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Why does Edward Snowden stay in Russia? This is a question raised by his critics but also pondered by his supporters, given the country's hostility to freedom of expression and its engagement in the sorts of activities that Snowden himself decries. To many of us, some explanations for why he is still there seem rather obvious -- in short, he doesn't want to go to prison, and going anywhere else right now would be too risky -- and the Washington Post does some reporting with top US law enforcement and diplomatic officials that sheds a lot more light on this issue. I recommend reading the whole thing, but I will put some highlights below the orange pig-in-a-blanket.

The first interesting point made by the article is that Snowden is pretty much completely untouchable as long as he stays in Moscow. As the Post states, regarding White House homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco:

“The best play for us is him landing in a third country,” Monaco said, according to an official who met with her at the White House. The official, who like other current and former officials interviewed for this article discussed internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity, added, “We were hoping he was going to be stupid enough to get on some kind of airplane, and then have an ally say: ‘You’re in our airspace. Land.’ ”

U.S. officials thought they saw such an opening on July 2 when Bolivian President Evo Morales, who expressed support for Snowden, left Moscow aboard his presidential aircraft. The decision to divert that plane ended in embarrassment when it was searched in Vienna and Snowden was not aboard.

The article describes what a clumsy move the decision to force down President Morales's plane really was: first, they had no intelligence that Snowden was aboard. Second, he was forced down in Austria, which likely would not have violated Bolivia's national sovereignty by forcibly removing a passenger from the president's plane. Third, of course, we know that Snowden wasn't on the plane, and this action likely convinced Snowden and his advisers that any effort to leave Russia would likely result in his capture. So he stayed. I would add, as a fourth, that this damaged US relations with Bolivia even further, but by now it is clear that Washington cares very little to have good relations with La Paz, a feeling that is mostly mutual anyway.

The article goes on to explain one of the complications of monitoring Snowden's movements in Moscow, which the author calls "ironic":

Several U.S. officials cited a complication to gathering intelligence on Snowden that could be seen as ironic: the fact that there has been no determination that he is an “agent of a foreign power,” a legal distinction required to make an American citizen a target of espionage overseas.
In other words, despite the fact that such accusations are thrown around by Republican Congressmen and some members of Daily Kos alike, the US intelligence services apparently have no evidence that Snowden is cooperating with Russian intelligence or any other foreign powers. Since they cannot pin him as an "agent of a foreign power," there are legal limits to what they can do to monitor him. To this I would add that Snowden is probably well aware of how to trip up a lot of their surveillance methods anyway. He is certainly an expert in them.

Basically, the article concludes that US intelligence officials were waiting and hoping that Snowden would make a wrong step, such as flying out of Moscow to another country where he could be more easily apprehended, but he has not.

Of course, the article points out an obvious but uncomfortable fact: there is no doubt that he is under close watch by Russian intelligence, even though he denies that he has turned over a single document to them (indeed, he denies that he carried any classified documents into Moscow) or that he has cooperated with them in any way, and, according to this article, the US has not been able to prove otherwise. Nevertheless, his status in Russia is fragile, subject to renewal and also subject to being revoked at any time. This is a less-than-ideal situation, but the fact is, he got stuck in Moscow, and as this article makes clear, there really is nowhere else for him to safely go right now.


Edward Snowden should:

41%34 votes
9%8 votes
22%18 votes
24%20 votes

| 81 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (19+ / 0-)

    "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

    by Lost Left Coaster on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:05:06 AM PDT

  •  it's pretty obvious (5+ / 0-)

    that he's not crazy about living in russia. it's not home. but it's also pretty obvious that he prefers living in russia to living in a prison. or maybe i'm confused and it's really that he's a traitor or putin's lover or something.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:24:12 AM PDT

  •  Interesting. This diary hit the reclist with no (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shadowmage36, stevemb


    I voted "sneak out to a third country," if possible.  He's not safe in Russia.

    He wouldn't have to fly.  He could go by ship, maybe even by Russian submarine.

