On the Run to Moscow, Edward Snowden Keeps Americans Guessing

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Bobby Yip / REUTERS

Photos of Edward Snowden and President Barack Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong on June 11, 2013

Six days before boarding a flight from Hong Kong to MoscowEdward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, warned the U.S. government of further disclosures of classified information. “The truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” he said in an online chat with the Guardian newspaper.

He was not bluffing. On Saturday, the South China Morning Post reported additional details of the NSA’s spying program in Hong Kong and China, including details of the U.S. government hacking Chinese mobile-phone companies, Chinese university computers and a major telecommunications company. One day later, the government of Hong Kong denied a U.S. request to arrest and deport Snowden in a statement that included a reference to the disclosures of NSA hacking in southern China.

The question now is how much more information Snowden is prepared to release, and what kind of protection that information can provide. The answers to those questions may go a long way in determining the legacy and effect of Snowden’s actions. Up to now, Snowden has won sympathy from the American public, with 54% of the country supporting his disclosures, and 30% disapproving in a TIME poll from early June. His disclosures up to that point focused largely on the legal framework and powers of electronic surveillance by the NSA. Snowden said last Monday that he had no contact with the Chinese government in Hong Kong. “I only work with journalists,” he claimed.

At the root of Snowden’s challenge is an emerging irony. He says he is motivated by outrage at the surveillance powers of the U.S., which he argues tip toward tyranny, but he has since provided valuable information about U.S. spying to China, a country with a far more aggressive surveillance state, and he has now fled to Russia, where there is little check on the intrusive powers of the state. (A recent Amnesty International report on Russia noted increasing repression in the face of peaceful political protest, new laws restricting freedom of speech and assembly, official harassment of human-rights defenders and systemic human-rights abuses by the state against the Russian people.) Snowden has reportedly asked for asylum in Ecuador, a country where journalists face criminal defamation charges for criticizing the government and the U.N. has raised concerns about extrajudicial murders by military and police forces.

Snowden has also argued that there is no nobility in turning himself over to U.S. authorities to face prosecution. “It would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside prison than in it,” he said on Monday. But the tradition of civil disobedience, with which he has identified, has often distinguished itself from traditional law breaking by submitting to the legal process. As civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “If you confront a man who has been cruelly misusing you, and say ‘Punish me, if you will; I do not deserve it, but I will accept it, so that the world will know I am right and you are wrong.’”

In the Guardian interview, Snowden made clear that he no longer believes he will get a fair trial in the U.S. The American people, by contrast, do believe he should face trial. The same TIME poll, from June 10 and 11, found that 53% of the country felt those who leaked classified data that might damage national security should be prosecuted. Only 28% of Americans felt he should not be prosecuted.

The fact that Snowden was able to flee Hong Kong is yet another embarrassment for the Obama Administration, which has struggled to handle the Snowden disclosures. The Justice Department waited weeks to request his extradition from Hong Kong, and apparently was unable to arrange cooperation with the government during that time. “Obviously this raises concerns for us, and we’ll continue to discuss with the authorities there,” a senior Administration official wrote in an e-mail to reporters on Sunday of Hong Kong’s decision to let Snowden leave.

But at this point further disclosures may be inevitable. Snowden has claimed that his capture or death will not prevent them, suggesting copies of the files he possesses are already in the hands of others. For a U.S. government focused on preventing other self-styled whistle-blowers from following in his footsteps, the more crucial challenge now may be in debating the substance of Snowden’s actions on the world stage. If he continues to be seen as a hero, who has done something good, Obama’s reputation as a civil libertarian will also continue to face pressure.

The White House has said Obama plans to address the matter further. Just how aggressively Obama chooses to take Snowden on may depend, in large part, on how the American public digests Snowden’s latest actions, and what he does next.

39 comments
forgottenlord
forgottenlord

And yet again, he releases a piece of information that anyone who's actually paying attention already knew.  Of course the NSA is spying on Chinese companies.  The three biggest bodies of hackers in the world are the governments of America, China and Russia - in that order.  What else did you think they were doing?

So for all those who complain about China hacking the US, know that it is an absurd and self-blind criticism that the Obama administration needs to work on it.  The world is not going to reverse and hacking will become weapons of governments far more than ever before.

Laurak8
Laurak8

"But the tradition of civil disobedience..." Oh, for God's sake.

jmac
jmac

 "The freedom trail is not exactly China-Russia-Cuba-Venezuela."  

What else is he going to tell them?  Has it entered his mind that one of these countries might use torture to see what else he knows?  Does he not think he'll be followed and bugged?   Does he think at all?  

