Embattled NSA leaker Edward Snowden says the Obama administration isn’t running a “constitutional government,” in the latest war of words with American officials.
A lot of the Snowden situation remained murky on Tuesday, after the former National Security Agency contractor issued a defiant statement through the WikiLeaks group.
Snowden is believed to literally be in limbo at a Russian airport and traveling with a WikiLeaks official. His passport was pulled by United States officials and there were reports that Snowden was holed up in a transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
CNN and other outlets who have positioned people in the transit zone haven’t seen Snowden, but he also could be in a room in the transportation hub—awaiting official entry into Russia or an approved exit to one of 19 countries that WikiLeaks has asked to accept the United States citizen.
In his statement, Snowden said the American government was trying to make him a “stateless person” because the Obama administration feared the American people more than individuals who disclose information about it.
“No, the Obama administration is afraid of you,” Snowden said. “It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.”
Snowden’s disclosures to the Washington Post and The Guardian newspapers has opened up a constitutional can of worms in the past few weeks about the government’s efforts to track phone calls and Internet communications in a series of secret programs.
The Obama administration and members of Congress say the programs conform to the Constitution since the measures were taken under the Patriot Act and approved by a secret court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or FISA).
But there have been questions of why the Obama administration’s programs have expanded on FISA activities first under taken under the Patriot Act by the Bush administration, and how such actions affect the Fourth Amendment’s right of citizens “to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects.”
Snowden also faced serious extradition issues while at the Russian airport. He has decided not to ask for asylum in Russia—a nation that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the United States.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin said Snowden could only ask for asylum if he stopped leaking information about American surveillance activities to the press.
“Snowden did voice a request to remain in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “Then, yesterday, hearing President Putin outline Russia’s position regarding the conditions under which he could do this, he withdrew his request for permission to stay in Russia.”
In his WikiLeaks statement, Snowden didn’t seem like he was prepared to stop talking.
“I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many,” the statement concluded.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald said in Tuesday interview with Fox News that more revelations were on the way from Snowden.
“I will say that there are vast programs, both domestic and international spying, that the world will be shocked to learn about, that the NSA is engaged in with no democratic accountability and that’s what driving our reporting,” Greenwald said.
The question is if the revelations would embarrass the United States in the eyes of a country that is on the list of nations where Snowden is seeking asylum.
The requests were made to Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, the Swiss Confederation and Venezuela.
At least seven of those countries have already denied his request.
Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.
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