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Baird says Snowden should surrender to U.S.

Baird says Snowden should surrender to U.S.Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press at his office Wednesday December 18, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden should abandon his bid for asylum in Brazil and surrender himself to the United States, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday.

Baird told The Canadian Press that Snowden's actions have compromised global security.

"I think I probably agree with the Obama administration on this one," Baird said. "I think he's done significant damage to national security, of the free world."

The U.S. wants to prosecute Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia. The move angered the Obama administration and has chilled relations between Moscow and Washington.

"The United States has a free and fair justice system," Baird said, when asked about Snowden's outreach to the Brazilian government this week.

"I think he should go back to the United States and face the consequences of his actions."

Snowden's cache of documents also suggests that Communications Security Establishment Canada once monitored Brazil's mines and energy department and helped the U.S. and Britain spy on participants at the London G20 summit in 2009.

In an open letter earlier this week, Snowden praised the Brazilian government for standing up to the U.S. for spying on the country. He also said he could help Brazil dig deeper into the NSA activities, but that he would need to come to the country and be granted political asylum.

Snowden's temporary asylum in Russia is to expire in August.

Snowden's documents showed that Brazil was a prime target of the NSA in Latin America.

Reporting by the Guardian and Washington Post based on his leaked documents, detailed U.S. spying in Brazil, including the monitoring of President Dilma Rousseff's cellphone, which led her to cancel a planned visit to Washington two months ago.

The Brazilian government appears to have no immediate plan to accommodate Snowden.

Amnesty International has called on Brazil to seriously consider Snowden's asylum request.

Amnesty defended Snowden's actions, saying he exposed the unlawful surveillance of private communications by the U.S. and that he might need refugee status.

"U.S. statements labelling Snowden a 'traitor' are prejudicial to his right to seek asylum and to his right to a fair trial," Amnesty's Brazil director Atila Roque said in a statement this week.

"The information he released was in the public interest and shows the remarkably invasive extent of surveillance conducted by the United States."

Baird was dismissive, in general, of Amnesty in the Wednesday interview, suggesting the rights watchdog has lost legitimacy.

Amnesty International Canada also released a report Wednesday condemning Canada for giving short shrift to a recent United Nations review of its human rights record.

"It reflects a growing tendency to dismiss and disengage from the UN and ignore some of Canada's international human rights obligations," said Alex Neve, Amnesty's Canadian secretary general.

Baird said he hadn't read the report and wasn't concerned about its contents, calling Canada "a beacon for the world" on human rights.

"It's an organization that is not as strong as it used to be," Baird said of Amnesty.

"Because they thought the government of Canada should arrest President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. That's silly."

Neve called on Canada to detain and investigate Bush during an October 2011 visit to British Columbia because he admitted in his memoirs to authorizing the use of torture against terror suspects.

As for Cheney, various groups have called for him to be arrested during visits to Canada in 2011 and 2013, but Amnesty has never issued such a statement.

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