Paul Kilfoil's World of Travel, Technology & Sport

Posted on  by Paul Kilfoil.
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In June 2013 Edward Snowden, a contracted employee of the United States National Security Agency (NSA), took the extremely bold (or foolhardy, depending on your perspective) step to go public with details of the agency's illegal clandestine activities. Of course, in the USA there was outrage - he was immediately branded a traitor by the US government, his passport was revoked and an arrest warrant was issued for him. President Barack Obama labelled him a "hacker not worth wasting time on". Talk about hypocritical - for years the USA has accused China of spying on its own citizens and now they themselves have been shown up to be guilty of exactly the same offence! Snowden's evidence of large-scale surveillance by the NSA of almost every aspect of American life (emails, phone calls, skype conversations, internet activity, etc) is so compelling and convincing that the US government has not even tried to deny the allegations.

Edward Snowden

The whole world now knows that the US government has knowingly and deliberately broken the law and, in fact, has contravened some of the iron-clad clauses of its own constitution. Edward Snowden is not a traitor but a hero and we should applaud him for putting his life on the line to make this information public. Make no mistake, his life is effectively over - from the moment it was discovered that he had leaked top secret information he became a fugitive and the subject of the biggest manhunt in US history (with the possible exception of the search for Osama Bin Laden). No matter what happens Snowden will never again be able to walk the streets a free man in the USA or in any other country with which the USA has an extradition treaty.

But Snowden showed that he is no fool. He easily evaded the worldwide net that was thrown out to catch him and flew first to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, where he spent several days in the transit lounge of Sheremetyevo Airport. He applied for asylum to Ecuador, perhaps because Ecuador has protected Julian Assange for more than a year in their embassy in London (Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks and another fugitive from American "justice"). Naturally all of Snowden's information was published by WikiLeaks, and one of their lawyers flew to Moscow to assist Snowden. Rumours abounded that he would fly to Ecuador via Cuba, and the flight he was expected to take was filled to bursting capacity with journalists, but there was no sign of him on board - perhaps the whole flight was booked solid by reporters and he couldn't get a seat? Turns out Snowden stayed in Moscow and all the rumour succeeded in doing was to send a planeload of journalists on a futile trip to Havana and back.

During this time another rumour did the rounds. This was the leaked transcript of a telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ecuador, which went as follows:

Front page of The Guardian
newspaper on 10 June 2013
Russia:Please help us and take Edward Snowden off our hands. We'll make it worth your while.
Ecuador:Why us?
Russia:You've already got that Assange bloke.
Ecuador:Yes, but we can't get him out of the London embassy. The ambassador is sick of the sight of him.
Russia:By the sounds of it, this Snowden chappie isn't such a self-obsessed tosser.
Ecuador:Well, you keep him then.
Russia:He's from Hawaii. He'd never survive the winter. Go on! You take him and we'll encourage all our nouveau riche to take Galapagos Island holidays and ride those big turtles of yours.
Ecuador:That would be bad for the environment.
Russia:Maybe ... but you'll make lots of money out of it.
Ecuador:OK, deal. Send him over.
Russia:Hmm, we'd better be devious and do it via Cuba. Those idiots at the CIA will never notice.

But Snowden did not fly to Cuba or Ecuador and as of 7 July 2013 he appears still to be holed up in Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. I hope they have showers there ... Apparently he has applied for asylum to several countries, and a few (such as Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua) have said they would gladly take him. Notice the anti-American pattern there? There's no love lost between the USA and most Central and South American countries.

In my opinion the villain of this story is NOT Edward Snowden but the American president, Barack Obama. He knows that his security agencies have engaged in illegal activities and almost certainly continue to do so, but there has been no indication that the US government is concerned about the relevations made public by Edward Snowden nor that they are taking steps to address the issue. The USA expressed outrage that the Chinese authorities did not arrest Snowden when he was in Hong Kong and blithely continues to spout drivel about how it is the world's responsibility to hand Snowden over to them. But why should they? Edward Snowden has broken no laws anywhere in the world ; all he did was expose details of how the US government itself has broken the law on a massive scale.

The world should thank Edward Snowden, not arrest him. And all Americans should indeed be outraged, not by what Snowden has done but by the actions of their own democratically-elected government. In fact, they should demand the immediate resignation of Barack Obama and everybody in a position of authority who knew what was going on and did nothing about it.

[Update 1] Edward Snowden received firm offers of asylum from the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. But he has to get there from Moscow, no easy task when one considers the distances involved and the extent of US influence in the countries between Russia and South America. So as of 25 July 2013 he was still becalmed in Sheremetyevo Airport.

[Update 2] Edward Snowden accepted an offer of asylum from Russia and finally left Moscow's airport on 1 August 2013 ; he spent 39 days in the transit lounge.

  © Paul Kilfoil, Cape Town, South Africa