Spain says Europeans were warned NSA leaker Snowden was aboard Bolivian presidential plane

  • Updated: July 5, 2013 - 1:05 PM

MADRID — Spain on Friday said it had been warned along with other European countries that former U.S. intelligence worker Edward Snowden was aboard the Bolivian presidential plane this week, an acknowledgement that the manhunt for the fugitive leaker had something to do with the plane's unexpected diversion to Austria.

It is unclear whether the United States, which has told its European allies that it wants Snowden back, warned Madrid about the Bolivian president's plane. U.S. officials will not detail their conversations with European countries, except to say that they have stated the U.S.'s general position that it wants Snowden back.

President Barack Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden's movements, saying last month that he wouldn't be "scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker."

But the drama surrounding the flight of Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose plane was abruptly rerouted to Vienna after apparently being denied permission to fly over France, suggests that pressure is being applied behind the scenes.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish National Television that "they told us that the information was clear, that he was inside."

He did not identify who "they" were and declined to say whether he had been in contact with the U.S. But he said that European countries' decisions were based on the tip. France has since sent a letter of apology to the Bolivian government.

Meanwhile, secret-spilling website WikiLeaks said that Snowden, who is still believed to be stuck in a Moscow airport's transit area, had put in asylum applications to six new countries.

The organization said in a message posted to Twitter on Friday that it wouldn't be identifying the countries involved "due to attempted U.S. interference."

A number of countries have already rejected asylum applications from Snowden.

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