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Hunter Walker

Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Hunter

Both the U.S. Park Police and the D.C. Police are investigating a YouTube video posted by gun rights activist Adam Kokesh that shows him loading a shotgun in what seems to be a park in Washington, where laws prohibit the open carrying of firearms and the possession of guns not registered in the District. A joint statement by both law enforcement agencies said they were aware of the video, which "appears to have been taken in Freedom Plaza," and were attempting to authenticate the footage, according to the Washington Post.

“We will not be silent. We will not obey. We will not allow our government to destroy our humanity. We are the final American Revolution. See you next Independence Day,” Kokesh said in the video. 

The clip was entitled "Open Carry March on DC A Success" and was dated Thursday. Kokesh had previously planned to hold an Independence Day event with thousands of gun toting protesters marching into D.C. from Virginia, however he subsequently cancelled that protest and instead urged people to demonstrate at all 50 state capitols. 

Italy and France formally declined National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's request for asylum on Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal. Snowden has requested asylum from 21 countries, all of which have either declined, said he would need to be on their territory to have a request processed, or not responded. 

Last month, in an interview with the Guardian, the newspaper that first published stories based on his leaked documents, Snowden indicated he believed Iceland was his best hope for finding asylum. Iceland has not officially responded to his request, but a group of lawmakers in the Icelandic Parliament have proposed a bill that would grant him citizenship and bypass the issue of whether he is within the country's borders to make an asylum request. However, on Thursday, that bill received the support of just six of the Parliament's 63 members. 

Snowden is currently believed to be in the transit area of the Moscow airport. On Wednesday, a spokesman for Wikileaks, which has said it is advising Snowden, suggested he might be able to get asylum from one of the 21 countries if he is able to travel to them. 

 

Agence France-Presse reported Thursday that court documents dated June 26 showed Mandela was "in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine" and that doctors had advised his family to take him off life support. Mac Maharaj, a spokesman for the South African presidency, declined to comment on those court documents.

"We have indicated from our point of view that based on the doctors' report the condition of the former president is critical but stable at this stage," Maharaj said. 

 

Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the U.S. "obviously pressured the European governments" to force Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane to make an unscheduled stop in Austria Tuesday after departing Moscow. 

"This is an outrageous act and absolutely unprecedented. Not in my memory have I ever heard of such an outrageous incident against a democratically elected leader of a free country," Hrafnsson told TPM. 

Hrafnsson also said the incident contrasted with President Barack Obama's prior statements about American efforts to bring NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who Wikileaks claims to be working with, into custody. 

"Compared to what President Obama said a few days ago, that he would not scramble jets for Mr. Snowden, now we see that on a ... suspicion that Mr. Snowden was on Evo Morales' plane, they force him to land and block his flight path. That, of course, is outrageous," Hrafnsson said. 

 

Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson rejected suggestions made by Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald that the statement Wikileaks distributed on behalf of Edward Snowden Monday was not genuine.

"I can confirm that, as far as I know, this is from Mr. Snowden," Hrafnsson told TPM. 

Hrafnsson said he is not in direct contact with Snowden, but his "colleagues" at Wikileaks are. On MSNBC Tuesday, Greenwald, who wrote the first story based on documents leaked by Snowden, said the statement from Wikileaks was "flavored with some person who isn’t Edward Snowden."

Bruce Fein, an attorney for Snowden's father, has said he received a call from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on the weekend saying Snowden wanted his father to stop speaking publicly about his situation. Hrafnsson declined to discuss that call.

"I don't want to comment on that, it's a private conversation," Hrafnsson said.

Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said many of the countries NSA leaker Edward Snowden has requested asylum from did not respond with "an outright 'No'" and suggested Snowden may be able to find asylum if he is able to reach those nations. 

"The reaction by various nations to his request for asylum has been reported in the media. Some media are reporting a quailfied answer of an outright 'No' in worst cases and there has been a reference to formalities, simply the fact that, according to the laws of the countries that have given answers the other person needs to be physicially on the territory before an application for asylum can be processed," Hrafnsson told TPM. "Of course, it should not be viewed as an outright no if we are in a situation which would occur that Mr. Snowden could travel to these countries."