    As to what country might be safer, I don't know.  Maybe Venezuela.

    •  Russian or otherwise, submarine is a good idea. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Timaeus, stevemb, quill, ColoTim

      The US would have to engage in a putative act of war against a sovereign nation to pick him up. Does Washington have the intestinal fortitude to do that? More importantly, what would the American public at large think of that?

      Then again, given the debacle with Morales' plane, I wouldn't be surprised if the US military DID try to stop a foreign submarine or other vessel to collect him.

      Carry the battle to them. Don't let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don't ever apologize for anything. -Harry S. Truman / -8.00, -6.77

      by Shadowmage36 on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:37:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think that the question is, who would give (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        markthshark, stevemb, SoCalSal

        him a ride in a submarine?

        I'm not sure that any government is willing to stick its neck out that far...

        "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

        by Lost Left Coaster on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:44:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've thought all along a Russian submarine (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          stevemb, ColoTim

          would be the optimal escape route, if Putin ever made the decision that it is better to have Snowden out of Russia.

        •  It's time for a neutral country... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          stevemb, Timaeus, snoopydawg

          (or even one just pissed off at the U.S.) to step up to the proverbial plate and offer Snowden [permanent] asylum.

          He did a great public service to many countries and it's time for some reciprocity. Yes, it'll take courage from a stable, sizable government to defy ours.

          But it's courage due, IMO.

          "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." - 17th-century French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu.

          by markthshark on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:10:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I suspect many countries would disagree (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RN that thinks, Timaeus

            The "huge public service" included revealing information that many countries besides the US have their own spy and surveillance activities going on.  Everybody knows everybody else is doing it, and everybody agrees nobody should be talking about it. It's like farts in an elevator.

            “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

            by Catte Nappe on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:38:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is a common misnomer... (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              snoopydawg, CroneWit, Timaeus, lotlizard
              The "huge public service" included revealing information that many countries besides the US have their own spy and surveillance activities going on.
              While it's true that everybody does it, the capabilities to do ubiquitous surveillance of all communications belong solely to the U.S. and its close partners-in-crime. (the Five Eyes)

              The technology started here. And even today most web traffic across the planet is still routed through the U.S at some time or another.

              It's not at all an equal playing field out there. Therefore, Snowden's revelations were just that to countries like Germany, Brazil and others.

              "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." - 17th-century French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu.

              by markthshark on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:01:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  E.g., a Swiss canton granted Timothy Leary asylum. (0+ / 0-)

            In order to "get" Dr. Leary, Nixon's FBI had to kidnap him in Afghanistan, put him on a plane, and arrest him after forcing him to debark on U.S. soil.

            Afghanistan was still a hippie paradise in those far-off days — a place where, with the proper royal concessions, taxes, and seals, hashish was legal.

            The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war. ♥ ♥ ♥ Forget Neo — The One is Minori Urakawa

            by lotlizard on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 08:15:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I think it was there for about 3 minutes...n/t (0+ / 0-)

      "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

      by Lost Left Coaster on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:46:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah. I'd suggest he sneak out. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      stevemb, markthshark, quill, ColoTim, Timaeus

      Putin might offer Snowden as a sacrificial lamb if he wanted to rebuild relations with the West.

      Though at the moment, Putin seems to be fine with saber-rattling with the U.S., and it appeals to his base, so that's not likely at the moment.

      But if I were him, I wouldn't feel safe. I'd be looking for another nation that would grant asylum, and I'd be looking for diplomatically assured safe passage, perhaps aboard a diplomatic aircraft. The U.S. got plenty of egg on its face when they forced down Evo Morales's aircraft, so they'll have a harder time pulling that trick a second time.

  •  I'm pretty sure Russia is letting him stay... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nosleep4u, Timaeus, Catte Nappe, quill, ColoTim

    ...because the Russian government sees him as a bargaining chip.  He's something the US government wants, badly, so if they ever decide to "make nice" with the US over some specific issue, I'm certain they'd toss him into the package to make it all work.  No, he's not safe in Russia at all.

