QUITO, 27 JUNE: An Ecuadorean diplomatic employee issued a safe conduct pass for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to travel to Ecuador to seek political asylum, but the action was unauthorised and the pass has no validity, government officials said today.
Ecuador’s scramble to explain the document, revealed by the Univision television network, came as President Obama was seeking to downplay the international chase for “a 29-year-old hacker” and lower the temperature of an issue that has already raised tensions between the USA and uneasy partners Russia and China.
Secretary of Political Management Betty Tola told a news conference that “any document of this type has no validity and is the exclusive responsibility of the person who issued it.” Another government official said that while the document is authentic, it was issued without approval from the Foreign Ministry or other officials in the capital and thus has no legal power. Ms Tola told reporters that Mr Snowden’s asylum application hadn’t been processed because he was not in Ecuador as required by law.
The back-and-forth over the document appears to be part of a broader debate within Ecuador’s leftist government about whether to offer asylum to Mr Snowden, who is believed to remain in limbo in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after flying in from Hong Kong. Mr Snowden’s American passport has been revoked by US authorities. Ecuadoran officials have defended Mr Snowden in public, but also seem taken aback by the intensity of global attention and US criticism focused on Ecuador for considering his asylum request.