The US won't pursue extraordinary measures to detain Edward Snowden, President Obama has said. Meanwhile, pressure to refuse Snowden asylum has sparked an angry and somewhat cheeky response from Ecuadorean officials.
President Barack Obama stayed calm during a press conference in Senegal on Thursday when asked about the fate of Edward Snowden, who has caused embarrassment to his administration both at home and abroad.
"I'm not going to have one case with a suspect who we're trying to extradite suddenly be elevated to the point where I've got to start going wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited so he can face the justice system," Obama said while on a tour of Africa.
Several weeks ago, the former contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly leaked information about a wide-reaching surveillance program in the United States known as Prism, as well as evidence of US hacking into Chinese entities.
Snowden had already fled to Hong Kong before the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers published the first revelations of Prism. Soon after US prosecutors released the charges against Snowden to the media, authorities in Hong Kong allowed him to fly to Moscow due to a discrepancy in the US warrant for his arrest.
"I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker," Obama said, referring to Snowden, who turned 30 last week.
Despite difficulties convincing Chinese and Russian officials to extradite Snowden, Obama said he had not personally contacted the Russian or Chinese president.
Law enforcement authorities generally deal with similar cases and would do so in the apprehension of Snowden because his case was "not exceptional from a legal perspective," the US president said.
Under pressure, Ecuador stands tall
While Obama declared Snowden unworthy of increased diplomatic tensions, Ecuador responded in part to the question of granting asylum to the alleged intelligence leaker.
Snowden had reportedly applied for safe haven in the South American country. However, Ecuadorean officials said they could not process his request until he reached one of its diplomatic premises, according to the news agency Reuters.
The international pressure placed upon Ecuador to allow or refuse the former NSA employee sparked an obstinate response from its officials on Thursday.
Rather than submit to the will of Washington, Quito relinquished its claim to a tariff program worth millions of dollars to the country, preferring independence, it said.
"Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, and does not trade on principles or make them contingent on commercial interests, even if those interests are important," Communications Minister Fernando Alvarado told reporters in Quito.
The trade deal, which is set for renewal by the US Congress and was awarded in exchange for Ecuador's cooperation in the war on drugs, had become a "new instrument of blackmail," said Alvarado. "In consequence, Ecuador unilaterally and irrevocably renounces [the preferential treatment.]"
Instead, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's government offered to pay the United States $23 million per year to finance "human rights training."
The millions would serve to help "avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity," Alvarado said.
kms/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)