Skip to main content

Snowden asylum could cancel planned Obama-Putin talks

By Tom Cohen, CNN
updated 4:00 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sen. Schumer says Russia "stabbed us in the back"
  • The White House says it is reconsidering a summit with Russia
  • Some legislators call for immediate retaliation to Russia's "provocative" move
  • Some Democrats say don't let the case dominate important U.S.-Russia relations

Washington (CNN) -- A planned Moscow summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin is being reconsidered because Russia granted asylum to classified leaker Edward Snowden, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday.

"We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful request in public and in private" for Snowden to be returned to the United States to face charges, Carney said.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Moscow for talks with Putin before attending a G-20 gathering in St. Petersburg next month, but Carney said "we are evaluating the utility of a bilateral summit in Moscow."

Former intelligence worker Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of documents outlining a massive effort by the NSA to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of virtually all Americans. He says he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing. "Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded," he said. Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong. He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, over the leaks. Former intelligence worker Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of documents outlining a massive effort by the NSA to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of virtually all Americans. He says he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing. "Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded," he said. Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong. He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, over the leaks.
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers Notable leakers and whistle-blowers

His remarks made clear that Obama would still attend the G-20 meeting even if he canceled the Moscow stop.

Snowden, who leaked details of classified surveillance programs that sparked a political firestorm in the United States, had been holed up for weeks in the international transit lounge at the Moscow airport.

The administration invalidated Snowden's passport and asked Russia to hand him over, but the granting of asylum for at least a year allowed the former National Security Agency contractor to leave the airport on Thursday.

On Capitol Hill, legislators from both parties backed a strong response by Washington.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said "Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife."

"Given Russia's decision today, the president should recommend moving the G-20 summit" to another country, Schumer said.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce of California, called Russia's move "absolutely unacceptable" and said Obama "must make clear to President Putin that there can be no 'business as usual' as long as Russia continues to harbor this fugitive from justice."

"He should immediately announce that he will not meet one-on-one with the Russian president at the upcoming G-20 Summit in Russia in September," Royce said. "Putin knows how to play hardball, so should we."

Snowden gets Russia asylum

In a joint statement, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona labeled Russia's move a "slap in the face of all Americans."

"We cannot allow today's action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions," the senators said, calling for the completion of missile defense programs in Europe that Russia opposes, expanding NATO to include Russian neighbor Georgia and increasing support for those seeking improved human rights in Russia.

Is the Snowden case Manning, Part II?

Graham had previously suggested a U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over Moscow's refusal to hand over Snowden. But he quickly backed off under widespread criticism.

Meanwhile, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, noted that relations with Russia were not "on a positive track" before the Snowden case.

"That does not mean we are not talking. It doesn't mean that we don't have very significant mutual interests. We do," Hoyer told reporters. "It doesn't mean that we shouldn't have continuing interface with the Russians because we have a lot of mutual interests that are very important to both countries."

Even before Russia granted Snowden asylum, some in Washington called for Obama to cancel the upcoming trip, or at least the Moscow visit, to demonstrate American disapproval for Russia's failure to immediately turn over the fugitive.

However, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan said Thursday he hoped that Obama would attend the G-20 talks.

Top senator questions need to collect phone records

A lone "bump" in U.S.-Russia relations should not derail the trip "because there will be a lot of other countries that will be there and a lot of other issues that need to be resolved," Levin told CNN.

Snowden leaked to the media that the NSA had secretly collected and stored millions of phone records from accounts in the United States. The agency also collected information from U.S. companies on the Internet activity of overseas residents, he said.

The revelations sparked a public outcry against what liberals, libertarians and others call excessive government intrusion in the privacy of citizens.

Security officials say the surveillance network was necessary to protect the country against terrorism,and that the programs are under strict judicial and administrative controls.

Supporters of Snowden call him a whistleblower who should not face prosecution, but Carney rejected that characterization Thursday.

"Mr. Snowden is not a whistleblower," Carney said. "He is accused of leaking classified information and has been charged with three felony counts, and he should be returned to the United States as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process and protections."

NSA chief: Snooping is crucial to fighting terrorism

CNN's Gloria Borger, Ted Barrett, Jim Acosta and Virginia Nicolaidis contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Data mining & privacy
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Sun June 23, 2013
He's a high-school dropout who worked his way into the most secretive computers in U.S. intelligence as a defense contractor.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
A federal judge has refused the Obama administration's request to extend storage of classified NSA telephone surveillance data beyond the current five-year limit.
updated 8:44 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
From his sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange said that everyone in the world will be just as effectively monitored soon -- at least digitally.
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
In a rare public talk via the Web, fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden urged a tech conference audience to help "fix" the U.S. government's surveillance of its citizens.
updated 11:55 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The White House is "very disappointed" that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.
updated 8:57 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Spies with surveillance agencies in the U.S. and U.K. infiltrated video games like "World of Warcraft" in a hunt for terrorists "hiding in plain sight" online.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden both held jobs that gave them access to some of their country's most secret and sensitive intelligence. They chose to share that material with the world and are now paying for it.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The NSA's controversial intelligence-gathering programs have prevented 54 terrorist attacks around the world, including 13 in the United States.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
You've never heard of XKeyscore, but it definitely knows you. The National Security Agency's top-secret program essentially makes available everything you've ever done on the Internet.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Sun August 18, 2013
You may have never heard of Lavabit and Silent Circle. That's because they offered encrypted (secure) e-mail services, something most Americans have probably never thought about needing.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere ... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone."
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
President Barack Obama responds to outrage by European leaders over revelations of alleged U.S. spying.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue April 1, 2014
Browse through a history of high-profile intelligence leaking cases.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Former President George W. Bush talks Snowden, AIDS, Mandela and his legacy.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
Edward Snowden took a job with an NSA contractor in order to gather evidence about U.S. surveillance programs.
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
With reports of NSA snooping, many people have started wondering about their personl internet security.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
Click through our gallery to learn about other major leaks and what happened in the aftermath.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun June 9, 2013
What really goes on inside America's most secretive agency? CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.
ADVERTISEMENT