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Putin: Snowden must stop leaking secrets to stay

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:36 p.m. HST, Jul 01, 2013

MOSCOW » Russia's President Vladimir Putin says that National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden will have to stop leaking U.S. secrets if he wants to get asylum in Russia, something he says Snowden doesn't want to do.

Putin, speaking at a news conference today, insisted that Snowden isn't a Russian agent and that Russian security agencies haven't contacted him.

He says that Snowden considers himself a rights activist, a "new dissident" and compared him to Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov.

Snowden has been caught in legal limbo in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport where he arrived from Hong Kong. The U.S. has annulled his passport.

Putin wouldn't say if any of the leaders of gas exporting nations attending a summit in Moscow could offer Snowden shelter.

French President Francois Hollande today demanded that the United States immediately stop its alleged eavesdropping on European Union diplomats and suggested that the widening surveillance scandal could derail negotiations for a free-trade deal potentially worth billions.

The Obama administration is facing a breakdown in confidence from key allies over secret programs that reportedly installed covert listening devices in EU offices. Many European countries had so far been muted about revelations of the wide net cast by U.S. surveillance programs aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, but their reaction to the latest reports indicate Washington's allies are unlikely to let the matter drop without at least a strong show of outrage.

The White House wouldn't comment on the new reports, but officials said President Barack Obama has not spoken to his counterparts in Europe about the revelations since they were published Sunday in a German weekly.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said today he didn't know the details of the allegations, but tried to downplay them, maintaining that many nations undertake various activities to protect their national interests. He failed to quell the outrage from allies, including France, Germany and Italy.

"We cannot accept this kind of behavior from partners and allies," Hollande said on French television today.

He insisted the U.S. explain its practices and end the eavesdropping immediately. And he issued a veiled threat that France would dig in its heels on sensitive negotiations to ink a free-trade deal that would link countries that make up nearly half of the global economy. The deal would likely serve as a model for all future such agreements worldwide.

"We can only have negotiations, transactions, in all areas, once we have obtained these guarantees for France, but that goes for the whole European Union and I would say for all partners of the United States," he said.

Europe's outage was triggered by a Sunday report by German news weekly Der Spiegel that the U.S. National Security Agency bugged diplomats from friendly nations — such as the EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. The report was partly based on an ongoing series of revelations of U.S. eavesdropping leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In a sign of the distrust the report had sowed, the German government launched a review of its secure government communications network and the EU's executive, the European Commission, ordered "a comprehensive ad hoc security sweep."

"Eavesdropping on friends is unacceptable," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin. "We're not in the Cold War anymore."

Germany has been among the European countries most anxious to reach a trade deal with the U.S., and it will likely try to strike a careful balance in its criticism of Washington.

It is the second time, however, the free-trade talks have hung in the balance because of French concerns. Two weeks ago, as the EU was deciding on its mandate for the talks, France led an all-out campaign to keep cultural industries off the table that almost scuttled the negotiations.

The European Commission also demanded an explanation. Their foreign affairs chief spoke to Kerry today about the reports at a security conference in Southeast Asia.

"I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs with national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that," Kerry said on the sidelines in Brunei, adding that he had been busy with meetings about the Mideast peace process and wasn't familiar with the specifics of the most recent claims.

"And all I know is that that is not unusual for lots of nations. But beyond that, I'm not going to comment any further until I have all the facts and find out precisely what the situation is," he said.

It's unclear how widespread similar practices actually are. But some in Europe have raised concerns that U.S. efforts include economic espionage. When asked whether Germany spies on its allies, Seibert responded: "It's not the policy of the German government to eavesdrop on friendly states in their embassies. That should be obvious."

Italy also stepped up its criticism of the surveillance today, with Foreign Minister Emma Bonino saying Italy had asked the Americans for the "necessary clarifications for this very thorny issue." In a statement, Bonino said the Americans had promised to provide clarification to both the EU and individual member states.

Italy has largely downplayed earlier reports of Snowden's revelations, even that the U.S. had spied on G-20 members, in part because Italians are so used to being listened in on by their own government. Italy is the most wiretapped Western democracy, with transcripts of telephone intercepts of politicians and criminals routinely splashed on front pages.

Despite the rhetoric, the threat to the trade negotiations is likely to be minimal. For one, technical negotiations often proceed at a level largely detached from political considerations and so far, there have been no EU plans to let the first round of the trans-Atlantic free trade talks from fall victim to discord over the snooping scandal. Such talks traditionally need to develop a momentum of their own and would suffer huge delays if they were held up each time there was political strike between the parties.

