Snowden Makes A Smart Move

The NSA leaker may be able to turn the vagueness and weakness of international law to his advantage

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Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth tweeted this photo, taken by the organization's Deputy Director for Russia Tanya Lokshina in the Moscow airport on July 12, 2013.

Correction appended: July 12, 2013, 2:35 p.m. E.T

NSA leaker Edward Snowden met with representatives from several rights organizations Friday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, and to judge from the statement he released, the identities of those who were present, and the reports that have emerged from the meeting, he is beginning to get some good advice and may be making some smart moves.

Snowden’s play seems to be to turn the vagueness and weakness of international law to his advantage in pursuit of political asylum. It’s not an easy play, but it might work.

His first step seems to be to get out of the airport and onto Russian soil, where he can operate with greater freedom. Snowden reportedly announced at the meeting that he would seek temporary asylum in Moscow as part of his effort to receive permanent refuge from one of the countries in Latin America that have offered it. A member of the Russian Parliament, Vyacheslav Nikonov, who reportedly attended the meeting at the airport, told Russian television afterwards that Snowden had agreed to comply with President Vladimir Putin’s precondition for Russian asylum, namely that Snowden stop damaging the U.S. with his leaks.

If Snowden can obtain temporary asylum in Moscow, his next hurdle is to convince other countries to let him transit through them to one of the Latin American nations that have offered him permanent asylum. For that he needs help making legal arguments that can withstand U.S. diplomatic pressure.

That’s a tall order, given Snowden’s position. But at least one of the groups attending the airport meeting has good lawyers: Human Rights Watch, whose executive director is Kenneth Roth. Snowden’s tactical performance, we’ve noted, has been mixed. He has had success on the public front in stimulating a debate about domestic surveillance and exposing deception by top U.S. officials. But privately he’s made legal decisions and claims that have hurt him as much as they’ve helped.

Roth is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, and knows what he’s doing. Snowden doesn’t have a great case for asylum. But Human Rights Watch has tried to construct a defense that can turn international law’s vagueness to Snowden’s advantage. HRW claims countries should respect his asylum claim because international law sometimes justifies leaking secrets if they “expose and protect against serious human rights violations.”

Usually, HRW reserves such language for horrible things like genocidal massacres, but they may have some other definition of “serious rights violations” in mind. They’ll need something more convincing than the “Tshwane Principles” they cite in his defense. Their one advantage, and Snowden’s, is that they’re not constructing an argument that has to stand up in a U.S. court, but one for use by any country brave (or foolish) enough to try and withstand U.S. diplomatic pressure. That’s a lower bar, though not necessarily an easy one to clear either.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Roth was present at the meeting. Though a representative of his group was at the Moscow airport, Roth was not.

61 comments
universal93
universal93

President Vladimir Putin has lost all credibility with the involvement in Syria.  Ok let us see what will be done now -- nothing..!!

AwabNavi1
AwabNavi1

"to comply with President Vladimir Putin’s precondition for Russian asylum, namely that Snowden stop damaging the U.S. with his leaks." --- Yeah! But you will have to tell us ALL ABOUT THE US - that's the MAIN CONDITION. Got it?




lambda
lambda

Please do not call him TRAITOR, because he just do sth he think that is right. The founder father wont see this situation! We all hate terrorism, but that is not the reason allowed GOVT's cabinet surveillance. Who know what will this surveillance become?  A new Gestapo? 

poliphobic
poliphobic

I consider Mr. Snowden an extremely courageous gentleman, but I cannot understand why he didn't find his refuge first, and then do his "whistleblowing".

Notwithstanding, I wish him every success in evading American "justice".

User1032
User1032

I have a feeling that Snowden unilaterally lit on fire billions of our tax payer dollars at work for the American people.  It's like burning up the Mona Lisa.  We will probably spend lots more to try to restore whats left, but it won't be the same (hopefully better), but we will have learned a lesson.

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

I say send him to Siberia.  In all seriousness, it is not Snowden that made a smart move -- it is his lawyers.  No doubt, Putin is having a blast sticking it to the US, but undoubtedly has nothing but disgust for a spy that becomes a traitor considering that Putin was a spy and former member of the KBG.  Snowden is blasting the US Government for denying him his rights.  Get Real!  He has shown nothing but hatred for this country.  If he were only concerned with survelliance of Americans, he could have gone to any Tea Party Senator, a Justice of the Supreme Court or any number of other influential Americans and revealed his concerns.  No, he went to China, a country that does not allow unfettered access to the internet, has a horrendous record in human rights, has thousands of people working to hack and steal our secrets (both military and industrial) and allows the counterfeit production of products that harm our economy.  Russia?  Hardly the epitome of democracy and freedom.  He now wants to go to Venezuela -- a country with a nut for President who has absolutely no interest in this traitor other than to use him for propaganda purposes.  Snowden is disgusting.  He has done great harm to this country.  The people who have benefited the most are al Qaeda, Russia and China. 

