Washington, (Reuters) – Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, charged with leaking secret U.S. surveillance information, said the Obama administration was denying him his right to seek asylum, according to a statement released by the WikiLeaks organization on Monday.
“It is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions,” Snowden said in a statement published on the WikiLeaks website, referring to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. “This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile.”
The United States has been on an international manhunt for Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who faces espionage charges for leaking classified information about secret U.S. phone and Internet surveillance activity. He is believed to be holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
“Although I am convicted of nothing, (the Obama administration) has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person,” Snowden said in a statement posted online by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
“Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum… Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
A Russian official on Monday said Snowden has applied for political asylum in Russia and Reuters saw a letter Snowden sent to Ecuador, thanking it for helping him get to Russia and examining his asylum request.
In the statement dated July 1 and signed “Edward Joseph Snowden,” he blamed the Obama administration for adopting “the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon” in its efforts to block his search for asylum and said he was “unbowed in his convictions.”
Snowden is traveling with Sarah Harrison, an activist with WikiLeaks. The group’s founder Julian Assange has been granted asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy, where he has been for just over a year.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Will Dunham and Eric Walsh)