TMA
TMA

What is ironic is how china and russia is looking like the good guys in this, instead of america. In the pursuit of wiping out terrorists, america ended up "terrorizing" its' citizens and other countries.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Couple points:

1. This is not the first administration to skirt the law.

2. This is not the first administration to violate the Constitutional rights of others.

And this:

Obama's anti-terrorism record is excellent. One needs to only look at the fact that, other than lone wolf shootings and the Boston Marathon bombing, none have occurred. 

...and, despite rampant hatred on the part of some GOPers, he's still alive.

And finally there's this:

Hate for Obama is not, and should never be, substituted for Love of Country.

rayboyusmc1967
rayboyusmc1967

He is a traitor to his country.  Nice touch, now flying to Russia.  I bet their intelligence folks will love to talk to him.  Funny how the right wing supported Bush when he actually approved tapping all our US phone conversations and did it without a FISA court approval.

This administration followed the law and go the court approval, but I guess because Obama is Black we can't trust him as much as we would Bush.

Anyone who is stupid enough to believe we live in a world where we can live safely without these kind of phone monitoring is dead meat for all our enemies.

jmac
jmac

Still quoting that June poll?   Why?  A flash poll taken right after the Snowden affair happened isn't a poll that should be quoted ad nauseum.   Obviously telling China our secrets has changed that poll.  You don't need to be a first-class reporter to figure that one out.     And I find no irony in the fact that he's suppose to be a whistle blower as he spews to Hong Kong and heads to Ecuador - he's a wing nut's (either side) dream, but a wing-nut none-the-less.   He's James O'Keefe with a bigger ego.  "He's coming across as petulant and arrogant and more than a little bit full of himself."   Call him Kanye West.  

AmusedByItAll
AmusedByItAll

Whether you believe Snowden is a hero, a villain or something in between those two extremes, don’t lose sight of this central issue or be biased by your opinion of Snowden. Snowden is not the issue; it’s the legality of the government behavior and the tradeoff between privacy and security the American electorate is willing to accept. However, the US government through the DOJ is compelled to enforce those laws applicable to and seek penalties appropriate to Snowden’s unauthorized disclosure of classified information for several reasons.

First, this administration cannot allow such a blatant and public disregard of US laws to go unadjudicated in a US court. This would amount to a gross dereliction of duty by the administration which could quite reasonably be construed as an impeachable offense. Second, failure to enforce all the laws dealing with classified material is extremely dangerous for national security. Inaction would basically short circuit an open fact-find process of information germane to the circumstances of the security leak. Third, failure to enforce all the laws dealing with classified material would set an extremely dangerous precedent for national security. Inaction would implicitly condone individuals to make major national security decisions based on “gut feelings”, personal biases, or an individual’s simplistic sense of “right and wrong” without the either background, complete knowledge necessary to make such decisions, or a consensus. It could end up being be one uninformed person deciding the future and fate of 310 million people.

AmusedByItAll
AmusedByItAll

Let’s hope that Edward Snowden is familiar with the short story, "The Man without a Country" by American writer Edward Everett Hale before he continues his odyssey and makes a truly irrevocable mistake.

DanBruce
DanBruce

By his choice of places to seek asylum (China, Russia, Ecuador), Snowden has shown how little he understands democracy and representative government. He himself, on his own authority, decided to nullify my votes for the people I want to be making decisions about the secrets and security of the nation. He decided that he knew best. I never voted for him to make that decision. Snowden is an enemy of democracy and representative government.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

"The fact that Snowden was able to flee Hong Kong is yet another embarrassment for the Obama Administration"

Meet Michael Scherer the most credulous journalist. The administration, rightly or wrongly, gave Hong Kong the chance to be done with this.  
Goodness when reporters get out of their depth it is sad. 

duduong
duduong

Snowden is forced to make the best of the situation, the situation being that the US government is a extremely powerful evil empire. There are only a handful of states capable of withstanding US pressure. Why can't he go there? He does not collaborate with their governments. China and Russia are not the enemies of the US anyway. As I have said before, if you view China as the enemy, write a check of $1.2T to pay back the debt and stop telling China that you want its friendship. If the US government deems the friendship request as proper and necessary, why is it a problem for Snowden to disclose the US' underhanded hacking of a publicly declared friend? 

