Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. (The Guardian via Getty Images)
(USA Today) -- WikiLeaks says NSA leaker Edward Snowden has not yet formally accepted asylum in Venezuela, quashing a brief but tantalizing tip from a Russian lawmaker that Snowden had decided where he plans to go from Moscow.
WikiLeaks, which has provided logistical help for Snowden since he fled the United States, issued its statement in a tweet.
It was responding to an earlier tweet in Russian sent -- then quickly deleted -- by Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee.
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WikiLeaks, a website that has compiled an archive of classified files on the inner-workings of some governments, has spoken on behalf of the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor several times over the issue of political asylum.
Pushkov, who has played an unofficial role for the Kremlin on the Snowden affair, quickly followed his deletion with a second tweet saying that his source was an 18-hour-old report by the Russian TV news program Vesti 24 and advised readers to "contact them about this question."
In the end, it was left up to WikiLeaks to clean up the messaging mess by stating flatly that Snowden had not made up his mind about Venezuela, and reminding readers that the lawmaker had deleted his original tweet.
"The states concerned will make the announcement if and when the appropriate time comes," WikiLeak says. "The announcement will then be confirmed by us."
Snowden, who revealed details of a U.S. intelligence program to monitor Internet activity, came to Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on June 23 from Hong Kong and was believed to be headed for Cuba. But he did not board that flight and has not been seen publicly since. He is widely believed to still be in the airport's transit zone.
The confusion apparently stemmed from remarks by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has already offered asylum to Snowden.
Maduro, speaking late Monday at a meeting with Panama's president, says it is perhaps the world's "first collective humanitarian asylum" with various countries saying "Come here!"
The Venezuelan leader says Snowden "will have to decide when he flies here, if he finally wants to travel here." His remarks were distributed Tuesday by his office, the Associated Press reports.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Saturday his country hadn't yet been in contact with Snowden, who has been unable to travel further because the U.S. annulled his passport.
For Snowden to leave for South America, he would need for Venezuela to issue him travel documents and he would need to find a way to get there. The only direct commercial flight from Moscow stops in Havana, Cuba.
The Moscow-Havana flight goes over Europe and the U.S., which could cause complications. Some European countries refused to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales to fly through their airspace on his way home from Moscow last week because of suspicions that Snowden was on his plane.
The presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua also said over the weekend that Snowden was welcome in their countries.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that Russia has not notified the United States about any Snowden departure, and it appears that Tuesday's flap was due to an errant tweet.
"We have no information regarding that," Carney said.
Carney said the administration wants Snowden to return to the United States, "where he is wanted on felony charges," and that message has been communicated to Russia and other nations that might be willing to receive Snowden.