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Fugitive Snowden likely to take refuge in Venezuela

By Paulo Prada in Rio De Janeiro | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-11 08:09

Fugitive Snowden likely to take refuge in Venezuela

Fugitive former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden will likely accept asylum in Venezuela to escape prosecution in the United States, said Glenn Greenwald, the US journalist who first published the secret documents that Snowden leaked.

In an interview immediately after speaking to Snowden by online chat on Tuesday, Greenwald said that Venezuela - one of three Latin American countries that have offered Snowden asylum - is the one most likely to guarantee his safety, especially as the United States pressures other nations not to take him if he is able to leave the Russian airport where he is in limbo.

Nicaragua and Bolivia have also said they would accept Snowden but Venezuela is better poised "to get him safely from Moscow to Latin America and to protect him once he's there", Greenwald said. "They're a bigger country, a stronger country and a richer country with more leverage in international affairs."

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that has been advising Snowden on his legal options in his search for asylum, suggested earlier on Tuesday that new developments could unfold on Wednesday.

Greenwald, though, said a resolution to the crisis is still unclear and could take "days or hours or weeks".

Greenwald, a blogger and columnist for the Guardian newspaper in London, said he based his opinion on an "informed guess" after recent contacts with Snowden.

Those discussions, he said, also led him to believe that the trove of documents Snowden took from the US National Security Agency remains safely out of the hands of any foreign governments.

Greenwald returned to his home in Rio de Janeiro after a June meeting with Snowden in Hong Kong, from where Greenwald published the first of many reports that rattled the US intelligence community by disclosing the breadth and depth of alleged surveillance by the NSA on telephone and internet usage of US citizens.

'Lawless empire'

At first, Greenwald lost contact with Snowden as the former contractor traveled from Hong Kong to Russia in search of a destination that would shield him from US prosecutors. On Saturday, however, Snowden reached out to Greenwald via an encrypted Internet chat service the two use to communicate.

Since then, Greenwald said, Snowden has explained his options but given no clear sign of how soon he might travel. While Russia has denied him entry beyond the international area of a Moscow airport terminal, Snowden has had Internet access and has been able to communicate with those seeking to help him.

"He's not in anyone's custody or detention and never has been," Greenwald said.

Snowden's challenge, he added, is "figuring out how to get to the country that has offered him asylum" despite the efforts of the United States, which Greenwald characterized as "the rogue, lawless empire that has proven itself willing to engage in rogue behavior to prevent him physically from getting there".Greenwald dismissed suggestions that Snowden's passage through China and Russia had given authorities in either country the opportunity to seize the intelligence in his possession.

Media reports have said Snowden is traveling with numerous laptop computers but Greenwald said the former contractor is not foolish enough to store information where it could be easily seized.

"There are all sorts of smarter and safer ways for someone who knows what they're doing - and he knows what he's doing - to store and carry large amounts of data."

Greenwald said he has for years sought to scrutinize and draw attention to the scope of US intelligence gathering.

"I have been trying to do everything possible to expose the excesses of the NSA and the dangers of extreme secrecy behind which the US government operates," he said. "So to be essentially given thousands of top secret documents that prove all the things I have been saying ... and much more ... is very invigorating."

Reuters

(China Daily 07/11/2013 page10)

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