Up until this point, the search for Edward Snowden has been carried out behind the scenes by low-level diplomats and CIA agents. But things have changed within the last 24 hours, apparently, because the Vice President is the one making the calls now.
A phone call has taken place between Vice President Joe Biden and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa about that pesky former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, who leaked all those surveillance secrets, still holed up in the transit area at Sheremetyevo airport, according to Russian officials. The Vice President requested Ecuador not grant Snowden asylum.
The White House was mum to speak about what was discussed beyond the obvious. "They engaged in a broad conversation on the bilateral relationship. They did discuss Snowden," Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor, told NBC News.
But Correa was much more open about what transpired during the call. He admitted that Biden asked his country not to house the fugitive leaker during the "cordial" telephone call. "He communicated a very courteous request from the United States that we reject the (asylum) request," Correa said during his weekly televised speech. Correa criticized the "brats" in Congress who threatened trade sanctions should Ecuador not comply while praising Biden's good manners. He also stressed that no decision could be made until Snowden arrives on Ecuadorian soil or inside one of its embassies. "When he (Snowden) arrives on Ecuadorian soil, if he arrives ... of course the first opinions we will seek are those of the United States," Correa said.
Whether this call occurred before or after Correa halted Snowden's special travel request because the U.S. embassy said it appeared Jullian Assange is "running the show" is unclear. We don't know when the phone call actually took place. We know what was said by who, and that Biden "initiated" the call. Any details beyond that are a mystery.
But now we know why the President said he wouldn't be scrambling any jets to get Snowden: because he was putting Joe Biden on the case. The Vice President is the new thorn in Showden's side, and this call is the highest level talks between the U.S. and Ecuador since the stalemate over Snowden began.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.