The Spanish Consulate in Moscow has received a fax signed by Edward Snowden, the CIA's fugitive former National Security analyst who blew the whistle on the massive electronic eavesdropping program being carried out by the United States and United Kingdom.
Snowden is seeking asylum, the Foreign Ministry has confirmed. However, his request will not be processed, say the same sources, "because the Spanish asylum law states that the request must be submitted on the border or in Spanish territory."
The department headed by José Manuel García-Margallo also explained that, in any case, the letter is not legally valid, and that even if it were, the first thing that authorities would have to do is verify that the signature is actually Snowden’s.
Snowden had previously sent asylum requests to Iceland and Ecuador. He has now mailed additional petitions to the governments of Russia, China, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and Venezuela. In total, he has reached out to 21 countries.
Snowden has withdrawn his request for asylum in Russia
Snowden has withdrawn his request for asylum in Russia in light of demands from President Vladmir Putin, who warned him that if he wishes to remain in Russia, he must stop harming the United States. Snowden currently remains in the transit zone in Moscow’s airport.
In a written statement released by WikiLeaks just hours before, the computer expert accused US President Barack Obama of leaving him "stateless."
Snowden came to the light this past June 7, when he revealed to the British newspaper The Guardian and the American daily The Washington Post that the US National Security Agency has a program called PRISM. The program has access to the servers of nine internet companies, and with their content, gathers intelligence information.
While speaking to reporters at Congress on Tuesday, García-Margallo explained that legally it is "not possible" to offer Snowden refuge in Spain because the Asylum Act grants that right only to persons in Spain. For the former American NSA analyst, "this is not the case."
“Consequently, the government is not considering the request because it has no legal effect," the minister said.
Snowden’s ultimate goal is to seek refuge in a country that will not send him back to the US, where he faces espionage charges. Last week, it seemed that he might be looking toward Ecuador, largely due to the influence of two anti-secrecy allies advocating his cause.
Assange’s actions have ruffled feathers with the Ecuadorian government
One is the former Spanish High Court judge, Baltasar Garzón, who offered to join Snowden’s legal advisory team last week, according to a statement by WikiLeaks. The celebrated and controversial human rights investigator is now the legal director of the whistleblower website.
Garzón stated that, “The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person.” He also stated that what was being done to Snowden “for facilitating disclosures in the public interest” was “an assault against the people.”
Currently, the superjudge known for securing the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has denied that he represents Snowden. He has, however, confirmed that he defends the American expat’s right to freedom of expression.
Garzón is also a lawyer for the organization’s controversial leader, Julian Assange, who has become intimately involved in Snowden’s case. Assange has already been granted asylum in the South American nation’s London embassy, where he has spent the past year. He is now lobbying the Ecuadorian government to refuge Snowden as well.
But Assange’s actions have ruffled feathers with the Ecuadorian government in Quito. Indeed, some officials believe that Assange is taking on too big a role in the Snowden case and overstepping his boundaries. If tensions become too strained, Assange’s refugee status granted by the Latin American nation may be compromised.
Indeed, Snowden’s situation as regards Ecuador has become increasingly complex over the past week. On June 22, Ecuador’s consul in London, Fidel Narváez, issued Snowden a temporary travel pass after his passport was revoked by the US government. However, Correa said that this was “a mistake” and that his government did not know the pass had been issued.
Correa stated on Sunday that Snowden’s fate is up to Russia, while official Moscow maintains that he is not their problem. At the moment, the cyberespionage fugitive’s refugee status remains in limbo.