Edward Snowden Controversy: Shia LaBeouf, Oliver Stone, More Celebs Petition Ecuador to Grant Asylum to NSA Whistleblower

Hollywood activists appeal to the Latin American leader to assist a man they believe has become a target for political oppression in the U.S.

By Josh Grossberg Jul 02, 2013 1:21 PMTags
Edward SnowdenSERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Edward Snowden may be stateless at the moment. But if there's one town that's definitely embracing the NSA leaker, it's Hollywood.

A host of progressive-minded celebrities including John Cusack, Oliver Stone, Roseanne Barr, Shia LaBeouf and Amber Heard are urging Ecuador president Rafael Correa to grant Snowden's request for political asylum so that he may avoid espionage charges in the U.S. for blowing the whistle on the government's top-secret surveillance programs, which include collecting U.S. and European cell phone and Internet metadata.

"Snowden's disclosures have already done much to unveil the alarming scale of U.S. government spying on its own citizens and the rights of people in other nations," reads the letter, which has been posted at justforeignpolicy.org.

"Yet rather than focusing on the danger to citizens' freedom and privacy exposed by these revelations, and what reforms are necessary to protect citizens' rights, the Obama administration, the U.S. Congress and much of the media are again focusing their ire on the messenger—the brave whistleblower who, at great personal risk, decided to step forward and inform the U.S. public about what is being done in their name and what is being done to them."

Other notable names who've signed the petition include actors Emma Thompson, Danny Glover and Julie Christie and filmmaker Michael Moore. They join a list of prominent left-leaning intellectuals and peace activists, among them Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein, as well as ex-whistleblowers like Ambassador Joe Wilson and Daniel Ellsberg.

While the response to Snowden's leak has been mixed, with some libertarian members of congress calling the surveillance unconstitutional despite judicial oversight and human rights organizations praising him, others have called Snowden a traitor.

The U.S. government has since moved to extradite the IT specialist from Russia, where he's currently holed up after the Obama administration revoked his passport, and have charged him with violations of the Espionage Act for disseminating classified information and theft of government property

But according to the petitioners, Snowden acted courageously and is now being targeted for "political repression," hence their call for him to be granted asylum.

Ecuador initially appeared interested in granting the whistleblower's request after helping him travel from Hong Kong to Moscow on a temporary travel pass. But Correa yesterday rejected the idea of asylum, as U.K.'s The Guardian reports, calling Snowden Russia's responsibility and saying that assisting him was a "mistake on our part."

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, earlier this week gave Snowden an ultimatum, saying he could remain in Russia permanently if he gave up disclosing sensitive information about American surveillance secrets.

So far, no word what Snowden's gonna do.