The U.S. government is organizing the first round from July 8-12 in Washington.

France is far less eager for a deal than Germany, and Hollande could face pressure from parties on the left that he often needs to pass legislation. The country's ecology party — which has two ministers in government — said Snowden should be given political asylum in France. France's far left party, Leftist Front, also called for asylum. Snowden has been in a no man's land at Moscow's airport for days.

According to the Der Spiegel report on Sunday, the NSA planted bugs in the EU's diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated the building's computer network. Similar measures were taken at the EU's mission to the United Nations in New York, the magazine said.

It also reported that the NSA used secure facilities at NATO headquarters in Brussels to dial into telephone maintenance systems that would have allowed it to intercept senior officials' calls and Internet traffic at a key EU office nearby.

The Spiegel report cited classified U.S. documents taken by Snowden that the magazine said it had partly seen. It did not publish the alleged NSA documents it cited nor say how it obtained access to them.

Jordans reported from Berlin. AP correspondents Geir Moulson in Berlin, Elena Becatoros in Athens, Raf Casert in Brussels, Deb Riechmann in Brunei, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Julie Pace in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.

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pcman wrote:
The US needs to confide other countries that counterterrorist information from the NSA programs will be provided to them when applicable to defend their people and cities. The US has already done so in the past to prevent attacks in Europe so it is not a stretch. US also needs to reciprocate to Russia's providing the US with information about the Boston bomber, although we did not use it effectively.
on July 1,2013 | 06:10AM
honokai wrote:
The United States has lost all its credibility in relation to its allies. The reality is that the Constitution only extends to the borders of the United States. It is time we stop trying to preach to the rest of the world. They know we are liars.
on July 1,2013 | 06:55AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Isn't it heinous that the United States was spying on other countries? Only the United States could stoop so low and other countries have too much integrity and value to spy on others.
on July 1,2013 | 07:12AM
Anonymous wrote:
"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said today he didn't know the details of the allegations." That statement does not foster trust with allies.
on July 1,2013 | 07:54AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I know I know. Only the US has spies an nobody else in the world does it.
on July 1,2013 | 08:27AM
Denominator wrote:
Are you joking or are you really that ignorant?
on July 1,2013 | 02:22PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Nobel Peace? He's a piece of something alright and it ain't nobel.
on July 1,2013 | 06:49AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Andrei Sakharov, the father of the Russian hydrogen bomb, didn't want to shut his mouth, (like Ed Snowden). Except, Sakharov won the Nobel Peace Prize.
on July 1,2013 | 07:15AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Nobel? Sakharov? Aren't you guys stretching it a wee bit? How about Einstein while we're at it?
on July 1,2013 | 08:26AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Einstein for Physics, not the Peace Prize.
on July 1,2013 | 08:52AM
Kapakahi wrote:
The NSA domestic surveillance programs have been justified as a necessary invasion of our privacy due to the threat of "terrorism" the constant revelations from Snowden show the anti-terrorist component to be only a tiny part of the NSA's activities. They snoop because that is what they do. Information is power and secret, personal and confidential information is incredible power.

The US government is constantly negotiating with other governments. If the USG can listen in on the discussion of those on the other side, that is helpful. If the USG can find some juicy detail in order to gain leverage over an official from another government, all the better. Most people of the world opposed the US invasion of Iraq, but Washington was able to cobble together the "Coalition of the Willing," AKA, "the Coalition of the Bribed and Coerced."

They don't care if you are cheating on your spouse or visiting inappropriate websites. But they are collecting that information. And if you later become a candidate for congress, a troublesome reporter or an effective activist against corporate power, someone with access WILL pull up your "permanent record," and you will feel the pressure. "Internal security forces" in every country have a legitimate role to play. But there is a temptation to take it too far in order to manage an "orderly" society. "For the common good," of course. This technology, with no effective oversight, makes the ability to control too easy and appeals to the Dark Side.

on July 1,2013 | 08:48AM
dyw001 wrote:
True. But you have not suggested any alternatives to monitoring terrorism.
on July 1,2013 | 10:23AM
false wrote:
Can you think of an alternative? One which would safeguard against abuse of this archived information and minimize damage to our privacy, our freedoms? Because I see very few comments here from people willing to acknowledge the threat of a government whose functionaries amass so much information on the thoughts, habits, associations and activities of its citizens. In fact, very few WANT to talk about that. And I think a lot of the resentment, the "inappropriate affect" being directed against Snowden in some of these comments is that people RESENT having the truth be exposed so we have to confront that difficult question: How much freedom are we willing to give up for WHAT level of security? Many of us, perhaps MOST of us, would have fit right in in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Franco's Spain or Pinochet's Chile. Or, to get literary, in Orwell's 1984.

