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Edward Snowden heads for asylum: Why Ecuador?

Edward Snowden, who leaked information about top-secret NSA surveillance programs, reportedly is headed to asylum in Ecuador. US officials still hope to prosecute Snowden on espionage charges, but that may be difficult given US relations with Ecuador.

By Staff writer / June 23, 2013

Journalists stand next to the Ecuadorean ambassador's car while waiting for the arrival of Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping US surveillance programs, at Sheremetyevo airport, just outside Moscow Sunday.

Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP


The saga and travels of Edward Snowden took another turn Sunday with reports that he is headed for asylum in Ecuador.

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Why Ecuador?

Most obviously, the South American country is friendly to WikiLeaks. That’s the whistle-blower organization whose founder Julian Assange has spent the past year holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, trying to avoid questioning about alleged sexual offenses in Sweden.

WikiLeaks has been instrumental in spiriting Mr. Snowden out of Hong Kong – reportedly en route via Moscow and Havana to a place of more permanent refuge in Ecuador with a WikiLeaks official accompanying him.

Ecuador's ambassador to Russia said he expected to meet Snowden in Moscow on Sunday, Reuters reports. What’s more, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has good ties with WikiLeaks and is in a politically confident mood after his recent landslide reelection.

Along with Cuba and Venezuela (which had been thought to be Snowden’s ultimate destination) Ecuador is a member of ALBA – the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America that pride themselves on their "anti-imperialist" credentials.

US officials had been scrambling to bring Snowden back to the United States for prosecution on charges of espionage following his leaking of details about top-secret National Security Agency surveillance programs targeting telephone and Internet metadata, including some data on US citizens.

In a criminal complaint unsealed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., Snowden was charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person. The latter two offenses fall under the US Espionage Act and can bring as many as 10 years in prison.


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