The Russia-China Snowden Gambit

20130322.213551_reuWithin weeks of President Obama’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, China and Russia have humiliated the United States as Obama looks on helplessly. They have gone out of their way to protect Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor charged with violating the Espionage Act for leaking highly classified U.S. government material regarding the NSA’s secret phone and Internet surveillance programs.

Hong Kong, the Chinese territory where Snowden first sought refuge, rejected a United States request for Snowden’s arrest and extradition on the pretext that the U.S. had not submitted the proper paperwork. Instead, Hong Kong authorities allowed him to board a flight to Moscow, from which he is said to be planning an escape route with Russia’s help to Ecuador or another anti-U.S. Latin American country. Hong Kong, by the way, would be given access to the Visa Waiver Program under the terms of the immigration bill now being considered by the Senate. In order to qualify, Hong Kong must, among other things, maintain close bilateral law enforcement cooperation with U.S. authorities. At the very least this waiver provision for Hong Kong should be stricken from the bill, pending more investigation into Hong Kong’s failure to cooperate with U.S. authorities with respect to Snowden.

The New York Times reported that, although Hong Kong likes to think of its judicial system as remaining independent of China, the Chinese government made the decision to allow Snowden to leave Hong Kong. It rejected the alternative of considering his extradition to the United States under the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong. In the meantime, China extracted some propaganda value out of Snowden’s disclosures about the extent of NSA surveillance around the world, including in China. Snowden’s disclosures gave the Chinese government something to throw back at U.S. officials who have complained about Chinese cyber-espionage against American businesses. Chinese state-controlled media had a field day accusing the United States of hypocrisy. Moreover, according to the New York Times, Western intelligence experts whom the paper consulted believe that the Chinese government was able to drain the contents of Snowden’s laptops he had with him in Hong Kong.

However, Snowden’s continued long term presence in Hong Kong would have created a problem for China. It wanted to avoid being seen as subservient to U.S. demands by arresting Snowden and conducting a hearing to determine whether he should be extradited to the United States. At the same time, it did not want to unnecessarily upset U.S.-China relations so soon after the Obama-Xi summit by giving Snowden asylum. So it threw the Snowden hot potato over to its ally Russia, where Putin takes great pleasure in giving President Obama the back of his hand.

Russia has no intention of agreeing to Obama administration requests to turn Snowden over to U.S. authorities for prosecution. “Why should the United States expect restraint and understanding from Russia?” said Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament.

Straining credibility completely, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary responded to a question whether Russian authorities  had spoken with Snowden by saying: “Overall, we have no information about him.”

Let’s not forget that Putin was a former Soviet intelligence agent. His first position in the KGB was in a department called Service Number One, which was responsible for recruiting foreigners in the country to serve KGB intelligence purposes. As Putin’s KGB career progressed, he served undercover in East Germany. According to John Lloyd’s March 19, 2000 article in the New York Times Magazine entitled The Logic of Vladimir Putin, “His real task was to recruit agents to supply technical and economic information.”

While Putin may not consider Snowden important enough to keep in his country, it is unlikely that the former KGB agent could resist the temptation to return to his spying days and make sure that his country gets maximum information from Snowden in return for helping the fugitive escape from the clutches of those evil Americans.

WikiLeaks, whose own fugitive leader Julian Assange has been given asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy, is trying to arrange Snowden’s safe passage from Russia to Ecuador. “He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks,” WikiLeaks boasted in a statement.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino acknowledged in his Twitter message: “The government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward Snowden.”

Snowden, who claims to have leaked the NSA information in the interest of promoting more openness and public transparency for government operations, does not seem bothered in the least that his protectors have a wretched record in that regard.  China and Russia suppress freedoms of speech and press. Dissenters are routinely punished. Extreme government secrecy is the norm.

Ecuador, where Snowden may ultimately be headed, treats its own leakers of classified information, including the press, very harshly. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, “the Ecuadorean Congress, at President Rafael Correa’s insistence, passed a law that prohibits news organizations from publishing classified or confidential government documents or material from personal documents without their owner’s permission.”

Correa’s chief communications adviser, Fernando Alvarado, defended the Ecuadorian government’s crackdown on the media by describing the media as “weeds that need to be cleaned.”

Where Edward Snowden will finally end up is anyone’s guess at this time. Let’s hope the U.S. government will find a way to get him back to the United States. However, this whole episode has humiliated the United States which, like so many other foreign policy disasters, has occurred on Obama’s watch. With all of its technical prowess, U.S. intelligence services still allowed this unprecedented leak to happen. Now we are being made to look helpless by China and Russia, as they have stood in the way of the United States being able to rapidly bring Snowden back to his home country to stand trial before he does more lasting damage.

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  • Robert Johnson

    Is someone warning of a crime committing a crime? If the US government is secretly violating the Constitution on an historical scale, setting up a police state step by step, would someone who reports this be a criminal? “First they came for the Tea Party but I had been told they were bad so I didn’t care. Then one day they came for me but there was no one left to speak up.” Anyone supporting the governments massive and growing police state apparatus, just consider…YOU could be next on the list for harassment and personal destruction by federal agencies and spying on your every communication. How would that feel?

