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White House, senators condemn Russia’s decision on Snowden asylum

By Christi Parsons and Lisa Mascaro

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — The White House condemned Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden on Tuesday and stepped up a public threat to cancel President Obama’s upcoming meeting with the Russian president over the matter.

snowden

NSA leaker Edward Snowden says, “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

The decision “undermines a long history of law enforcement cooperation” between the U.S. and Russia, most recently in the investigation of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

As the Snowden case has simmered over recent weeks, Carney has publicly avoided confirming that official plans were on for a one-on-one meeting between Obama and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in September.

On Tuesday he went a step further and suggested the summit was now an open question as a result of the granting of temporary asylum to Snowden, wanted in the U.S. for revealing National Security Agency programs that collect U.S. and foreign phone and Internet records.

“We are evaluating the utility of a summit,” Carney said, adding that he was referring to the previously planned bi-lateral meeting between presidents and not the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg on Obama’s schedule the same week.

Snowden’s departure from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport this morning also provoked an angry response from Capitol Hill, where senators publicly recommended a tough response from the U.S. side.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., two of the Senate’s most influential Republican members on foreign policy issues, put out a joint statement calling the Russian action a “deliberate effort to embarrass the United States.”

“Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin’s Russia,” they wrote. “We need to deal with the Russia that is, not the Russia we might wish for. We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.,suggested that Obama try to move the G-20 summit as a result of the Russian decision.

“Russia has stabbed us in the back,” Schumer said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he hoped Obama would “engage” Putin on the issue, but wouldn’t advise him on how.

“I’ll let him decide the best way to engage the president,” Boehner said.

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