FareedAnsari
FareedAnsari

Moscow is where Erick Snow-Job belongs.  He was a hot potato in Hong Kong (China) which a key world business and financial center.  His hiding as a fugitive there was tenuous, and bad for business.  The authorities showed him the door.  Given the choice; be turned over to the FBI, or get out of town by sun down.  Snow Job, like the delusional Liar, Thief, and Snitch-Turn coat he is, took the later.  After the Russians pump him for any additional intelligence information, they will turn him over to the KGB who will deliver him to the FBI.  He can add felony flight to avoid prosecution to his charges.  Worst case scenario, he will be tried in absentia, and sentenced to death.  With that designation as an enemy combatant he would be a candidate for a drone visit, or be traded for a Russian spy in American custody.  The Boy running scared, and is Toast.  He just lost 90% of his sympathizers with the Moscow move, showing himself to be a coward, fast losing any remaining sense of credibility.

DWVA1
DWVA1

@fitty_three 

As a Zimbabwean I am a fan Of america but i do think you need to think about how you are coming across to those of us looking in 

1. So because this is not the first administration to break teh law you feel its therefore fine that the currant administration does? I imagine that you are one who would have declared Bushs war in Iraq illigal and no doubt posted it on some website of other...IF so why the double standard that this whole Snowdon case has exposed both on a individual and national level? 

Do you not think of lone wolf shootings etc etc as terrorism? They are much more dagerouse in fact as they revel a systemic deep rooted problem in your society. 

I dont think the GOPs have made any attempts to Kill Obama and is your answer that the pres and congress only say nice things about him? I live in a country where we are only allowed to say nice things about our leadership its not a very comfortable society to live in. 


Your final point sounds like a headline from Fox news. So if your country does something wrong you should love it anyway? Love with out boundaries usually results in a creating something rather uppleasent. Your just a little hurt that the Obama administration has turned out to be rather ruthless and the man himself more of a wolf in sheep's clothing. 

ahandout
ahandout

@fitty_three  Those aren't points; they are the rationalizations of a grade school kid caught cheating on a test:  Johnny did it too!

DWVA1
DWVA1

@rayboyusmc1967 He is has shown that the USA government may well have broken the Law. IF this is the case he cannot be called a traitor. Try for a moment to look at both sides of the coin. The Iranian nuclear whistleblower Amid Nasri who was captured and jailed in the manner you are calling for with regards to Snowdon but you country did not support the moves of the Iranians. If you are happy that the USA can break the law and read my emails and texts as a non American then your government should not show support to those that break the secrets act in their own nations. IF your government has to snoop thorough all our communications to keep your nation safe then it means your security forces are not doing a very good job. Its just being lazy and quite frankly paranoid in a way you would expect Russia or China to behave not the so called free world. the only savin grace of your great nation is that it is still a democracy unlike mine and therefore you all have the power to return back to the right path and please do as we want you to be able to condemn and judge our nations we don't want to loose a role model that gives us all hope out here in Zimbabwe. 

TMA
TMA

@rayboyusmc1967 What law? The patriot act that the US government made to give itself a blank check to do whatever it wants to anyone else? Doesn't take a genius to see how it could go wrong. What about the fact that what the US government does violates the laws of any other nation on earth? On top of that obama still have the guts to call out other countries hacking the US.

The US is doing an awfully good job of pissing off enemies and friends alike. Seems like the complete opposite of what you'd have to do to actually be safe.

DanBruce
DanBruce

@AmusedByItAll So, the issue is the legality of the government's actions, but the legality of Snowden's actions are not relevant. I don't think so. Committing a crime to call attention to the action of the government is not part of our system. We are a nation of laws., and checks and balances enforced by elected officials, and there are legal ways to make sure that the government is staying within its bounds. Breaking the law is not one of them. Snowden does not have the right to operate above the law for any purpose. Citing two extreme examples, that's what John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald decided to do, and it greatly harmed our system. Snowden is in the same category, someone trying to nullify our system by ignoring our collective votes and placing himself as the sole arbitor of what is right and wrong for our national security. 

zeindagi
zeindagi

@DanBruce Yeah, it's always YOUR National Interest; YOUR Security in the (so called) Land of the Free & the Brave; and always the protection of YOUR Way of Life ! Wake up man, planet earth does not belong to USA - there are billions more living in Asia & Europe. 

SteveNNelson
SteveNNelson

He understood exactly what the implications are and legal technicalities of every county and every angle. As well as how thr us was trying to manipulate things and what was happening moment by moment.

Nobody cares about your vote Dan. Go back to watching jeopardy and leave the real problems to people who actually care who want to expose abuse in our governments.

