High Court judge refuses US warrant for Snowden

A High Court judge has refused a US request to issue a provisional warrant for the arrest of former US National Security Agency analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden should he arrive in Ireland.

Mr Snowden is wanted by the US authorities for offences, including alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information.

Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh said he was refusing the US request of Jul 5, made through the US Embassy in Dublin, to grant the warrant because there was insufficient detail in the US documents as to where it was claimed the offences alleged to have been committed by Mr Snowden, including unauthorised disclosure and theft of government property, took place.

Sworn information available to the US court which issued the warrant seeking Mr Snowden’s arrest provided a timeframe within which Mr Snowden was definitely in America — between Mar 2013 and May 19, 2013, the judge noted. After that, on the information available to the High Court, Mr Snowden was outside the US — in Japan and Hong Kong, the court was told.

It was of note the offences with which Mr Snowden is charged relate not to publication of the information but to its unauthorised disclosure.

The issue was whether the request for the warrant told the High Court where the unauthorised disclosure took place. In that regard, it seemed there were a number of possibilities — that the information was disclosed in the US; in Japan sometime on or after May 19, 2013; or in Hong Kong sometime after May 20, 2013, the judge said.

“The question of where the offence took place is not a minor detail but is a matter which could have very serious consequences in any further stage that might be reached in an extradition process,” he said.

If it was the case the offences took place outside the US territory, the question would arise whether there was extraterritorial effect in respect of the US offences and, “more importantly”, whether the Irish equivalent offences have an extraterritorial aspect to them, he said.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the courts are independent in the exercise of their functions and it is for them to determine any applications that come before them pursuant to Section 27 of the Extradition Act for the issuing of an Arrest Warrant.

He said the determination of the court does not in any way prevent a fresh application being made for a provisional arrest warrant, taking into account the findings of the court.

“The Government will take any action open to it to ensure that the State’s obligations in relation to extradition arrangements are met.”


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