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CFK met with Snowden in Moscow

Former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
Former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
Former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
By Luciana Bertoia
Herald Staff

ACLU chief says president was first head of state to sit down with NSA whistleblower

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner met with former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden — who in 2013 caused shockwaves around the world when he revealed the extent of Washington’s global Internet and phone surveillance — when she visited Moscow in April, the Herald learned yesterday.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), confirmed yesterday that the meeting took place. Romero and Ben Wizner are Snowden’s attorneys in the US.

Repeated efforts to contact the president’s spokesman, Alfredo Scoccimarro, by phone and text messages were unsuccessful yesterday.

“Snowden met with President Fernández de Kirchner. They talked for more than an hour. I don’t know why she has not made public comments about it,” Romero said during an interview with the Herald. Romero and other top civil rights advocates is taking part in a meeting of the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) hosted by the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) in Buenos Aires City.

According to Romero, the president visited Snowden — who has been granted a three-year residency permit by the Kremlim after revealing US surveillance in 2013 — when she travelled to Russia during the last days of April.

“President Fernández de Kirchner was the first head of state to meet with Snowden. They talked for about an hour,” he added.

Romero did not specify the exact date of the encounter and did not make reference to the topics the two discussed. However, he made it clear that Snowden was delighted with her visit. “She made a good impression on him,” he said. “I don’t know why she has not spoken about the meeting.”

The ACLU is providing legal representation to Snowden, who faces charges of espionage in the US for his disclosure of top secret archives.

“It is true that he faces those accusations but days ago a US court declared unlawful the surveillance programme, thus he is accused of leaking information about an unlawful practice,” he stressed.

“Americans knew that we were under surveillance but we did not know its real extent,” the expert — who has been leading since 2001 the NGO that has as its mission to protect civil liberties — told the Herald.

The ACLU has been in contact with Snowden since July 2013, shortly after his name and face were plastered on newspapers across the world.

Fernández de Kirchner travelled to Russia on April 18, two weeks after it was revealed — thanks to the information provided by Snowden — that Great Britain had been spying on Argentina.

On the 33rd anniversary of the Malvinas War, intelligence documents were published by the online US news outlet The Intercept and Clarín Group’s cable news channel Todo Noticias (TN) on April 2, revealing the British government was engaged in surveillance and cyber operations against the Argentine government in an attempt to shape public opinion against the country’s sovereignty claims over the islands.

Though the national government avoided making a direct reference to the revelation, a week later tension escalated with the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) summoning Argentine Ambassador to London Alicia Castro and the Argentine Foreign Ministry — headed by Héctor Timerman, summoning UK Ambassador to Argentina John Freeman afterward.

Fernández de Kirchner stayed in Moscow until April 23, when she had a sit-down with her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. If the encounter with Snowden took place as Romero said, the Malvinas might have been one of the topics of concern for the president.

Local support

The ACLU executive director also praised the support given by South American leaders to the NSA whistleblower. “It was of a great importance,” he said.

In 2013, Fernández de Kirchner met with the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon time after the US espionage scandal broke.

The president then said that the way in which spying had become common for Washington reminded her of the well-known German movie The Lives of Others, which portrayed how the STASI secret police in East Berlin monitored intellectuals.

“They had more rudimentary techniques then, now practices are different,” Fernández de Kirchner recalled her conversation with the UN head with a group of journalists who were waiting for her outside the conference room on August 5, 2013.

Fernández de Kirchner also played an important role in July, 2013 when Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane was rerouted to Austria, after other European countries — including Spain, Italy, Portugal and France — denied access to their air space because they believed Morales was taking Snowden in his aircraft. The Bolivian president had taken part in a conference in Russia, where he said he would offer asylum to the former NSA contractor. Morales was delayed about 14 hours in Austria.

It was Rafael Correa who telephoned Fernández de Kirchner to tell her about the incident. The presidents who are part of the UNASUR bloc held a meeting in support of Morales and the president labeled the incident as “humiliating.”

During her meeting with Ban Ki-moon two years ago, she also made reference to the incident. “It is was an affront to a head of state but also is breach of the Vienna Convention,” she then said.

@lucianabertoia

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