GCL1
GCL1

As long as idiots in the American government and the media seek to dictate the Snowden narrative, such insults and humiliations will continue to be heaped upon the US. You deserve it.

I've said it several times publicly on this site: Putin and Russia will NEVER give Snowden up. It is a question of Russian honor. All the international laws and US pressure will wilt before Putin. In Russia, his writ runs - end of story. The ONLY person Snowden needs to have on his side is Putin. I've been saying it all along. You dumb Americans have no idea - ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA - what a strong will Putin possesses, and how utterly complete and secure (and welcome) his grip is on Russia's majority population (including its military).

The US mocks, reviles, and underestimates Putin at its own peril - Putin is a winner - Putin ALWAYS wins. And on a personal note: I have not the slightest of doubt Putin is smarter and incidentally, also more ethical, balanced, and mature than all you pompous, self-serving American clowns.

CrowdsGather
CrowdsGather

Proving what? That 'Human Rights Watch' is a travesty? That the Russians love to stick it in the eye of the US? That some Americans (like Roth) enjoy aiding and abetting a traitor? That there are a lot of Quislings out there working for these organizations? God help us because they sure aren't!

jmac
jmac

Speaker of Russia's lower house of Parliament:   "I consider Edward Snowden a human rights defender, who speaks for the rights of millions and millions of people all over the world."

I, myself, speak for millions and millions of people when I say it's a relief to know a human rights defender will now be in Russia to speak for the Russian people.   

AbrahamYeshuratnam
AbrahamYeshuratnam

It's all guess work. How can we say that Snowden will seek temporary asylum in Moscow? Puti was once a KGB chief and he wants to hoodwink American intelligence. The moment Snowden reached Moscow from Beijing as preplanned by both countries, Putin categorically made a statement that he wouldn't allow the extradition of Snowden. In diplomatic parlance it means that Snowden has already been granted asylum in Russia. There is no need for Snowden   to convince other countries to let him transit through them to one of the Latin American nations that have offered him permanent asylum, because he is enjoying permanent asylum in Russia. This is quite transparent from Snowden citing Morales incident. Latin American countries are weak to protect him. If there is a SEAL or commando operation, these countries will also succumb to the fate of Pakistan as it occurred  in the Osama bin Laden issue.



MuricanBob
MuricanBob

As long as that freedom loving traitor is off of US territory I'm happy

MichaelMarinsky
MichaelMarinsky

Snowden: 'I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things' 

So he asks Putin for asylum.

Bwahahhahahahahahahaha...

jmac
jmac

It's being reported that the woman who runs the "state-supported" human rights group in Russia, Olga Kostina, was at the meeting. She also does PR work for the FSB (secret police).   

Robert2011GB
Robert2011GB

He needs to stay in Russia for his personal safety. If he moves to a Third World country in Latin America, the CIA will arrange for him to have a "car accident".


As long as he's in Russia, the CIA won't dare to touch him.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

At this point who cares? Everything he had, the Chinese and the Russians now have. Let him live out the rest of his life in some other country he thinks is so much better than the country he betrayed.

jmac
jmac

It's only a smart move because it's the only move he had if he wanted to get out of the cubicle hotel.  "His first step is to get . . . onto Russian soil WHERE HE CAN OPERATE IN GREATER FREEDOM." 

Thanks for the laugh. 

RolfSiebert
RolfSiebert

Would like to mention that in South Africa just like any country you promise never to indulge in any secret activity such as war crimes or any affiliated in the above and make it public. But there is an acception to the rule. In South Africa after the New South Africa was formed there was finger pointing at the old regime. For reconcialation perpetrators had to come forward and confess to what they did and see, so that the whole of South Africa can hear and see. They were pardoned and set free to go. What is the differance between Snowden and the above if you swore not to make it public.

ZaheenAlmas
ZaheenAlmas

Massimo I think you are missing the point that the phone records program is illegal under US law.  That's why the Government has kept it and the FISA rulings supporting it secret--the FISA rulings won't hold up in a real courtroom.  If Snowden wasn't American he would be eligible for asylum in the US if he'd revealed some other country doing the same thing.

