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Snowden withdraws Russia asylum petition as options dwindle

Fugitive whistleblower has filed for political asylum in more than 20 countries; none appear ready to take him in

Former Booz Allen Hamilton employee-turned-fugitive document leaker Edward Snowden withdrawn his request for political asylum in Russia as his options for shelter in other countries appear to be dwindling.

Numerous media outlets reporting from Moscow say that a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Snowden withdrew his request for asylum in that country less than two days after submitting it.

The spokesman did reiterate that Russia has no intention of extraditing Snowden back to the United States.

Snowden has been in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since arriving there from Hong Kong about 10 days ago.

On Sunday, a lawyer from Julian Assange's WikiLeaks organization, who is traveling with Snowden, had submitted a formal request for asylum in Russia.

Snowden apparently decided to withdraw the request after Putin said he could only remain in Russia as long a he did not leak more information that could harm American interests.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks on Tuesday published a list of more than 20 countries including France, Poland, China, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, India, Italy, Venezuela and Germany, where Snowden has requested asylum.

From this list, Brazil and India have already rejected the request outright and Poland has said it would reject it as well, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Others countries, including Austria, Finland and Germany, indicated they would consider an asylum request if it was made in person from within their territories, the Times said. Italy is said to be considering the request but has not made any decision yet, the report added.

Ecuador, initially said to Snowden's likely destination, has become less likely to offer asylum In an interview from Quito with The Guardian newspaper, Ecuador President Rafeal Correa made it clear that Snowden would have to be in Ecuador before an asylum petition could be considered.

Correa told The Guardian that Ecuadorian officials in its London embassy mistakenly issued a temporary safe travel permit to Snowden allowing travel from Hong Kong to Russia without a passport. The U.S. has revoked Snowden's passport.

Correa insisted that Ecuador would not issue another safe conduct visa for Snowden to travel from Russia to Ecuador.

In a statement posted on WikiLeaks, Snowden said the U.S. unfairly put pressure on other countries to deny him asylum. Snowden pointed to a statement by President Barack Obama that the U.S. government will not engage in diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" to get him back to the United States.

"Yet now 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 the statement.

"Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right," to seek asylum, Snowden added.

Snowden is currently wanted in the U.S. for violating provisions of the Espionage Act of 1917.

Snowden, a former employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, admitted that he illegally accessed numerous classified documents while working on contract at a National Security Agency facility in Hawaii. He has claimed that he leaked the documents to reporters only to expose widespread surveillance activities being carried out under the aegis of counter-terrorism.

The U.S. government has accused him of leaking information that is critical to national security.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His email address is [email protected].

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.


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