    • Rocky Mountain

      Please tell me what crime was committed by whom and to whom? You may not like the policies and/or practices of the NSA but that’s an entirely different thing than what you are claiming.

      • tickletik

        If the law hasn’t been violated in letter, it has most certainly been raped in spirit. The ability and approval given to the NSA to monitor and record all our conversations, our accounts (because anything transmitted online goes through fiber optic backbone which they have access to), is very much against the spirit of the constitution, our private thoughts, our location (google maps locates a person constantly if you activate it on the phone, the NSA clearly has access to everything google has access to, so yes even your location), etc…

        What is going on here is obviously wrong.

      • Jsjk

        Judicial Watch (the website) has a list of the top ten most corrupt politicians for 2012. Obama makes it into the top ten. He has committed a number of unconstitutional and illegal acts. Check it out.

  • Robert Johnson

    It’s just not this one example of a police state apparatus being set up. Combine this with the use of federal agencies to harass groups and individuals. Don’t you see that in the near future, this power will be used to destroy YOU? Your family? Vote for the wrong person? Send an email critical of the President? Suddenly you have an IRS audit, the EPA condemns your home, social workers take your kids and a SWAT team kicks in your door at midnight because “maybe” you might own a firearm. Wake up and see where the trail is leading, into the darkest of nights. No, America is not immune from History.

    • NAHALKIDES

      We already knew that the Democrat Party is wholly committed to totalitarian rule, and too many Republicans go along with them. Nothing the NSA did is anywhere near as sinister as Democrats’ plans to abrogate the First and Second Amendments. And while I’m not at all convinced the government really needs to go through everyone’s phone records to combat Islamic Terrorism (and that’s what they’re trying to do even while denying that Islam is the motive for the terrorism), at the same time everyone entrusted with secret information is not entitled to his own independent judgment as to whether that information will remain secret. It wasn’t Snowden’s call as to whether the program should remain secret; thus he should be prosecuted.

      It’s different if the law has been broken – that’s the dividing line between “whistleblower” and ordinary “leaker”. But the sad fact is there’s no indication the law was broken here. This is the time to consider changing the law – Republicans in the House could take the lead on this and pass a law making phone records “papers and effects” under the Fourth Amendment, and declaring that both the customer and the phone company are protected under that Amendment’s provisions.

  • Tan

    This is crazy what I’m going to say, but I’ll just say it. I think it’s possible that Snowden could be playing both sides of this issue. He is most likely telling the American public something that they want to hear. After all, you have Fast & Furious, Obama supporting jihadists, and the IRS scandal. And now we have a ex-NSA contractor telling us about the PRISM program. This so far, I believe this is real and is a fact. On the other hand, China recently hacked us and stole classified military information. Could it be that China and Snowden made a deal in order for him to get into Hong Kong? Now all of a sudden, Wikileaks, Russia, and Latin America gets involved and supports Snowden. All of them are far-Left or Communists. Greenwald, the journalist, is a International Socialist Organization member backing up Snowden too. Something is very wrong with this picture. If Snowden wanted to expose the PRISM program, he should have done it in the US, not Communist China. Could it be that this Snowden guy is part of a major provocation plan rather than just being in the interest of protecting the US? Is this part of a false flag mixed with parts of the truth? And why are people and nations who are Leftists/Communists turning their backs on a US Marxist president? Theory 1: maybe this isn’t about the US being safe from tyranny. Maybe what this is about is making a series of plans to justify more restrictions on our 4 amendment, and this is just stuff I’m making up: step (1) both the Left and the Right in the US praise Snowden (the bait), step (2) Snowden escapes the US to avoid prosecution, step (3) the hard-core Left around the world now supports him (the US now feels surrounded), step (4) the US citizens forces the US government to get rid of all surveillance on literally everyone since Snowden gave them something they want to hear due to the recent Obama scandals, step (5) then a terrorist attack happens in the US that kills lots of people, and step (6) Obama uses that terror attack to justify more surveillance on us back to where we were. And so in the process behind the scenes, Snowden, Russia, China, and Wikileaks were giving Obama what he wanted, which is to make a political point to the American people of why mass surveillance is better than limited government from the so-called “right-wing extremists.” Theory 2: but if Obama has no involvement in the Snowden case, then maybe what Snowden did was made a deal with Russia and China so they can force the US to lower its guard even more so the two Communist countries can get a better strategic position over the US while Snowden thinks he’s saving the US from tyranny. China and Russia are still our enemies, so if they want to take the US out of the equation, they have to find our weaknesses, even if it requires good old fashion espionage. All of this is conspiracy theory and very big steps in logic, I know. But I’m just saying, that something is wrong when you all of a sudden see Communist dictatorships embracing a US citizen that committed treason.

    • Bamaguje

      Learn to use paragraphs. It makes your comments more readable.

