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White House: Russia gave us no heads up on Snowden release

Lesley Clark

The Obama administration is "extremely disappointed" with Russia's decision to allow Edward Snowden to leave a Moscow airport -- a decision it made without giving the White House a heads up, Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

The decision came "despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and in private to have Mr. Snowden expelled to the United States to face the charges against him," Carney said, reiterating the administration's stance that Snowden is neither a dissident, nor a whistleblower.

"He is accused of leaking classified information and has been charged with three felony counts, and he should be returned to the United States as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process and protections," Carney said.

He said the US would be in contact with Russian authorities, "expressing our extreme disappointment in this decision, and making the case clearly that there is absolute legal justification for Mr. Snowden to be returned to the United States."

And he said the U.S. is evaluating whether Obama will attend a planned September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Carney sidestepped Sen. John McCain's suggestion that Russia's decision was a deliberate attempt to embarrass the U.S., calling it "an unfortunate development," and adding that, "in terms of motivations for a decision like this, I would leave it to Russian authorities to describe them."

He defended Obama's Russia policy and the U.S.'s reset with Russia, saying its produced "positive benefits," including cooperation from Russia on the transit of supplies to US troops in Afghanistan and efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But Carney said the administration's frustration is not limited to Russia not following extradiction treaties: There's also U.S.-Russia relations, he said, and "the matter of the release in an unauthorized fashion of classified information and the possible release of more classified information."

He said the "possession of that kind of highly sensitive, classified information outside of secure areas is both a huge risk and a violation."

Obama spoke personally with Putin about Snowden weeks ago and Carney said the words his spokesman used -- "very disappointed, extremely disappointed" -- were a reflection of Obama's level of disappointment.


Lesley Clark
McClatchy Washington Bureau