It appears now that Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, is still a free man, however still physically restricted to the area of a terminal in a Moscow airport, and now also caught up in politics.
Asking first for asylum in Russia, he withdraw the request upon hearing from Putin, that he would have to stop leaking more information that would hurt Russia’s “partner’.
Russia is not a perfect place anyway – it is not exactly a role model with regard to human rights, freedom of expression. Snowden is a smart guy, so we can’t believe he appeared to be naive that politics come first for Russia. Also, let’s not forget that Putin himself was heavily involved in Russia’s intelligence agencies to say the least, so there is a reasonable fear that the focus might turn to Russia’s intelligence collection efforts – either by itself or what Snowden might have about Russia, something Russia really wouldn’t like.
So Snowden has now submitted asylum request to about 20 countries. Now, some of these will reject this for formal reasons, like you have to be in the country already, where you ask for asylum.
Again, this is politics. We are sure, countries can get around any legal hurdles by citing extraordinary circumstances, but they are bullied by the U.S. government which threatens economic sanctions. Obama has said there would be “no wheeling and dealing” just to get “a 29-year old hacker”, but besides that Snowden is not a hacker and also a little bit older, the administration is doing exactly just that.
Furthermore, some members of Congress raise a different tone. More focused on the man hunt and the so-called “justice” than on national security, they are threatening sanctions left and right. Not to speak of wannabee-politicians like Donald Trump, who talks about “execution”.
That certainly helps to convince Snowden to come back to the U.S.
Talks like that will only guarantee that Snowden gets a safe haven somewhere.
The media in the meantime, especially in the U.S., fall back to uncritical-reporting mode as far as the U.S. government is concerned. If the administration is “happy” how the U.S. media is handling this, you know there is something wrong.
For instance, it is widely suspected, that spying targets businesses. The U.S. says China spies on U.S. businesses (which we don’t doubt), yet commentators say the U.S. is not targeting business.
Nothing could be further of the truth. Why does the U.S. target Germany so much more than France? Simple answer – it is going after businesses. German businesses have been quite successful in areas where American businesses compete not so successfully – so there is motive. The amount of data collected from Germany is at least 10 times more than from France – this is called evidence. Opportunity? Well – you know.
Then there is this argument that everything the NSA does is legal. There is judicial and congressional oversight in place.
Well, we talked about oversight in another place. So let us tell you a joke that is circulating in the intelligence community:
It goes like this: Obama said the NSA programs of spying and collecting data is justified by laws passed in Congress and therefore legal. Upon hearing that, some old Nazis turned in their graves and mumbled: Why didn’t we think of making an argument like this?