After two days of wondering where in the world Eddie was, Vladimir Putin fessed up to his being in the transit lounge of a Russian airport, and, much to the annoyance of the Americans, the elusive Mr Snowden is free to go whenever he likes.
Edward Snowden continues to elude the grasp of the most powerful country in the world, and if Vladimir Putin remains true to form, that’s the way it will stay.
How ironic that in its quest to get its hands on the former private-sector surveillance worker, the United States is having to try and play nicely with countries which are not exactly its friends.
It would be a fair bet that China and Russia are sitting back and watching with some amusement as Snowden outwits every echelon of American intelligence and politics in order to find sanctuary - supposedly with a stash of yet to be disclosed U.S. secrets.
What the U.S. is facing is a big fat embarrassment due to the surprise disclosure of its own actions. That has resulted in an unseemly scramble to justify spying on Americans and anyone else it deems worthy.
The Chinese prefer to describe the revelations courtesy of Snowden as the tearing off of the American sanctimonious mask. They will not be alone.
Who can blame China, still prickling from an Obama lecture condemning Chinese spying, when a matter of days later it comes to light that the lecturer-in-chief was presiding over the U.S. spying on China. The many other nations, along with private American citizens who are also being eavesdropped on and hacked into in an on-line sense, are less than impressed.
While the U.S. warns countries of diplomatic repercussions should they assist Snowden in his clearly well planned evasion of Uncle Sam, there seems precious little it can do.
China, courtesy of Hong Kong’s administrative authority stepped back from the decision to allow Snowden to leave the region, relying on legal advice that the American warrant to stop Snowden from flying out did not meet the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, so he was free to go.
And he did. To Russia...sort of.
Snowden is in a Russian airport north of Moscow and because he has not cleared customs (as of Wednesday morning NZ time), he’s not technically in Russia.
Even if he was, there’s no extradition treaty between the two countries. Putin underlined this point as he explained Snowden has not committed any crime on Russian soil, so he’s free to go where he likes. Putin hopes this affair will not affect relations between the U.S. and Russia. No, he did not smile.
It was a blunt answer to John Kerry’s ever so reasonable appeal to precedents for the two countries “exchanging criminals”.
Yep he said criminals, as senior politicians did on all the Sunday talk shows. Just a little indication of the fair trial that would be ahead for Snowden on home turf.
It would appear that the heavy, and unflattering political overtones of this case will work in Snowden’s favour rather than Obama’s. One looks like a whistleblower speaking truth to power, the other, a bully caught in international headlights.
If a particularly nasty suspect - say someone wanted for child pornography trafficking, or people trafficking, or something similar - were to race around the world in order to escape being brought to justice, it is difficult to imagine many people or countries cheering them on as they outsmarted various authorities.
That said, Snowden’s self-appointed protector, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange is wanted in Sweden to answer questions on an alleged sexual assault. His claim that the Swedes will extradite him to the U.S. is a little difficult to accept, although the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has been holed up for a year, seems to accept the strong possibility.
Snowden too has requested asylum in Ecuador, and the small country’s protection of Assange would indicate the application should prove successful.
At the root of the request, a very strong case for fearing persecution from a very angry and frustrated American regime.
The way the Obama administration has cracked down on anyone telling its dirty secrets - see Bradley Manning - will, and should, give other nations cause to pause before doing America’s bidding.
Is America the only country that cannot see that by charging Snowden under its seriously outdated 1917 Espionage Act, it is accusing him of delivering to the world the actual spies.
This charge is why the U.S. refuses to refer to Snowden as a whistleblower, and from what I can see, a large chunk of the American media is following suit, preferring to call Snowden a high school drop-out who leaked classified government information. Whistleblowers are protected under a 1989 Act, but Snowden’s actions have been way too discomforting for that to be contemplated, even it his actions were taken in order to uncover an illegal secret programme operated by the NSA.
What this boils down to is the image of an obviously reasonably smart loner against that of an administration that appears to be increasingly inclined to silence its critics.
There has been considerable applause for Snowden forcing a public debate, and that has logically included the cry that those who have nothing to hide need not fear.
Unfortunately America’s past with its Joe McCarthys, and J. Edgar Hoovers, together with a myriad of mass intelligence operations conducted against Americans, including PRISM, doesn’t give those who might not agree with an incumbent regime much reason to rest easy.
And then there is this thought.
What would be the reaction of those who claim the innocent have nothing to fear, to a cop being stationed outside their house day and night noting who comes in, who goes, what time, what is delivered, when the bedroom lights go out etc...
Surely that’s the same as the government collecting their phone and internet data?
I suspect it would not be tolerated for too long.
P.S., it will have escaped few that Snowden’s chosen supporting countries are not known for protecting their own journalists or whistleblowers, proving yet again that no country has a mortgage on hypocrisy.