It seems Edward Snowden, the international fugitive marooned in a Russian airport, is taking his time to fill out his Russian asylum application. He told reporters Friday morning his application would be filed that day, but senior Kremlin officials said they've received bupkis from the former National Security Agency contractor in interviews Saturday morning.
So, Friday morning: the missing man of mystery surfaced for the first time since flying to Russia. He spoke with reporters from behind a desk, flanked by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch representatives, proving that he is, in fact, alive and in Russia. "I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future," he told the assembled reporters. There was some creeping doubt Snowden was already on a beach somewhere, drinking cocktails and mocking the reporters trying to find him. But here he was, in the flesh, and laying out his plan to hang out in Russia until he can grab a flight to Latin America's warmer weather and less complicated relationships with the U.S.
"I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted," Snowden said. "I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably."
And that's where things could get messy. As our Phillip Bump explained, president Vladimir Putin has made it clear Snowden will be granted asylum only if he stops releasing information damaging to the U.S. Of course, Snowden argues what he's doing isn't damaging to the U.S. at all. "I want the U.S. to succeed," he said yesterday.
So, his plan looks like this:
- Step 1: seek asylum in Russia
- Step 2: seek asylum somewhere in Latin America
- Step 3: hang out in Russia until he can figure out the complicated transportation arrangements required to legally travel to Latin America
But before any of that can even happen Snowden has to formally file his asylum application in Russia, something he hasn't done yet. On Saturday morning, Konstantin Romodanovsky, the head of Russia's Federal Migration Service, said he has not received an application from Snowden. "At the present time, there have been no applications from Snowden," Romodanovsky told Interfax. "If we receive an application, it will be considered in due process of law." And, weirdly, Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia is "not in contact with Snowden," while attending a meeting in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday. This is a strange claim considering Russian government officials were present and helped organize his press conference yesterday. But, that's the big news: Snowden hasn't gotten around to filing his asylum application for one reason or another. There was no set deadline beyond his own self-imposed one, but still. This is where we are.
One possible reason for the lateness: Edward Snowden is, among other things, a lollygagger.
The other possible reason is an asylum application is long, complicated and takes time to carefully fill out. He has to dot the i's and cross the t's, and such.