I do NOT have the answer. But I suggest we NEED to ask the question and face it honestly, not yell and scream and hide behind cheap, pseudo-patriotic sloganeering. The federal government, under Obama or under Bush, will be tempted to go after those it perceives as its enemies. We have had outbreaks of repression of civil liberties episodically in American history. From the Alien and Sedition Act days under John Adams, to the Palmer Raids and lynching of union organizers to the McCarthy period to COINTELPRO under Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover. It is SO easy for government officials to think those who oppose THEM are "seditious" or "unpatriotic" or treasonous. If you give them the technology and approval to create a massive internal security surveillance mechanism, and you make it highly profitable for crony contractors to get rich, they WILL build it and they will use it. And if Snowden can leak the information, so can any of the other hundreds of thousands, many of them driven by their own vision of who is an enemy in need of being hurt.

on July 1,2013 | 12:50PM
Manoa2 wrote:
The right to privacy extends only to areas where privacy is "reasonably expected"-- no privacy if you are broadasting on a CB radio, no privacy if you build a missle in you backyard and you are spotted by spy sattelites, no privacy if you use unencrypted email on the internet, no privacy if you use coffee shop wifi, no privacy if you use commercial search engines, no privacy if you allow cookies on your web browser, no privacy if you store items in the cloud, no privacy on facebook, twitter or instagram, no privacy on wireless phone conversations if they are not encrypted or if they are repeated over unsecured wireless networks. Using the internet erases a lot of privacy rights because it is not reasonable to expect these to be private.
on July 1,2013 | 02:18PM
Kapakahi wrote:

The standard, a "reasonable expectation of privacy," is extremely flexible a difficult to pin down. I do not expect to have to have an advanced understanding of computer security in order to have the right to have my web-browsing history and email contents secure from being read by inquisitive government (and private contract) employees. Even so, your list of things you say the NSA is doing has some major pukas. You fail to mention the archiving of emails, text messages and phone calls. Is that because you think it is OK for those things to be read by domestic spies? Or because you doubt it is happening?

Because each time a defender of the government surveillance programs makes a pronouncement on how limited and restricted this surveillance is, a new report comes out showing it is much more widespread and invasive than earlier stipulated. If they CAN eavesdrop, due to the technical ability and the budget, they WILL eavesdrop. They want to vacuum up Total Information in order to dominate that spectrum of conflict. Since they have pronounced the struggle knows no boundaries, they will surveil US citizens as much as those outside the borders of the US, unless they get pushback from an enraged public.

on July 2,2013 | 02:57PM
serious wrote:
We have a President who travels and travels, either on vacation or fund raising. We have major issues---Christ he has all those Harvard professors on his cabinet who never worked in their life--he has given people of color high ranking jobs with the same credentials---he should get into the WH and put his butt to work. I am sick of this!!!!!
on July 1,2013 | 10:18AM
cojef wrote:
Gulag bound, made a mistake by going to Russia, feel sorry for him. If, he is ever able to return to USA, there will be no hero's welcome, maybe a demonstration. Country giving him santuary will be shackled with having to support him for life. Computer whiz could possibly get by as a researcher in the host country. Running out of options for him.
on July 1,2013 | 11:32AM
false wrote:
Putin is a snake. If he can strike a deal for turning Snowden over to the US, he will do so. I am pretty sure he has hidden bank accounts and would not mind having them enriched by a discrete payment into his retirement account. OTOH, if it is more advantageous for him to allow Snowden to "slip between his fingers," he will do that as well. Which probably means the US did not meet his price. There are many things to suggest Snowden is highly intelligent. An exit strategy from Hong Kong which forced him to rely upon the integrity and goodwill of Vladimir Putin was probably not a good idea.
on July 1,2013 | 12:54PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Snowden is going to get snowed in during the harsh Russian winters. I hear, even Ecuador is treating him like a hot potato.
on July 1,2013 | 12:27PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Snowden is going to get snowed in during the harsh Russian winters. I hear, even Ecuador is treating him like a hot potato.
on July 1,2013 | 12:27PM
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