Thursday, July 4, 2013

Edward Snowden jumps the shark in Moscow

Edward Snowden jumps the shark in Moscow

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Edward Snowden on a TV screen in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)
Edward Snowden on a TV screen in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)
Last month, I pleaded for an end to the breathless comparisons between Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg. News that the present-day intelligence leaker has asked the Russians for asylumshould put it to rest. Sure, Snowden made the same request of other nations. But flirting with Moscow is a credibility killer.
I’m all for whistleblowers revealing what government is doing, especially if it stretches the bounds of legality or if it’s flat-out illegal. What we know of what Snowden has released of interest to the American public has been known for a while. But what has stuck in my craw from the outset was Snowden fleeing the country.
Snowden earned side eyes from me with his decision to hightail it to Hong Kong (read, China). Then he bolted for Moscow. For a man trying to win public opinion against what he called the vast and illegal overreach of the National Security Agency, heading to Russia wasn’t exactly a smart P.R. move. That nation and Russian President Vladimir Putin aren’t exactly this nation’s best friend. Heck, they barely rise to the level of “frenemy.”
Just in his comments today, Putin said of Snowden, “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He has to stop his work aimed at damaging our U.S. partners, no matter how strange this sounds coming from me.” But when it came to President Obama’s entreaties that Snowden be extradited, Putin said, “Russia never extradites anyone anywhere and is not going to extradite anyone.” Great.
The man-without-a-country international thicket in which Snowden finds himself was totally avoided by Ellsberg. Ellsberg photocopied all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, which he described as “a continuous record of governmental deception and fatally unwise decision-making, cloaked by secrecy, under four presidents.” Unlike Snowden, Ellsberg went to senior members of Congress with his concerns. He went to the press when it looked like Congress would do nothing. For two weeks, Ellsberg and his wife hid out in Cambridge. But the man who wanted the American people to know what their government was doing in their name turned himself in at the federal courthouse in Boston.
All this is detailed in a 2010 PBS documentary called “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” The key phrase being “in America.” Would that Snowden had the courage of his convictions to stay in the United States to be held accountable for his actions rather than flee to nations that would love to have the sensitive information he has (and to embarrass the United States in the process).
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Barring of Bolivian Plane Infuriates Latin America as Snowden Case Widens

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Helmut Fohringer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, speaking to reporters at an airport near Vienna. France and Portugal had blocked his plane.
CARACAS, Venezuela — The geopolitical storm churned up by Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American intelligence contractor, continued to spread on Wednesday as Latin American leaders roundly condemned the refusal to let Bolivia’s president fly over several European nations, rallying to his side after Bolivian officials said the president’s plane had been thwarted because of suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on board.
Calling it a grave offense to their entire region, Latin American officials said they would hold an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations on Thursday.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina said the episode had “vestiges of a colonialism that we thought was completely overcome,” describing it as a humiliating act that affected all of South America.
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said in a post on Twitter that the situation was “extremely serious” and called it an “affront to all America,” referring to Latin America.
The diplomatic and political tempest over Mr. Snowden and his revelations of far-reaching American espionage programs has swept up adversaries and allies from across the globe.
Tensions emerged right away between the United States and the two major powers Mr. Snowden has fled to, China and Russia, over their refusal to detain him and turn him over to the American authorities.
The discord soon spread to some of America’s closest allies in Europe. After newspaper reportsbased on documents Mr. Showden compiled as a contractor for the National Security Agency showed that the United States had been spying on an array of embassies and diplomatic missions, including the European Union’s offices in Washington, Brussels and New York, the outrage rattled prospects for a trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement.
The United States and Europe have emphasized the importance of the trade talks, saying they would create the world’s largest free trade zone and stimulate growth. But on Wednesday, France said it would be wise for the talks to be suspended for two weeks to give Washington time to supply information about its spying program.
Hours later, José Manuel Barroso, the head of the union’s governing commission, announced a compromise in which trade talks could start as planned, but only if the United States opened talks at the same time on its intelligence operations.
Seeking to keep the trade talks on track, President Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany later responded with an agreement that security officials from their countries would hold a “high-level meeting” in coming days, Ms. Merkel’s spokesman said in a statement.
In a telephone call to President Obama on Wednesday evening, the chancellor noted that a visit to Washington by senior officials from the German government and its intelligence services offered the chance for an “intensive discussion” of concerns over the scope of American intelligence activities, data protection and privacy, the statement said.
But French officials, speaking to reporters, made it clear that they would still favor delaying trade talks if there was no movement from the Americans on the espionage by next week.
And now, the uproar has encompassed Latin America as well.
“In some sense, it parallels ironically what the N.S.A. is doing,” said Faiza Patel, a co-director of the liberty and national security program of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, a research and advocacy organization. “The N.S.A. is reaching its tentacles aross the world.”
Mr. Snowden and his disclosures have touched different chords in each region. In Europe, Ms. Patel noted, they have provoked memories of the police states created by fascism and communism, with their heavy-handed surveillance of their own people. In Latin America, she said, they have touched on a wellspring of resentment over the legacy of colonialism and American power, as well as the region’s own history of secretive dictatorships.
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Snowden still in Moscow despite Bolivian plane drama

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VIENNA/GENEVA (Reuters) - Bolivia accused the United States on Wednesday of trying to "kidnap" its president, Evo Morales, after his plane was denied permission to fly over some European countries on suspicion he was taking fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to Latin America.

Steve Bell on Bolivia and Evo Morales – cartoon 

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US refuses to comment on Morales plane but admits contact with other nations over potential Snowden flights

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Editorial Board: Plugging the leaks in the Edward Snowden case 

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THE COSTS of the Edward Snowden affair continue to mount for the Obama administration — though so far the visible damage is primarily political, rather than national security-related. On Monday,President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry struggled to respond to new allegations, leaked by Mr. Snowden to the German magazine Der Spiegel, that the National Security Agency (NSA) has bugged European Union offices in Washington and New York. If true — and Mr. Obama did not offer a denial — the revelation could complicate the incipient U.S.-E.U. free-trade talks and further sour Europeans’ once-soaring regard for Mr. Obama. Governments and their intelligence services, aware that allies often spy on each other, may be less perturbed.
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Police seize 30 metric tons of drugs in Central America, Caribbean

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AMSTERDAM | Wed Jul 3, 2013 6:58am EDT
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - About 30 metric tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana with a street value of $822 million was seized in Central America and the Caribbean last month in one of the biggest international drug hauls, pan-European police force Europol said.
It said Operation Lionfish, which targeted the maritime trafficking of drugs and illicit firearms by organized crime groups across Central America and the Caribbean, yielded the arrest of 142 people and seizure of 15 vessels as well as guns, cash, and eight metric tons of chemical precursors.
The international operation was carried out from May 27 to June 10, a Europol spokesman said, and an investigation into the source of the drugs was under way. No details were released of the nationalities of those arrested.
More than 30 countries and territories were involved in the operation, led by Interpol and supported by Europol.
"The operation was coordinated in response to growing evidence of the organized crime in the trafficking of drugs and firearms in the Central America and Caribbean regions due to its strategic location," Europol said in a statement.
(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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