Sep 17, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Snowden says Biden warned countries not to grant him asylum

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is interviewed on MSNBC's "11th Hour."

A screenshot of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on MSNBC's "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams," Sept. 16.

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden told MSNBC's "'The 11th Hour with Brian Williams Monday that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned countries in 2013 there would be "consequences" if they granted him asylum.

What he's saying: Snowden told MSNBC's Brian Williams from Russia that he applied for asylum in 27 different countries. "[E]very time one of these governments got close to opening their doors, the phone would ring in their foreign ministries and on the other end of the line would be a very senior American official," he said.

"It was one of two people. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry or then-Vice President Joe Biden. And they would say, look, we don't know what the law is, we don't care if you can do this or not, we understand that protecting whistleblowers and granting asylum is a matter of human rights and you could do this if you want to.
But if you protect this man, if you let this guy out of Russia, there will be consequences. We're not going to say what they're going to be, but there will be a response."

Flashback: Rafael Correa, who was then president of Ecuador, said in June 2013 he had a "friendly and very cordial" phone conversation with Biden in which the then-vice president asked him to turn down Snowden's asylum request, AP reported at the time.

The big picture: Snowden has been on a media blitz ahead of the release of his memoir this fall. The exiled American told France Inter radio that he would be happy to leave Russia and move to France, which rejected his application for asylum in 2013.

  • Snowden told "CBS This Morning" earlier he would like to return to the U.S. if he could settle on negotiations for a "fair trial" over charges relating to his leaking of classified information to journalists in 2013 about the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and internet metadata from U.S. citizens.
  • In his wide-ranging interview with Williams, Snowden said he hadn't taken a position on the 2020 race, but he found President Trump "simple to understand." 
"Donald Trump strikes me like nothing so much as a man who has never really known a love that he hasn’t had to pay for. And so everything that he does is informed by a kind of transactionalism. I think and what he’s actually looking for is simply for people to like him, unfortunately that produces a lot of negative effects."
Go deeper