Leaked Docs Reportedly Show Ecuador's Effort to Take Edward Snowden in From Russian Airport Impasse
Snowden's passport was supposedly canceled by the American government when he was en route to South America, leaving him effectively trapped in the Moscow airport. A month later, he would receive asylum and eventually a residency permit, and as of June 2022, he continues to live in Russia with his family.
Former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden's international status and asylum were the subjects of a series of messages between the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility and the Russian Foreign Ministry in the summer of 2013, as Quito tried to secure "international protection" for the whistleblower and provide him safe passage to the Latin American country.
According to a report by the Daily Dot,
a trove of documents, emails, and conversations were made public thanks to data stolen from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Moscow by hackers. Over 71,000 files, including passport scans and personal data from visa applications, are allegedly included in the more than 53 gigabytes of material that hackers claiming affiliation with Anonymous handed to the media group DDoSecrets.
Some of the documents in the stache reportedly date as far back as 2013. The fate of Snowden, who notably revealed top secret information about the NSA's surveillance practices that year after escaping to Hong Kong, is the subject of numerous documents that go into depth.
In one such document, dated June 24, 2013, Galo Galarza, then-Ecuadorian foreign minister, is seen asking Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Federation's minister of Foreign Affairs, for permission to send Snowden to Ecuador safely from US special services. The day prior to the message, the US had revoked Snowden's passport.
According to the report, citing obtained letters, Galarza also requested Lavrov "take the necessary measures to establish coordination so that the transfer of citizen Edward Snowden… is carried out with the due guarantees of security and integrity," according to the outlet's translation of the Spanish text.
Then, Ecuadorian officials reportedly said the efforts were necessary in light of its choice to "grant international protection" to Snowden. Russia supposedly replied the same day, acknowledging receipt of the letter but requesting more information regarding Ecuador's legal standing.
"The Department of Latin America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, once the content of the same is known, has requested to clarify what Ecuador refers to when it indicates its decision to grant ‘international protection’ since, according to the jurists of the Russian Foreign Ministry, in international law there is no such category," the Russian MFA allegedly told the embassy.
The documents reportedly imply that Ecuador's appeal was eventually unsuccessful. According to some reports
at the time, Ecuador had been open to accepting Snowden, but the country eventually left him in a precarious situation by publicly stating they would only take into account his asylum application if he made it to Ecuador, which he was unable to do since he did not have a valid American passport because it had already been canceled.
However, this information suggests Quito made backchannel attempts to bring Snowden to Ecuador.
It is worth noting that at the time of this purported exchange WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was staying at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Another report
from that time said in late June 2013 that Ecuador had declared a temporary travel permit provided to Snowden by the Ecuadorian Embassy to the UK invalid, as it was reportedly Assange who had requested the travel authorization.