MOSCOW -- Edward Snowden emerged Friday from weeks of hiding in a Moscow airport, still defiant but willing to stop leaking secrets about U.S. surveillance programs if Russia will give him asylum until he can move on to Latin America.
The former National Security Agency systems analyst, meeting with Russian officials and rights activists, said he was ready to meet President Vladimir Putin's condition if it means Russia would give him shelter that could eventually help him get to Latin America.
There was no immediate response from Putin's office, but speakers of both houses of the Kremlin-controlled parliament spoke in support of Snowden's plea.
Snowden is believed to have been stuck in the airport's transit zone since his arrival on June 23 from Hong Kong, where he had gone before his revelations were made public. He booked a seat on a Cuba-bound flight the next day, but did not get on the plane and had remained out of the public eye until yesterday.
In a statement released by the secret-spilling group WikiLeaks, which adopted his case, Snowden defended his leaks, saying the "massive, pervasive" U.S. surveillance he disclosed violated the U.S. Constitution and many statutes and treaties.
He shrugged off the Obama administration's argument that the surveillance was permitted by secret court rulings, saying, "The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law." He told meeting participants that he already has accomplished what he intended and thus sees no problem in agreeing to Putin's condition that he stop leaking secrets.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was "disappointed" that Russia helped to facilitate what she termed a "propaganda platform" for Snowden.
"We are disappointed that Russian officials and agencies facilitated this meeting today by allowing these activists and representatives into the Moscow airport's transit zone to meet with Mr. Snowden despite the government's declarations of Russia's neutrality with respect to Mr. Snowden," Psaki said at a briefing.
She added, "We still believe that Russia has the opportunity to do the right thing and facilitate his return to the United States."