Wikileaks appears to have inadvertently disclosed on its Twitter account Thursday that the group had intended for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to remain in Russia since his departure from the United States – a declaration that disputes earlier claims that Wikileaks was trying to find Snowden refuge in Latin America.
“Germany blocks #Snowden – why we advised #Snowden to take Russia,” Wikileaks tweeted early Thursday afternoon, linking to a piece in The Guardian reporting on Germany’s decision not to allow Edward Snowden to testify during an investigation into NSA surveillance of the country. While an apparently offhand tweet, the idea that the Wikileaks organization – whose head, Julian Assange, remains ensconced at the Ecuadorian embassy in London – advised Snowden to travel to Russia and seek refuge, and not Latin America, contradicts earlier claims.
As Business Insider‘s Michael Kelly notes, the original Wikileaks narrative placed Snowden in Moscow by chance, as he was attempting to transfer from Hong Kong to a Latin American country but needed to wait to receive approval from one of the leftist South American totalitarian states – either Bolivia, Ecuador, or Venezuela. A Wikileaks adviser, Sarah Harrison, told the media that she was with him and could conclude that Snowden had been “stranded” in Russia, as the United States revoked his passport, rendering him unable to travel internationally.
In June 2013, The Guardian reported that Snowden was only planning on staying in Russia “until he is permitted to travel to Latin America. Venezuela has offered him political asylum but he remains unable to travel there without travel documents.” Nearly a year later, Snowden remains in Russia and appears to have no intention of leaving. Snowden’s attorney told Reuters this week that Snowden has no intention of leaving Russia at the moment and will attempt to remake his life there for the indefinite future.
During his time in Russia, Snowden has become a valuable asset to the Putin regime. Touted as a political exile, President Vladimir Putin even allowed Snowden to ask him a question at a town hall-style television program. Snowden asked whether Russia used similar surveillance techniques as the United States – a question that easily let Putin feed his audience propaganda on the freedom of the Russian people to assemble and communicate in privacy. Sources close to Snowden later claimed that the leaker “instantly regretted” the decision after international media blasted him for parading on behalf of Putin.