Andrea Mitchell | July 12, 2013
>>> you're watching " andrea mitchell reports." i'm peter alexander in today for andrea.
>>> it's been nearly three weeks since edward snowden arrived in moscow from among kong and he hasn't been song in public since. but in a meeting today with human rights groups, snowden says le renew his request for amnesty in russia . snowed been drew his application after vladimir putin had said that he would have to stop leaking u.s. secrets in order to obtain refugee status in russia . joining me now, nbc news chief investigative correspondent michael isikoff and in moscow , nbc's jim maceda. jim, i want to get to you quickly because i know you are sort of with where all of this action is taking place right now. the pictures we saw of the crush of cameras was like nothing i've ever seen. it was almost like a super bowl quarterback was surrounded by probably 100 to 150 cameras and journalists trying to get their first look at edward snowden . describe the scene, give us a sense of what we are hearing from snowden today.
>> reporter: well, you're right, this is the scene. this was like a press scrum. it was like rock star bedlam. it actually was bedlam. the slightest suggestion of somebody coming out of that room where it said staff only, quite far beyond which was the actual meeting between the human rights officials and lawyers and snowden , just somebody coming out saying, okay, get ready or please push back or you're making too much noise -- it was more bedlam at that point. so much riding on this meeting. we have not seen -- the world really hasn't seen snowden since hong kong . we're going back three weeks. and somebody did, by the way, manage to squeeze off a picture or two so we know at least now he does officially exist. he was defiant, pete. he was nervous, apparently. but certainly if people thought he was going to come out and turn himself in, they have something coming to them because he didn't do that. he came out and thanked the latin american countries , venezuela , bolivia , nicaragua, ecuador as well he mentioned, and russia which was the big surprise, for having offered him the asylum that he had requested. he said he accepted that asylum asylum -- past, future and present asylum. he takes it all. he wants it all. he needs it. and he really appealed to the latin american countries and to the lawyers who were in this meeting to help facilitate him getting to latin america . the idea of staying in russia -- story.
>> stay with me for a second. i want to finish that thought with you but i want to bring in michael isikoff who's with us right now. i guess the question is if snoweden is willing to pursue asylum now in russia given the requirement according to voold me vladimir putin that he has to stop spilling american secrets, does that mean he's done spilling american secrets?
>> i wouldn't be quite so sure. because if you read the statement that was just issued within the last hour, he's asking for asylum in russia really on a temporary basis, until he can make his way to either venezuela , bolivia or nicarag nicaragua, the others that have offered him asylum. venezuela offer seems to be solid now. he says i've been formally offered it. i formally accepted it. so the real trek for snowden is, can he find a way to get from moscow to caracas, or bolivia if he chooses that, because the problem is he's got to take an airplane. that requires flying over u.s. airspace. as we saw with the bolivian president , the u.s. is prepared to deny airspace, get our european partners to deny airspace, to any plane carrying him. so this becomes a tricky thing for snowden , but it also becomes an issue for human rights groups who are very clear on political asylum , the rights to seek political asylum , if you've been offered it. i speak to human rights watch just within the last hour. they say, look, we support the right of anybody going to seek political eye siasylum.
>> edward snoweden is on the middle of the screen. the woman to his right, to our left, is a woman named sara harrison. she works with wikileaks. i know her having covered the julian assange case for months overseas in both sweden and in london. what next for edward snowden right now? what should we anticipate will happen going forward? basically he is going to try to get asylum in russia and continue to work sources to get elsewhere?
>> to figure out a way to get to where his ultimate goal seems to be.
>> how big is the pressure from the u.s. to those countries in south america to prevent that from happening?
>> from all indications, extremely significant. we know vice president biden has called the president of ecuador . every u.s. embassy in latin america is threatening them not to accept him. we probably don't have as much leverage with the latin countries, we probably have more with putin and russia , as odd as that might sound. putin's statement wassing with we, well, we'll consider it if you stop leaking while you're here. we'll see if snowden accepts those ground rules.
>> it is a remarkable story. journalists in havana were waiting for the flight to land, anticipating snowden was coming there. doesn't look like that's going to happen, at least immediately.