The US government is starting to get more desperate in its attempts to arrest PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Bolivia is furious after president Evo Morales’ plane was diverted on a flight from Russia and forced to land in Austria.
US spooks told France and Portugal that Snowden might be on board and, desperate to surrender sovereignty to the land of the free, they cancelled air permits.
Morales had to make an unscheduled stopover in Vienna or his plane would not have had the fuel to make it home.
It is not clear where the rumour came from. There is no evidence that Snowden, wanted by Washington for espionage after divulging classified details of blanket phone and web surveillance, had left the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
According to Reuters, an Austrian foreign ministry official said rumors that Snowden was on the plane were untrue.
Bolivian foreign minister David Choquehuanca said he did not know who invented the lie, but he want to express his displeasure because this has “put the president’s life at risk”.
Bolivia was among more than a dozen countries where Snowden has sought asylum and Morales, who was attending an energy conference in Russia, said he would consider granting the American refuge if requested.
France and Portugal later reconsidered and agreed to allow Morales’ plane to fly over both countries, but Italy and Spain have now refused to allow the plane to enter their air space.
US president Barack Obama has threatened that any country that giving Snowden asylum should be prepared to pay a heavy price.
Moscow does not want to send Snowden to the United States, a move that could make it look weak, and it has no extradition treaty with Washington. However it also does not want to damage ties with the United States over Snowden.
Five countries have rejected granting Snowden asylum, seven have said they would consider a request if made on their soil, and eight said they had not made a decision.
One of the few countries that could still take him is Venezuela, part of an alliance of left leaning governments in Latin America, which said it was time to stop berating Snowden who has “done something very important for humanity”.