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Kerry Warns of 'Consequences' for Aiding Snowden

June 24, 2013

by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says there will be consequences for countries helping former U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden avoid arrest for disclosing secret details of the U.S. government's surveillance of telephone and Internet activities.

Kerry says it would be "deeply troubling" if authorities in Russia or Hong Kong had adequate notice and willfully ignored U.S. efforts to gain custody of Snowden following espionage indictments.

"There would be, without any question, some affect, an impact on the relationship and consequences. With respect to Russia, likewise," he said.

Kerry is urging Moscow to live up to the law because he says that is in everyone's interest.

"In the last two years, we have transferred seven prisoners to Russia that they wanted. So I think reciprocity in the enforcement of the law is pretty important," said Kerry.

Snowden traveled from Hong Kong to Moscow, despite a U.S. extradition request. Kerry said when countries ignore legal standards they invite other countries to do the same, raising what he calls a "serious question for all of us in our relationships."

With Snowden seeking asylum in Ecuador with possible travel through Cuba and Venezuela, Kerry said all appropriate countries have been notified as to his legal status. But he said the Obama administration knows there are some countries that historically "play outside of that process."

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi following talks with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, Kerry defended the surveillance program at the center of Snowden's disclosures.

"We take painstaking efforts, sometimes at the expense of endangering ourselves, to protect the rights of people," he said.

Snowden leaked documents showing U.S. intelligence services gathered data for years about patterns of telephone and Internet use. He said he believes the programs violate the privacy rights of citizens.

Khurshid echoed Obama administration justifications the program does not monitor content.

"To get access to content of communications is one thing. And being able to study by way of computer software patterns of communications, whether that is emails or telephone calls, is two different things," said Khurshid.

U.S. authorities say the programs have prevented at least 50 terrorist attacks worldwide since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Kerry said it is an important part of keeping Americans safe.

"This is a dangerous and complicated world we all live in. And I believe that the program the United States has pursued is a very judicious balance of civil rights, civil liberties, but also of the right of people to live free from being killed by terrorists and the right we have to be able to protect people in the effort to do that," said Kerry.

Kerry again questioned Snowden's motives, mockingly asking if he chose China and Russia as part of his "flight from justice because they are such powerful bastions of Internet freedom."

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