Snowden has submitted requests for asylum to 21 countries, all of which have either declined his request, not publicly commented, or said Snowden must be on their soil to make a request. Snowden was last known to be in the transit area of the Moscow airport. Hrafnsson declined to comment on Snowden's current whereabouts. However, Hrafnsson said Wikileaks is still in communication with him. Though he said he is not personally "directly in contact" with Snowden, Hrafnsson said his "colleagues" are communicating directly with him. 

"We are acting as messengers on Mr. Snowden's behalf," said Hrafnsson.  

 

At a briefing Wednesday State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on whether the U.S. government pressed countries to block passage of Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane. 

The Bolivian government said France, Portugal, and Italy revoked permission for Morales' plane to pass through their airspace after he visited Moscow. Officials from those nations all said the flight was allowed to pass through their territory. According to Austrian officials, Morales allowed the plane to be searched while it was in Vienna. Psaki repeatedly directed reporters to speak to the individual countries involved. 

"I would point you to all of these individual countries to describe to you what happened and why various decisions were made," she said. 

Psaki also declined to discuss whether the U.S. government believed Snowden may have been on Morales' plane. She said she was "not aware" of any information authorities had, but added it is "not something that I would get into even if I did know." 

The Organization of American States released a statement saying José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the OAS, believed European authorities endangered the life of Bolivian President Evo Morales by revoking permission for him to fly through their airspace after an official trip to Moscow. 

"The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, expressed his deep displeasure with the decision of the aviation authorities of several European countries that denied the use of airspace to the plane carrying the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales, from Moscow to La Paz," the statement said. "The leader of the hemispheric Organization said that in his opinion nothing justifies an act of such lack of respect for the highest authority of a country. For that reason, said Insulza, the countries involved must give an explanation of the reasons why they took this decision, in particular as it endangered the life of the leader of a member country of the OAS."

 

According to Reuters, the Cuban government made its first official comment on NSA leaker Ed Snowden, a statement from the Cuban foreign ministry that denounced American efforts to pressure other countries not to offer Snowden asylum. 

"Cuba calls on the international community to mobilize against these violations of international law and human rights," said the statement, which was issued Tuesday night and aired on state media Wednesday. 

The statement said it was "inadmissible, unfounded, and arbitrary" for European countries to allegedly revoke permission for Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane to fly through their airspace on its way back from an official trip to Russia, allegedly due to rumors Snowden was on board the plane. Cuba's foreign ministry also said it was "intolerable" for the U.S. to pressure Ecuador not to grant Snowden asylum. 

"The foreign ministry of the Republic of Cuba is following with serious preoccupation the events of recent weeks in relation to the significant denunciations of U.S. citizen Edward Snowden, which confirmed the existence of a global system of espionage carried out by the United States that trampled on the sovereignty of states and rights of individuals," the statement said. 

According to the organization Wikileaks, which has said it's advising Snowden as he seeks asylum, he has asked Cuba and 20 other countries to grant him asylum. Cuba has not officially responded to that request. 

In a press conference in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera, confirmed the country's president, Evo Morales, was on his way back to Bolivia after his flight from Moscow had to stop in Austria, allegedly due to suspicion the plane was carrying NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Linera, who was Bolivia's acting president during Morales' foreign trip, said he spoke to Morales at 5:30 AM and that Morales "informed us that the flight plan had been authorized."

Linares said Morales was due to arrive back in La Paz between 7 and 9 PM Wednesday after a refueling stop in the Canary Islands and another stop in Brazil. 

According to a summary of the press conference released by the Bolivian government, Linares blamed the "kidnapping" on "imperialist forces" and said Morales was only allowed to return to his country because of international outrage over the incident. He also described it as "one of the most shameful chapters in the political history of some European countries" and accused those countries of violating international conventions on diplomatic flights.

The Bolivian government said France, Portugal, and Italy revoked permission for Morales' plane to pass through their airspace. Officials from those nations all said the flight was allowed to pass through their territory. According to Austrian officials, Morales allowed the plane to be searched while it was in Vienna.

 

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