    "Democrat" is a noun. "Democratic" is an adjective. "Republican" is an idiot. Illigitimi non carborundum. Regardless of Party. The license plate I want? OMG GOP WTF

    by TheOrchid on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:29:34 AM PDT

  •  Well we know one important fact about Snowden.... (5+ / 0-)

    He went on a Russian television show hosted by Mr. "Bear Wrestler" himself, just as Mr. "Bear Wrestler" had taken over the Crimean Peninsula and before Mr. "Bear Wrestler" was about to take over the Ukraine and crush the rights of the Ukrainian people and asked Mr. "Bear Wrestler" if he had ever violated the civil liberties of anyone....

    One of the nicest pieces of self-serving business I have seen in quite a while, which allowed Mr. "Bear Werstler" to say: "Thank you for that question Mr. Snowden... Let me put it this have not."  

    Well played, Mr. Snowden...applause all around! And now we shall dance and be!

  •  Fred Hyatt is going to hit the roof (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stevemb, quill, Lost Left Coaster

    when he finds out that Gregg Miller has been committing journalism.

    The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

    by nicteis on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:45:14 AM PDT

  •  Safest spot for him now is Russia. (5+ / 0-)

    The moment he popped up in a third country...ominous phone calls made by malevolent US officials in high places to very dangerous people would be made--and he would be disappeared. Is that a bit too much paranoia? Maybe.

    And we'd stop arguing about whether or not he was a hero or traitor just long enough to speculate as to what really happened to him.

    Snowden embarrassed the PTBs, and then his revelations made them look like complete idiots as every single lie they've ever told about the surveillance state that they constructed was laid bare in black and white. They'll do anything to "rectify" that situation, even though the genie's already out of that bottle.

    Because there's too much money and too many frightened amoral paranoid sociopaths (see Clapper and Alexander) and their handlers to simply let that slide.

    Russia's the safest place for him right now.

    Fighting against centrist, authoritarian, and conservative policies since 2002.

    by cybrestrike on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:48:42 AM PDT

  •  How is Edward Snowden paying his bills? (0+ / 0-)

    Did he have money saved up?  Is he being paid for his interviews?  Is  he publishing something that brings in money?  Is Russia paying for his room and board?

    I'm just wondering how he's still paying for his needs, as I assume he's not working some regular job in Russia.

    •  He got a job in Russia nt (0+ / 0-)

      "I'm a progressive man and I like progressive people" Peter Tosh

      by Texas Lefty on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:02:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Read the article (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Your question is answered. In short, donations and whistleblower/transparency awards.

      "As the madmen play on words, and make us all dance to their song / to the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun..." -- Iron Maiden

      by Lost Left Coaster on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:04:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. There are some additional details, but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        this paragraph had some information:

        Beyond savings from his six-figure NSA jobs, Snowden has received tens of thousands of dollars in cash awards and appearance fees from privacy organizations and other groups over the past year, Wizner said. An organization called the Courage Foundation launched a Web site to raise money for Snowden’s legal defense and listed contributions of $1,356 as of Saturday afternoon.
        Snowden's future is not secure - the funding could dry up at any time, the US could attempt to block any US-based group from funding him, he's not able, I'm sure, to get a job in Russia and he's vulnerable to being returned to the US as other commenters have noted.  He's smart enough to have realized what a storm he was going to create, yet he did it anyway.  I, for one, appreciate his sacrifice (and that comment just got the NSA to add another mark against me).
  •  Other whistleblowers walked away legally. (0+ / 0-)

    What part of the public even remembers any of his revelations? 10-20% and he could have accomplished the same outcomes, possibly even better outcomes, to travel the United States, telling his story, partnering with politicians willing to support him. There are a number of intelligence professionals outside the security wall and they have worked to make changes. There is a former CIA operative from Greece. She quit, wrote a book, and drives change from the civilian side not a fugitive.

  •  Russia will let Snowden stay out of gratitude (0+ / 0-)

    All the data Snowden has is already in Russia's possession. Just a matter of time before CIA agents start dying.

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