Secretary of State John Kerry called on Russia today to help return fugitive Edward Snowden to the U.S., after the former intelligence contractor who exposed government surveillance arrived in Moscow en route to a refuge.
“I would urge them to live by the standards of the law,” Kerry said at a joint press conference in New Delhi with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid. The U.S. has transferred to Russia seven prisoners “that they wanted” in the past few years, Kerry said. Reciprocity in the law “is pretty important,” he said.
It would be “deeply troubling” if Russia had advance notice of Snowden’s arrival in Moscow and “notwithstanding that, they make the decision willfully to ignore that and not live by the standards of the law,” Kerry said. Snowden has sought asylum in Ecuador.
Snowden’s presence in Russia, with which the U.S. doesn’t have an extradition pact, signaled that the Obama administration may struggle to bring him back a month after he fled and revealed National Security Agency surveillance of Americans and foreign citizens. The decision to let Snowden leave Hong Kong also threatened to add to strains with China over cyber-espionage discussed at a meeting earlier this month between President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping.
Kerry also took a shot at China today in New Delhi, saying “it would be very disappointing if he was willfully allowed to board an airplane” in Hong Kong.
Kerry said Snowden “places himself above the law” and questioned why he chose China and Russia to help him avoid the U.S. where he’s wanted on charges of leaking classified information. “They’re such powerful bastions of Internet freedom,” Kerry said mockingly of China and Russia. He said he wondered if Snowden “raised the questions about Internet freedoms” with China and Russia “since that’s what he seems to champion.”
The secretary of state said he didn’t know where Snowden is seeking to go or whether the one-time Central Intelligence Agency worker was traveling under the passport that the State Department has revoked. Snowden didn’t board an Aeroflot flight to Havana that left the Russian capital after 2 p.m. today, said an official at Russia’s state-run carrier who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.
The Snowden case threatens to further aggravate U.S. relations with Russia, which were already strained over the Syrian war. Kerry may have a chance to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to discuss Snowden and the Syrian conflict early next week. Both men are likely to attend an Asian ministerial conference in Brunei.
Kerry said he was in touch with the White House about the Snowden case last night and his deputy, William Burns, is in contact with the Russian government.