Russian President Vladimir Putin has now explained the status of Edward Snowden. He is not technically in Russia; rather, per the Associated Press:
[He] is in the transit zone of a Moscow airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, Putin said, meaning he is not technically in Russia.
Once again, the Russian president has humiliated the United States. Putin also claims that the Russian security services have not met with Snowden and are not working with him. Moreover, he cannot grant the United States request for extradition since the U.S. and Russia do not have an extradition treaty.
Writing in The Guardian (Glenn Greenwald’s paper), Tom McCarthy explains that Putin’s excuse for not grabbing Snowden is not exactly accurate. He cites the report of their Moscow correspondent Miriam Elder, who says:
Passengers transiting through Sheremetyevo are usually given 24 hours to pass through the international transit zone. Snowden arrived Sunday.
If Elder is correct, then obviously Russian security services are allowing the rules to be stretched in Snowden’s case. Like that African man who lived in JFK Airport for a few years since he was legally stateless and no country would grant him exile, Snowden could be living in Moscow’s airport for quite some time, dining on the horrendous food available at that notoriously subpar international airport.
President Putin could not pause from sticking the knife in President Obama and the United States, suddenly becoming a defender of human rights. Elder quotes Putin:
Assange and Snowden consider themselves human rights activists and say they’re fighting for the spread of information. … Ask yourself this: should you hand these people over so they’ll be put in prison?
With that argument, Putin reveals himself to be a master of hypocrisy. Cathy Young, who grew up in the old Soviet Russia and follows the country regularly, points out:
[Russia] is in the grip of an intense crackdown on dissent since Vladimir Putin’s return for a third presidential term a year ago. … This crackdown includes draconian penalties for unauthorized protests; legislation requiring non-governmental organizations that receive any money from abroad to register as “foreign agents” and submit to punitive regulations; a vague new treason law that could target dissent; legislation criminalizing insults to religion; and widespread harassment and persecution of opposition activists and leaders.
As for Mr. Snowden, any pretense of his being motivated by a desire to protect the fundamental freedoms that Americans enjoy has evaporated completely. Yesterday, he gave an interview in which he now claims he got a job with Booz Allen in the first place precisely so he could gain access to NSA secrets that he could then share with the world. That new explanation contradicts his earlier claim — that only after working there and learning what American security services could do did he decide on principle to leak classified data. Perhaps wandering in an international transit zone in a bad airport has gone to his head, and we should take anything he says at this point with a grain of salt.
More than likely, Snowden is carefully considering his options, waiting to travel until his various grants for asylum come through, and for friendly left-wing nations like Cuba and Venezuela to agree to let him fly there en route to his preferred nation of asylum, Ecuador. Or, perhaps he is still hoping Iceland comes through for him. If not, those of us concerned with his well-being can hope, of course, that Kim Jong Un will seize the opportunity and offer him asylum in the paradise of North Korea. Judging from that recent photo of pretend students sitting in front of computer screens but actually doing nothing, little Kim could put Snowden’s talents to very good use modernizing their hacking expertise.
Snowden, we now understand, is not a whistle-blower, a protector of our civil liberties, or a hero. He is instead an opponent of our country, and a man who violated oaths he took and actively tried to harm our nation’s security. He should be brought back to the United States, tried in a court of law by a jury of his peers, and face the consequences of his own actions.
Sadly, he is more than likely to sit out the rest of his life in one of those nations whose governments would like nothing more than to spit in the face of the United States. It is not the time, it seems, when the United States has the respect it once had elsewhere in the world.