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

@poliphobic because the government would just kill him if they realized he left with national secrets and was not a public figure. He had to release it before they discovered the operation was a ruse

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@AlexVallas
In Russia, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.
In the United States all the opposite. http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/
such a model of democracy, as in the United States, Russia does not need.

"I say send him to Siberia"
Siberia - it 9 million 734,3 thousand km2 - this is more than the size of the USA
Where exactly in Siberia you want to see a rights activist Snowden and why?

GCL1
GCL1

@AlexVallas 

I would trust Putin over an American (any American) in a heartbeat. And I'm not Russian (or American, Muslim, Chinese or Latin American either).

Based on past performance, I would trust a Russian (ANY Russian) over an American. Russians have principles, values, character, and keep their word. Americans don't. Russians are reliable - Americans aren't.

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

@GCL1 What pressure? The Russians don't want Snowden, and the US is simply waiting to see where he'll try to run. Cool your nationalism.

jmac
jmac

@Robert2011GB  Of course, the Russians will treat him with kid gloves.   No car accidents there.  Maybe you should join him in Russia.   

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

@RolfSiebert because the government is required to uphold the constitution. They are not allowed to undo it in secret and kill and imprison any one who attempts to reveal the truth 

User1032
User1032

@ZaheenAlmas The reason they keep it secret is because the people they are looking for will try to work around and defeat their sources and methods.  When the US Government gets a warrant to search your house do they invite you to the courtroom on the day they present "probable cause" to the judge?  Do they calll you to setup an appointment and come back when it's more convenient for you.  Why do you think that isn't the case?  In your world of thinking, how would you collect evidence?  Any recommendations?

jmac
jmac

@ZaheenAlmas  Snowden didn't just reveal legal (under our court system today) American spying techniques, he then went and told China and others how we were spy on them.  We don't know what the U.S. would have done - that's speculation and ignoring the quagmire of current Cyber wars each country is trying to cope with.      The "real courtroom" you talk about is headed by John Roberts - who appointed the eleven member FISA Court, ten of whom were originally put on courts by Republicans.   It's a "real" U.S. court.    


GCL1
GCL1

@thomasvesely

Touche. Brilliant, biting sarcasm probably wasted on an American mind (or what passes for one).

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

@Sibir @AlexVallas Who brainwashed you?  Insofar as where in Siberia.  The coldest most desolate place where the the old USSR was sending all those who opposed the government. 

poliphobic
poliphobic

@GCL1 @AlexVallas 

Well, I hope you're not British -  such all-embracing vitriol in regard to 300 million individuals defies logic.

You have to separate the state from the populace, as in any other country.

User1032
User1032

@GCL1 @AlexVallas When the government is only one person.  You only have one person to blame.  Only thousands of Americans (military, civilian, and contractors) from all races, religions, and political affiliations were complicit in the "evil" plot Snowden revealed.  I guess lots of people are voting for Snowden these days as he's calling the shots now for everyone else in the USA.

GCL1
GCL1

@WilfTarquin @GCL1 

What run? He can stay in Russia as long as he wants 'temporarily'. He can seek temporary asylum in Russia and then stay in the Venezuelan, Bolivian, Nicaraguan, or Ecuadorean embassies in Moscow like Assange is in London.

Get a brain, you dumb American. Russia and China can nuke the living sh^t out of you American clowns - now dance for us, you dumb, clueless, weak American fool. You're being make to look real cute by Putin.

P.S. I'm not Russian (or Chinese - or even American, but you've probably figured that out by now), Mr "Cool" American fool.

Robert2011GB
Robert2011GB

@jmac @Robert2011GB Why would the Russians ever do that? It' is the Americans who are after him and are desperate to get their hands on him.

He's safe in Russia.

User1032
User1032

@ZaheenAlmas If there was enough evidence found to prosecute you, THEN you get your day in court to refute that evidence.

wrathbrow
wrathbrow

@jmac @ZaheenAlmas  

What specific techniques did he share, that are not already known techniques such as monitoring phone calls for key words and call logging? Not saying your wrong, but just have not see any proof like reports/details.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@AlexVallas@Sibir 

That under the carpet of history...
 
