U.S. Focus Must Shift from Snowden to Surveillance Programs

Press Release
August 1, 2013

U.S. Focus Must Shift from Snowden to Surveillance Programs

Contact: Carol Gregory, cgregory@aiusa.org, 202-675-8759, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Russia's decision to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum is a positive development and should allow governments and civil society to focus on the sweeping nature and unlawfulness of the U.S. government’s surveillance programs, said Amnesty International.

“The drama of the five weeks since Snowden’s arrival in Russia has distracted attention from the key issue: how the ever-burgeoning security apparatus in the U.S. has used secret courts to undertake massive, sweeping and systematic invasions into the right to privacy of people living in the USA,” said Widney Brown, senior director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “Let’s not lose sight of why Snowden was forced to seek asylum in Russia. Once he disclosed the full scope of the U.S. government’s actions, they cancelled his passport and called him a criminal.”

With regard to Snowden’s temporary asylum status, the organization is concerned that he has been told that he should not disclose any further information that could harm the USA. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and protects speech that reveals credible evidence of unlawful government action. Under both international law and the Constitution, the U.S. government’s actions are unlawful.

“Everybody has the right to seek asylum. That right can’t be contingent on a promise not to speak out or disclose information on a matter of public concern,” said Brown. “We urge the Russian authorities to ensure that his rights are respected. He should be allowed to travel freely, including outside of Russia, if he wishes.”

“The U.S. government has been more intent on persecuting Edward Snowden than in addressing or even owning up to its flagrant breaches of international law. It is time that the USA desists from its deplorable attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s efforts to seek asylum now or in the future.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.