    • wildjew

      I don’t consider Snowden a traitor or a hero at this point. I think I read somewhere he is a leftist who voted for Obama. I suspect Glenn Greenwald also voted for Barack Obama. I find it interesting that some Obama-supporters are now seeing evidence of despotism and police state tactics in this administration. For now, I am going to take Snowden at his word, that he did what he did as a matter of conscience, until I see further evidence disproving it. You say Snowden should have “blown the whistle here” but he is charged with violating the espionage act. Surely he faces many years of imprisonment, if not life. I wonder how many whistle blowers who do something out of conscience would risk life in prison if they could avoid it. Much has been made that Snowden has sought refuge in Communist countries; China, Russia. How many countries will offer Snowden refuge? How many countries will stand up to Obama’s demands?

      • DontMessWithAmerica

        He most definitely is a hero. He knew what he was doing when he gave up a lucrative job to become a fugitive. If we had a few more like him in the DOJ and the State Department and in the offices of Obama-appointed Czars, we could prove everything we already know and clean out this den of monsters who are destroying America.

        • wildjew

          OK, you consider him a hero. I’m not going to argue with you. History might bear-out your view as the months and years progress. I’m not going to join Frontpagemag, Speaker John Boehner, Andrew McCarthy, Lindsey Graham, etc. and condemn him as a traitor. Not at this point. He is the guy (for whatever reason) that exposed the extent of Obama’s surveillance on ordinary, law-abiding Americans.

  • Hktony

    The USA has humiliated itself. It looks weak and pathetic. Snowden has tried to wake the world from the socialist attack on freedoms yet this article blames snowden. No the usa looks bad because it is bad. Don’t do the Obama and blame some one else. This is on the states for spying on the world. for heavens sake when did the rest of the world ask the usa to spy on them?? Remember they spy for terrorists which make up a small percentage of a religion I may not name. Of why on earth spy on a kindergarten teacher, a white pensioner, a white policeman and ignore the religious places which I cannot name because the USA is a democracy which all can look up to apparently. Well after this most people will have to look down on you because of what the great non white hope did for the states. Well at least we will know if those cruel old white ladies are terrorists or not. The usa this is a poor show of freedom and democracy you show the world. You are deluded if not worse.

  • wildjew

    Snowden has been charged with violating the Espionage Act. Barack Obama has not been charged with violating the US Constitution, yet conservatives and libertarians alike believe Obama has no respect for Constitution or law. Little doubt the Chinese and Russians know Obama hasn’t any respect for the law, much less for the welfare of ‘his’ country. Who has done more damage to this country, Obama or Snowden?

    • defcon 4

      Who cares about Snowden? Especially when there’s every right to be suspicious that a sitting US president used the IRS as an instrument of political repression.

      • DaeguDave

        Earth to all people….using the IRS as an instrument of political repression has been used by just about every President since Kennedy…Republican AND Democrat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kate.curry.3950 Kate Curry

    Is there a word for someone who exposes a traitor? Barack Obama is a traitor. Americans have been betrayed by their government. Americans have betrayed themselves, their country, their Constitution. I’m having a tough time affixing a label to Snowden. I’ve ruled out traitor, though.

  • lehnne

    The political class and their patrons violate the law, the Constitution, pledges, oaths, promises, fiduciary responsibilities daily. The surveillance state was set up to protect them not the American people. Can you name members of this class that have suffered anything lately in regards to terror and finance?

  • The Dead Critic

    I will NEVER be surprised by the words: “There are TRAITORS amongst us….”

  • Jerry G

    This is just Russia and China showing their contempt for Obama. And why not? What so called world leader is more contemptible? Is Snowden a criminal for exposing the criminality of the Obama regime? I thought the Constitution which prohibits what the NSA is doing ,was the law of the land. The government has a stockpile of ridiculous so called laws which it uses against its perceived enemies. Snowden is not a traitor. Obama is, in his attack against everything that made this country good and great.

  • alpha_1

    I must say…..I hope this Snowden fella finds a safe place. The U.S. government is so very corrupt and deserves to be called on the issue of ‘spying’ on citizens of not only.the U.S. but probably Canada, Mexico and God-knows who else.

    I believe the U.S. desperately needs to get its house in order.

  • tickletik

    And yet, you have not said even one word arguing whether what Snowden did was wrong or right, you simply assume it. Excuse me, this right winger thinks he should be given a medal, and I haven’t seen anything yet that impressed me to the contrary.

  • Ellman48

    I am hoping that Snowden does do more lasting damage to the NSA, to Obama, and to this tyrannical and secretive administration. I want this scandal, the one about Benghazi and the IRS to be the tsunami that demolished the dam which this regime has erected from being scrutinized, criticized, held accountable and exposed to all its myriad crimes and injustices. Pity that he can’t make stopovers in the Muslim dictatorships like those in Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia because they would undoubtedly turn him over to their ally Obama. It seems that the Muslim autocrats have a liking for him that the rest of the world does not share.

  • Charlotta Jones

    What about the secrets that the White House (was it Donilon?) leaked? The fact that Israel had an airfield base in Azerbajan? The Stuxnet virus? No Obama and his thugs deserve to suffer. I am rubbing my hands with glee that Snowden has more secrets he will leak. Who knows what these are? Benghazi? Obama’s kill list? Obama’s true identity? Remember we do not really know who the man is. I cannot wait!

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    Where Snowden now……..?

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