Aleut Internment Camps
The movie called Aleut Story has hit the screens recently. This is the story devoted to the horrible events of 1942, when the population of the Aleutian Islands and the island of Pribilof was replaced and interned. Even now few Americans have any idea it has taken place.
The story of Japanese internment is more or less known in the United States. In the 1940s Japan was the main enemy in the Pacific. Though the combat actions took place many miles away from the continental USA, 120000 Japanese were forcibly relocated from the West Coast and interned. Over 60% of them were US citizens.
Anti-Japanese sentiments were at the height. No wonder: at the beginning of the 1990s the legislation in some states forbade Asia – White intermarriage. The Japanese were moved over and compared to vermin. More extreme depictions of Japanese included picturing them as a bloodthirsty and mean people. I emphasize the story is related to the Americans of Japanese origin, not the Japanese who lived in Japan. Even orphans who had more than 1/16 of Japanese blood were rounded up! The Japanese were taken away from the West Coast deeper into the continent and relocated to live in barracks unfit for accommodating many people and standing up to harsh winters. Whoever dared outside risked to get a bullet fired by guard.
After the Japanese bombing of Dutch Harbor in Unalaska in 1942, the Alaska’s Aleuts followed the fate of Japanese Americans. The U.S. government required anyone with one-eighth of Aleut blood or more to be evacuated from the islands. Nobody told them where they were taken to. They were just forcibly moved to ships and taken to special camps (in all there were four of such locations). The living conditions were terrible: hunger, cold, deceases, death…
http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/12/22/aleut-internment-camps.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwrgtQOGVW0

GCL1
GCL1

@poliphobic @GCL1 @AlexVallas 

No, I'm not British either. My low opinion of the American is justified and deserved. They are on the whole, idiots.

One tries to separate idiots from Americans, but it's a thankless job. Americans are very poor at grasping and processing facts in a timely, relevant, and accurate manner.

GCL1
GCL1

@User1032 @GCL1 @AlexVallas 

What does that have to do with it? Are you planning to blame idiots on the Mayflower or Leif Erickson's descendants as well?

Americans are widely regarded as idiots and morons the world over, since they lack the capacity to think reasonably or marshal facts rationally. Americans always want the world to conform to THEIR misapprehensions, and always get it wrong.

GCL1
GCL1

@User1032 @GCL1 @AlexVallas

If indeed "Only thousands of Americans (military, civilian, and contractors) from all races, religions, and political affiliations were complicit in the "evil" plot Snowden revealed.", as you say, it merely confirms my earlier claim that Americans are stupid, incompetent, and possess an extraordinary sense of entitlement they plainly do no deserve.

But I have the feeling based on recent polls taken, public opinion within the US is now gradually shifting in favor of Snowden; of course, there will still be those who see this more as a "security" issue than as a privacy one, and who will prefer to use terms like "traitor" over "whistle-blower", "patriot", or "hero". After all, stubborn, clueless, rabid, reactive American dingbats, will always remain stubborn, clueless, rabid, reactive American dingbats.

jmac
jmac

@Robert2011GB @jmac  What you mean to say is you think he's safe from the US getting him if he's in Russia.  He's not safe from Russia - they can do with him what they will.  They can certainly take his precious computers from him.    Putin talks to Obama tonight.    Even if they take him, he's their pawn.   They can hand him over any time they want.   He will be even more of a prisoner than he is in their airport cubicle.   

I'm all for it.   

User1032
User1032

@TanmayLololAnaisPradhan @jmac @wrathbrow @ZaheenAlmas Didn't people complain after 9/11 that the government didn't do enough to find out the plot and stop it?  Or is 9/11 just the price you pay for privacy?  The hijackers lived and worked in America.  How would you have identified and stopped their plot without some monitoring capability inside America?

jmac
jmac

@TanmayLololAnaisPradhan @jmac @wrathbrow @ZaheenAlmas  What a relief that they didn't release "Specific" techniques as they/he told China what and who was looked at - in China.  

Going to the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, Tanmya?   Want a little help from the U.S. on counter intelligence in case there might be a terrorist lurking around?   

TanmayLololAnaisPradhan
TanmayLololAnaisPradhan

@jmac @wrathbrow @ZaheenAlmas Its your brains that are leaking fool. There has been no mention of any specific techniques anywhere. In fact, it has been made crystal clear that they checked specifically to make sure that other countries don't get the know how to spy on their own people. They did this before they leaked, they said as much in the interview.

And if you think about it, that was the whole reason why they were doing this. They don't want any surveillance of the common man.

But no, you are too stupid to actually bother reading the interviews, the press releases and the media reports. Its much easier to make facts up than present them.

jmac
jmac

@wrathbrow @jmac @ZaheenAlmas Google Snowden and South China Morning News.  He's been leaking to other countries even after Putin said he wouldn't take him unless he quit.  So who knows if Putin will take him now.   I wouldn't if I were Putin.  He's toxic.