Ecuador Spinning Over Snowden "Safe Pass"

PHOTO:  Electronic metadata on the Snowden safe pass shows it originated at the computer of the Ecuadorian deputy consul in London.

UNIVISION

A copy of the "safe pass" allowing NSA leaker Edward Snowden's travel to seek political asylum in Ecuador was reportedly submitted to the office of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa after a request by his lawyer, according to Univision news. This is after Correa's government distanced itself from the Snowden affair today and declared the pass invalid.

The pass, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by Univision, is dated June 22 and asks authorities in other nations to allow Snowden safe passage to Ecuador as a political refugee. That's also the date that U.S. officials revoked Snowden's American passport, effectively halting his international travel. He is believed to be in hiding at Moscow's airport.

In an ironic twist, Univision used metadata attached to an electronic copy of the safe pass to verify that it was composed at the work computer of Javier Mendoza, the Ecuadorian deputy consul in London (see photo above). Mendoza has acted as an intermediary for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden in connection with sexual assault allegations, but maintains that U.S. authorities are hunting him for Wikileaks' political activities.

Metadata also showed that the Snowden pass was last edited, for 48 minutes, by the consul in London, Fidel Narvaez.

Ecuadorian Secretary of Political Management Betty Tola did not directly address the pass' authenticity but told Univision today that "any document in this regard is not valid and is the sole responsibility of the person who has issued [it]," suggesting that the London consulate might have acted alone in issuing it.

According to communications obtained by Univision, Narvaez sent the pass to Alexis Mera, Ecuador's secretary of judicial affairs, and the consul recounted speaking directly with the president about the "unique circumstances" of Snowden's case.

After the pass was revealed publicly, sources tell Univision, Correa instructed his staff to deny any role in its creation. "The official position is that the Ecuadorian government has NOT authorized any pass for anybody," those instructions read. "Any document that exists about has no validity."

It is unclear why Correa's government would deny a role in assisting Snowden. U.S. authorities have charged the former IT worker with espionage for his role in leaking top-secret documents about American domestic surveillance programs. While they have signaled that countries harboring Snowden could face harsh trade consequences, Ecuador has remained cavalier about the U.S. threat.

In a press conference Thursday with Tola, Ecuadorian Communications Minister Fernando Alverado said the nation didn't want America's trade dollars.

In fact, he said, Ecuador was willing to offer the U.S. $23 million a year "in order to provide training in human rights and help avoid attacks on individual privacy."

Editor's Note: This story has been revised to reflect that Univision did not report that Edward Snowden's safe pass was reviewed and approved by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

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