White House seeking clarity on Snowden’s status

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Edward Snowden (center) attends news conference with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks (l) and an unidentified woman (r), at Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow, Russia. (Human Rights Watch handout / AP Photo)

Edward Snowden (center) attends news conference with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks (l) and an unidentified woman (r), at Sheremetyevo Airport, Moscow, Russia. (Human Rights Watch handout / AP Photo)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Wednesday it has asked Russian authorities to clarify the status of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, and restated its desire to see him returned to the United States.

A state news agency in Russia said Snowden has been given a document allowing him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport. But Snowden’s lawyer later said his client’s asylum status has not been resolved and that Snowden will stay at the airport for now.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to reiterate “the belief of the United States, that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States, where he will have a fair trial; that Russia still has the ability to do the right thing.”

She said Kerry told Lavrov that the U.S. would be “deeply disappointed” if Russia made any effort to facilitate his movement out of the airport, or to any destination other than the U.S.

“Obviously any move that would allow Mr. Snowden to depart the airport would be deeply disappointing,” Psaki said.

Snowden has been marooned in the Moscow airport since June 23 on a flight from Hong Kong. Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia after agreeing to a demand by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he stop leaking information as a condition of remaining in the country.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration has made clear to the Russians its desire to see Snowden returned to the U.S. to face espionage charges. Carney had no updates on how Snowden’s status might affect President Barack Obama’s plans to travel to Russia in September.

Snowden “is neither a human rights activist, nor a dissident,” Carney said. “He’s been charged with serious felonies for the unauthorized leaking of highly classified information, and there is ample precedent and legal justification for him to be returned to the United States where he will face trial with all the rights and protections afforded defendants in the United States of America.”

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