Go study equal money on google before bed.

therealdude
therealdude

@DanBruce 

The reason he goes to those places that have a cool relationship with the US is because if he went to someplace like England, they'd fork him over immediately. That totally negates the whole  idea of running in the first place. He mays well buy a ticket to Washington DC, phone the FBI to make sure they know he's coming.

Myself, I'm glad he did what he did. I was against these programs when the Bush administration was sending them through congress to be bi-partisanly rubberstamped. They're dangerously ripe for abuse and desperately need more oversight if they're to exist at all.

kuei12
kuei12

@DanBruce I think you know NOTHING of how the world works; and, taking time to explain it you you would be like trying to teach a monkey how to build a rocket.

kuei12
kuei12

@FareedAnsari    Bad for business MY A$$!  America is DESPERATE to do business with ANYBODY they can. LOL

fitty_three
fitty_three

@ahandout 

Funny thing is, bigot, they all happen to be true.

When your Obamahate consumes you, will you do us a favor and defect to China?

TedMooney
TedMooney

@DanBruce @AmusedByItAll The Bill of Rights was put in place specifically to limit government in cases like this.  Pending specific rulings by  the Supreme Court, it's up to you and I  -- not Congress or the President -- to decide what the 4th Amendment says. Neither the Patriot Act nor any other law may override it.

Booth and Oswald have nothing to do with this, but Deep Throat and Daniel Ellsberg have everything to do with it. Please take 30 seconds  to read the 4th Amendment; it's 50 small and very clear words.

ahandout
ahandout

@DanBruce @AmusedByItAll  11 million plus illegal aliens in the US, allowed to stay by the US government, given benefits paid for by US taxpayers, allowed to steal resources and benefits from US citizens, and now the govenment wants to give them amnesty which will bring in 50 million more illegals.

Still think that we are a nation of laws? 

AmusedByItAll
AmusedByItAll

@DanBruce @AmusedByItAll DanBruce, please read more than the first two sentences of a comment before replying, doing so probably will help you write a reply relevant to the comment.

SteveNNelson
SteveNNelson

Shut up Dan. Most ignorant commenting on here. We are not a nation of laws and balances. Our government does whatever the hell they want whenever they want. How else do you expose abuse? You expose it no matter wha at all costs. It looks like you are either n abuser of sorts looking to keep information hidden, or too scared to be proactive about anything in life. You go ahead and trust the system, trust the government, and when things collapse, which they will, you will say why didn't I do something sooner, and ill say the same thing, why didn't you?

DanBruce
DanBruce

@SteveNNelson Spoken like a true Snowden apologist, "Nobody cares about your vote!" He sure didn't. He'll fit in well in Ecuador, or Russia, or China, or whereaver he spends the rest of his life. Fortunately, it will not be in the U.S. unless he surrenders to be tried for his espionage violations.

DanBruce
DanBruce

@kuei12 @DanBruce I'll plead guilty to not knowing how the world works, but I do know how the American system of representative government is meant to work, and there is nothing in our Constitution or laws that indicate an individual citizen has the right to make decisions about national securtity for all of us unless that citizen is elected to do so, or, in the case of judges, appointed by elected officials. Snowden bypassed the elective representative system, and that makes him a despot, one unelected person deciding what is best for all of us on nothing more than his own authority. That is not American.

markb3699
markb3699

Are you American? If so, why live here if you hate it so much?

TedMooney
TedMooney

@DanBruce @TedMooney @AmusedByItAll Rule of law not of men is the bedrock of this country. Until we amend the constitution, it stands;  show me an amendment modifying the 4th amendment and I'll accept it completely. Lacking that, no law can interpret it, alter it, or override it. Supreme Court decisions may temporarily interpret it for limited circumstances -- but it says what it says. Sorry, but there is no convenient workaround to serve a current administration.

DanBruce
DanBruce

@TedMooney @DanBruce @AmusedByItAll If this were 1789 I would agree with you, but more than 200 years of laws and court rulings have given us the 4th Amendment that we have today. Play some Constitutional catch up and move into the 21st century, why don't you?

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@SteveNNelson 

Not a single thing the government did was illegal.  Everything they did was permitted and has been discussed ad naseum by Liberals before as concerning.  He revealed nothing that wasn't already suspected of the American Government.  So how is he a whistleblower?

jmac
jmac

@SteveNNelson What abuse SteveN.?   If you want to make a case against the government, whether it's Fast and Furious, Benghazi, etc, YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING.   You have to have a criminal act.

The criminal act in this case was some pip-queak squealing to China about out surveillance programs.  We're in cyber wars and you're on the wrong side - unless you want to move to China.