NSA leaker Edward Snowden met with human rights groups and lawyers today in the Sheremetyevo airport’s transit zone in Russia, where he made a statement indicating that he is seeking temporary political asylum in Russia while he pursues permanent asylum in a Latin American country.

From USA Today:

Edward Snowden, the alleged National Security Agency leaker, said Friday at a meeting with human rights groups at a Moscow airport that he is seeking temporary political asylum in Russia as a means for seeking permament [sic] status in a Latin American country.

Snowden spoke to reporters while meeting with representatives of eight human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The former NSA contractor who leaked confidential information about the secretive agency’s surveillance programs had emailed activists an invitation to today’s meeting, using a personal email address.

From an earlier post at USA Today:

Snowden will reportedly make a statement after the meeting. It is not immediately clear what he will talk about, although in the invitation sent to the activists — the veracity of which has not been independently verified — Snowden said: “I invite the Human Rights organizations and other respected individuals addressed to join me … for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation.”

The emailed invitation from edsnowden@lavabit.com also states: “I have been extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world. These nations have my gratitude, and I hope to travel to each of them to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.”

In the Invitation Snowden claims that the U.S. government is trying to “deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The scale of threatening behavior is without precedent.”

In the invitation, Snowden also showered praise on the countries that have offered him asylum, saying they have “earned the respect of the world,” and criticized the US’ extradition attempts as a threat “to the dignity of Latin America” and to the rights of all living people “to live free from persecution.”

From the LA Times:

In a letter to various human rights organizations, the text of which was provided to the Times, Snowden thanked the “brave countries around the world” that offered him asylum. “By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world,” Snowden said in the letter.

“Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Snowden said.

He referenced the forced grounding of a flight out of Moscow on July 3 with Bolivian President Evo Morales on board. The flight was forced to land in Vienna over suspicions the plane might be carrying Snowden to safe harbor in a welcoming Central or South American country. “Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign president’s plane to effect a search for a political refugee,” he said of the incident.

Snowden said that the extent of the purported attempts by the U.S. to extradite him represented “a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution.”]

Snowden remains in the airport’s transit zone, as the world awaits his decision on precisely where he will accept asylum – offers thus far have been made to him by Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Wikileaks announced via Twitter on Tuesday that the first phase of something called the “Flight of Liberty” campaign for Edward Snowden would be launched on Wednesday, but the campaign remains a mystery.  The organization has provided no additional details since that tweet.

The full text of the emailed invite from Snowden was posted on the Facebook page of the deputy director of the Moscow office of New York-based Human Rights Watch, according to Reuters.