White House officials say they are “extremely disappointed” by Russia’s decision to grant asylum for one year to Edward Snowden, who is accused of leaking U.S. government secrets. Officials are deciding how to respond.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday Russia’s offer of asylum to Snowden has undermined Russia’s record of law enforcement cooperation with the United States.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step, despite our very clear and lawful requests, in public and in private, to have Mr. Snowden expelled to the United States to face the charges against him,” he said.
The former National Security Agency contract systems analyst had been living in a Moscow airport for the past six weeks. Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the Obama administration’s demand that Snowden be returned to the U.S. to face espionage charges for leaks that revealed American surveillance practices.
Carney described Snowden as a security risk who has been in possession of classified information both in China and in Russia.
“Mr. Snowden is not a whistleblower. 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,” he said.
Moscow’s move could further strain U.S.-Russian relations, which are already under pressure from disagreements over Syria and other issues.
Carney said advisers were discussing whether to go ahead with President Barack Obama’s meeting with President Putin in Russia, scheduled to coincide with the September G20 summit in St. Petersburg.
“I do not have a scheduling announcement for you today, but obviously, this is not a positive development, and we have a wide range of interests with the Russians, and we are evaluating the utility of a summit,” he said.
Carney said Russia did not give the Obama administration notice of its asylum decision. He said this was not just a legal matter, but also a matter of U.S. relations with Russia.
The president’s spokesman, however, called the relationship between the two countries “broad and important.” Carney said the benefits of engagement with Russia have been worth the accompanying conflicts and disagreements.
He said officials in Washington would continue to discuss the Snowden situation with their counterparts in Moscow.
Some U.S. lawmakers have called on the president to take a tough stand against Russia, possibly including a U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.