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US formally demanded Norway extradite Edward Snowden

Norwegian state broadcaster NRK has published a series of diplomatic notes sent to the Norwegian government by their US counterparts in June and July 2013.

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The first of these, sent on 27 June 2013, calls for Edward Snowden to be denied entry to the country and for the Norwegian government to “effectuate the return of Mr Snowden to the United States.”

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A day later, a separate letter was sent to Norway’s highest criminal authorities – as well as their counterparts in Denmark, Finland and Sweden – by the FBI regional office in Scandinavia, asking for immediate notification should Edward Snowden try to board a flight from Moscow, stressing the readiness of the US Department of Justice to “immediately draft the necessary paper work to request the extradition of Snowden to the U.S.” According to NRK, as a result of this communication Norway’s police authority still has an open case file on Edward Snowden.

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This correspondance was followed up on 4 July 2013 by a new diplomatic note from the US formally demanding that Edward Snowden be arrested and extradited should he set foot on Norwegian soil, furthermore recommending “that Snowden be kept in custody, if arrested.”

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These letters form an essential part of the background to the series of asylum requests Edward Snowden made while at Sheremetyevo Airport from 23 June until 1 August 2013. The tone of the letters, which the ACLU’s Ben Wizner believes are similar to those sent to Germany and other European countries, make plain the US belief that Edward Snowden should not be afforded the opportunity to assert his right to claim asylum, but be sent to to the US immediately. In the event, Norway was one of several countries that refused to grant the aslylum application Snowden made while at Sheremetyevo.

An invitation to Oslo

An interesting question is why this issue has now come to the forefront in Norway. Back in June, Norway’s Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression, The Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Academy, announced that Edward Snowden would be the recipient of its annual prize.

The Academy has gone to some lengths to secure free passage for Edward Snowden to attend the award ceremony in Oslo on 5 September, approaching the Norwegian government and obtaining legal opinions on the feasibility of Snowden making the trip.

As NRK reports, while Norway refused Edward Snowden’s asylum request in summer 2013, in its diplomatic communications with the United States it did assert its right to treat asylum as a legal matter, to be adjudicated within Norway. It may also be significant that Jøran Kallemyr, State secretary in the Norwegian Department of Justice, asserts that, should Snowden come to Norway, the case would be for a Norwegian court to decide.

Nevertheless, as with previous analyses of Snowden’s ability to travel, the reality is that what should be possible on a legal level could well run into political difficulties in the absence of a clear assurance from the country concerned. Today’s release serves as a reminder of the gravity of those political pressures.