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Edward Snowden: Is it illegal for US to block his asylum claim?

NSA leaker Edward Snowden has made it clear that he believes he is being pursued for political offenses. But the US government considers him a common lawbreaker and not a human rights case.

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Russian supporters of NSA leaker Edward Snowden rally with posters protesting total surveillance in Moscow. Snowden wants asylum in Russia and is willing to stop sharing information as a trade-off for such a deal, according to a parliament member who was among a dozen activists and officials to meet with him Friday.

Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP

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Is the United States illegally trying to block Edward Snowden’s right to seek asylum in other nations?

That’s what the National Security Agency leaker asserts. In a meeting Friday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, he told representatives of human rights groups that the US has revoked his passport, placed him on no-fly lists, demanded that Hong Kong return him “outside the framework of its laws,” and threatened sanctions against “countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system.”

Venezuela, among other Latin American nations, has now offered asylum, but the US and its allies on this issue are continuing to block his ability to travel, Mr. Snowden said.

“This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights,” Snowden said.

Is he right? Your answer to this may hinge on whether you frame his actions as political offenses or criminal behavior.

The American Civil Liberties Union has a good piece outlining the legal issues here. It notes that under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has a right to seek asylum from persecution.

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