The Saga of Edward Snowden (So Far)


Photo Credit: ABC News

As of this writing (Monday, July 1st), Edward Snowden is still in the international area of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. In the morning, he applied for political asylum in Russia via a WikiLeaks researcher who served as a liaison between the Foreign Ministry and the former-NSA agent. Snowden has the use of the WikiLeaks legal team; attorneys who successfully petitioned Ecuador to grant asylum to their founder, Julian Assange.

Russian President Vladamir Putin (who must be enjoying this much more than he lets on) has essentially stated while he will not aid Snowden, he is not going to help the U.S. out either. In an interview, Putin stated that Snowden could stay in Russian if he did not make any harmful disclosures about the U.S. Snowden is technically not “in” Russia yet, as he has not gone through Passport Control and entered Russian boundaries. Just as normal international travelers can avoid a nation’s taxes by shopping duty free in international airport terminals, Snowden has the benefit of being in a transit zone and under international law, not domestic.

Why Ecuador? The South American nation who granted refuge to Julian Assange seemed like the likely choice for Snowden to find asylum. Ecuador does have an extradition treaty with the United States, signed in 1939 and entered into force in 1941, and Vice President Biden did place pressure on the nation to reject Snowden’s request. The U.S. State Department, as well as certain members of Congress, have gone as far as to imply that trade negotiations to renew the Andean Trade Preference Act would fail if Snowden was granted asylum. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa struck back and renounced the trade rights, seemingly a first step to fully alienate the U.S. However, Ecuadorian law, (as well as Icelandic law, another debated destination) states that a person seeking asylum must do so from inside the country or one of its embassies. Assange, recall, fled into the Ecuadorian embassy in London to file his request and he is still there, unable to leave without being arrested. Since Snowden is in Moscow, he may have a better chance of getting to an embassy. That act would essentially test how strong Russian/U.S. relations really are.

The Washington Post also suggest another option: Venezuela. Under Hugo Chavez, the nation seemed to be moving in a direction of direct competition with the U.S. Its new president, Nicholas Maduro, is in Russia for a meeting with Russian officials on oil. The newspaper suggests that Snowden might flee Moscow on President Maduro’s plane; an act that seems more cinematic than plausible.

It remains to be seen how much any nation wishes to test the power and goodwill of the United States. It’s also interesting to note that most of the possibilities are Western Hemisphere nations  (Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba). We have come a long way from the time of the Monroe Doctrine and the United State’s ability to use its influence to achieve its goals. This must be something that goes through President Obama’s and Secretary Kerry’s minds.

Which nation is the most likely nation to grant immunity to Snowden?

Does the United States have enough influence to get Snowden back to the U.S. and in front of a federal judge?


The Washington Post

The Guardian

One comment

  1. Let me start out by saying that this “saga,” like the Assange saga, is truly intriguing. Worldwide, media outfits are engaged in mental gymnastics over the eventual fate of classified information leakers like Snowden and Assange, and their speculative reports affect more than just the public opinion about whether these leakers are guilty or innocent. Rather, globalization provides a new, more complex meaning for stories like this.

    It has been reported that the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Treaty, now being negotiated between the E.U. and U.S. and reported to be worth some $100 billion per year, is being jeopardized by an ancilary revelation brought out by Snowden’s leaks–that the NSA has been spying on European Governments. Likewise, these stories have the capicity to further alienate nations from one another, as the author mentions, by providing a global platform for politicizing such events to the point where the story becomes more about the alliances of nations rather than the merits of the underlying offenses.

    In my mind, this would have never happened in the good ol’ days. Before mass media and borderless reporting there was more respect for a nation’s domestic prerogative on national security issues. In short, circumstances like this would have been dealt with in-house and without the public political posturing that is so common today. The Snowdens and Assanges of the world that leak information to ensure transparency have likewise ensured that behind-the-scenes diplomacy and politics will no longer enjoy the secrecy of old.

    Now, it is more politically advantageous for international political leaders to assert themselves before the ever-vigilant and judgemental public. In a press release given over the weekend, Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro, stated “I announce to the friendly governments of the world that we have decided to use international humanitarian rights to protect Snowden from the persecution that the world’s most powerful empire has unleashed against a young person who has told the truth,” indicating that he and his country would exercise political independence from the United States. Given the media attention, Nicholas Maduro has just made himself a star.

    Snowden and the cocophony of media reports that his leaks have caused provide for a new political platform for the rebelious and the ambitious political underdogs, but they do not serve justice. Unfortunately, I don’t believe Snowden will ever see a Federal Court or a Federal Prison.

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