Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner met with US whistleblower Edward Snowden during a visit to Moscow in April, one of Snowden’s lawyers said on Wednesday.
The two-hour long meeting was arranged after an Argentine TV channel revealed Britain spied on Argentine military and political leaders for five years between 2006 and 2011 to ensure the safety of the disputed Falkland Islands.
The South Atlantic islands, referred to as Las Malvinas by Argentina, were the cause of a 10-week war between Britain and Argentina in 1982. They are now under British administration as an overseas territory.
The TV report was based on intelligence documents made public by Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who is sought by US authorities to face trial for espionage and theft of property.
He currently lives in Russia on a three-year residency permit and attempts by the US authorities to extradite him have not been successful.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and one of Snowden’s lawyers along with Ben Wizner, told reporters in Buenos Aires that “she met with him toward the end of April,” without specifying the exact date.
“President Fernandez de Kirchner was the first head of state to meet with Snowden,” Romero said. She travelled to Russia on April 18, two weeks after it was revealed that Great Britain had been spying on Argentina.
“They spoke about the NSA’s electronic surveillance, its ramifications for world leaders and impact on the citizens of foreign countries,” Romero said.
Conceding that Snowden has had criminal charges filed against him, Romero pointed out that “days ago a US court decided unlawful the surveillance programme, thus he is accused of leaking information about an unlawful practice,” referring to the landmark decision concerning the NSA.
In May, a US appeals court concluded that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata exceeded the scope of what Congress authorised and was therefore illegal.
The recently outlawed NSA surveillance was first made public by Edward Snowden.
“Americans knew that we were under surveillance but we did not know its real extent,” Romero said.
“My government considers him a criminal, which he isn’t,” Romero said, speaking of the US government. “[The meeting] demonstrates the bravery, courage and independence of President Fernandez.”
Argentine officials have neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.