Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday said [press release] that US authorities' efforts to thwart Edward Snowden's attempts to seek asylum amount to serious human rights violations. According to Wikileaks [official website], a whistleblower website, Snowden submitted [report] asylum applications to a host of countries, including Ecuador, China and Cuba. AI Director of Law and Policy Michael Bocheneck said it is Snowden's "unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded." He said disclosing human rights violations are protected under the right to freedom of expression, and the US government should focus on addressing the surveillance accusations instead of pursuing Snowden. AI also questioned whether Snowden would receive a fair trial if he was returned to the US, stating that US officials have already publicly condemned him as guilty. Snowden has been residing in Moscow, Russia, since Monday.
In June, Snowden, a former government contractor, was charged [JURIST report] with espionage for leaking top secret documents. The complaint charges Snowden with an unauthorized communication of national defense information, theft of government property, and willful communication of classified intelligence information. In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Snowden said he released the material because he believed the surveillance violated the right to privacy. The Guardian released two documents [Guardian report], which revealed that the National Security Agency [official website] (NSA) had been granted power to make use of information unintentionally gathered from domestic US communications without a warrant. Reports that the NSA was collecting call data [JURIST report] from Verizon customers under a top secret court order emerged in early June. The order compels the production of metadata, including location, time and call duration, but does not include content of calls.