided he was not immediately remanded in custody pending trial, was not forced into silence and could choose the venue for his trial.
Given that the first two ‘pre-conditions’ represent pretty much the status quo for Edward Snowden, albeit he’s stuck in Moscow, it seems highly improbable that the US Justice department will see the proposal as a realistic way of ending the current impasse.
Snowden’s father also expressed reservations about Edward Snowden’s recently established relationship with Wikileaks, the organisation headed by Julian Assange. Assange is also wanted by US authorities but is currently stuck at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London having sought political asylum there to avoid implementation of an extradition warrant which would have seen Assange sent from the UK to Sweden to face what Assange claims are trumped-up charges of indecent assault. On the subject of Wikileaks, the organization said to have facilitated Edward Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong to Moscow, Snowden’s father said, "I don't want to put him in peril, but I am concerned about those who surround him. I think Wikileaks, if you've looked at past history, you know, their focus isn't necessarily the Constitution of the United States. It's simply to release as much information as possible."
As Al Jazeera reports, Edward Snowden has requested political asylum in Ecuador but his current situation is less than straightforward. The United States has cancelled Snowden’s passport so, at the moment, he has no valid travel document. Snowden cannot leave the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and enter Russia proper since he has no valid Russian visa. Nor can he simply depart Moscow Airport and head to a different country. Without a valid passport, Snowden cannot buy an air ticket. Ecuador says it cannot entertain an application for asylum until he reaches “any of its diplomatic premises,” meaning either an Ecuadorean embassy or Ecuador itself — but of course Moscow’s Ecuadorean embassy is beyond reach since Snowden has no valid Russian visa, nor can he simply fly to Ecuador as he lacks a valid passport.
According to Russia Today, officials at the Ecuadorean embassy in London confirmed June 22 that a ‘letter of safe passage’ had been issued for Snowden calling upon other countries to allow him to travel to asylum in Ecuador. That letter was said to be invalid having been issued without the approval of the Ecuadorean government, according to Ecuador’s Secretary of Political Management Betty Tola.
It is also difficult to see whether a ‘letter of safe passage’ would be worth the paper it was written on. Snowden is not an Ecuadorean citizen so the Ecuadorean government has no locus — at least not until, and if, and when, it grants Snowden political asylum. In its own words, it can’t even begin to consider an application to begin the asylum process until Snowden reaches “any of its diplomatic premises.”
Neither the Ecuadorean letter nor the suggested pre-conditions for Edward Snowden’s return to the US seem likely to provide the route out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for the NSA whistleblower anytime soon.
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