Edward Snowden gives countries a chance to thumb nose at US
The US has long emphasized the importance it gives to the human rights of the citizens of the nations it is dealing with. Now, countries aiding Edward Snowden as he tries to evade US justice can turn the tables on the US.
The carefully planned journey of Edward Snowden from Hong Kong to Russia – then to Cuba possibly, before ending up in Ecuador to seek political asylum? – underscores just how many countries, big and small, are happy to have an occasion to stick it in the eye of the United States.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Edward Snowden on the run: villain or hero?
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The US and the Obama administration in particular are quick to emphasize the importance they give to the human rights of the citizens of the countries they are dealing with. Needless to say, however, those countries don’t always take well to American lesson-giving.
With the case of Mr. Snowden – a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details of top-secret American and British surveillance programs and who is now sought by the US on espionage charges – those countries have a chance to turn the tables on the US.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said, “I simply do not see the irony” – that countries whose human rights records are deeply questioned by international rights groups, as well as by the US, seem to be the ones most willing to aid Snowden in his flight from US justice.
China is accused of broadly limiting personal freedoms and targeting dissidents, Russia received an international black eye last year for the high-profile prosecution of members of the Pussy Riot feminist punk-rock group, and Ecuador is under fire from rights groups for a succession of laws limiting personal freedoms – including one this month that prohibits news organizations from publishing classified or confidential government documents.
As Secretary of State John Kerry quipped as he was questioned Monday about the countries on Snowden’s seeming itinerary, "I wonder if Snowden chose Russia or China for assistance because they are such bastions of Internet freedom.”
But those countries’ human rights records are “another matter,” according to Mr. Assange, the noted leaker of sensitive US diplomatic cables who has himself been living at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for more than a year to avoid extradition to Sweden.
Assange did say that “no one is suggesting that Ecuador is engaging in the kinds of abuses the US” is committing on a large scale internationally – which he said range from the Obama administration’s program to “hack and spy on everyone across the entire world” to President Obama’s “assassination program in other countries.”
The US is “trying to bully Russia and other states” into turning over a legitimate asylum seeker, Assange said, adding, “No self-respecting country would submit to ... the bullying by the US in this matter.”
Assange said Snowden is en route to Ecuador, where he expects to apply for asylum, but he declined to offer any details of Snowden’s route, other than what was already known Monday morning – that Snowden on Sunday had flown from Hong Kong to Moscow, where he was said to have remained in the airport’s transit areas.
Snowden had been expected to take a Moscow-to-Havana flight Monday, but he was not on the plane when it departed, according to numerous reports.
Snowden is still expected to make his way from Moscow to Quito, Ecuador, via Cuba and Venezuela, according to other sources – two other countries with antagonistic relations with the US that in the past have jumped at the chance to make problems for Washington.