By Justin Sink - 07/12/13 07:20 PM EDT
President Obama plans to lobby Russian President Vladimir Putin to return Edward Snowden to the U.S. during a phone conversation Friday afternoon, amid news that the intelligence leaker was requesting temporary asylum in the country. [WATCH VIDEO]
"I'm sure that will be discussed," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Carney also blasted Russian authorities for "providing a propaganda platform" after Snowden was allowed to consult with representatives from human rights organizations in a highly publicized meeting at the Moscow airport on Friday.
"Providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality and ... that they have no control over his presence in the airport," Carney said. "It's also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage U.S. interests."
The press secretary added that the participation of groups like Human Rights Watch should not cloud the fact that Snowden had been charged with multiple felonies.
"Those groups do important work, but Mr. Snowden is not a human rights activist or dissident," Carney said.
"On the issue of human rights organizations in Russia meeting with Mr. Snowden, I think we would urge the Russian government to afford human rights organizations the ability to do their work in Russia, throughout Russia. Not just at the Moscow transit lounge," Carney added, in a swipe at Russian human rights protections.
In a statement Friday afternoon, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program Director Jamil Dakwar accused the administration of having "improperly interfered" with Snowden's asylum rights.
The former defense contractor has been stranded for three weeks at the Moscow airport, unable to proceed either to Russia or another destination after the United States revoked his passport. He arrived after fleeing Hong Kong when the United States filed an extradition request to bring him back to face charges surrounding his admitted leak of details of top-secret National Security Agency surveillance programs.
"Snowden’s claims for asylum deserve fair consideration, and U.S. actions to secure his extradition must take place within an acceptable legal framework protecting his right to seek asylum," Dakwar said. "The ACLU has long taken the position that people who provide information to the press in the public interest should not be prosecutable under espionage laws.”
In a statement released Friday by WikiLeaks, Snowden said he was requesting the temporary asylum so he could leave the airport, and that he planned to proceed on to the Latin American countries that had offered him permanent asylum.
"I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted," Snowden said. "I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably."
Putin has said Snowden could only remain in the country if he stopped the release of further revelations that could harm the United States.
"If he wants to stay, one condition: He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners," Putin said on July 1.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax news that the Russian government did not yet have official confirmation of Snowden's appeal for asylum, but that the previous conditions articulated by the Russian president would apply.
Carney said that the "issue should not do harm to the relations between the Russians and the United States."
"There is absolute legal justification for him to be expelled, for him to returned to the United States," the White House spokesman said.
Carney also reiterated that American officials had reached out to their counterparts in Russia and the Latin American countries where Snowden has been offered asylum, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
"We have communicated with nations around the world that Mr. Snowden should be returned to the United States," Carney said.
Carney added that Obama and administration officials had stressed their frustration to Chinese leaders during trade talks this week over Hong Kong officials allowing Snowden to leave for Moscow.
"We've been very clear about our disappointment with the way that was handled," he said.
—This report was originally published at 1:28 p.m. and last updated at 3:20 p.m.