Friday, July 12, 2013

The Utter Confusion of Snowden's Asylum Search

Edith Piaf - Non,  je ne regrette rien by bebepanda

There's been some news from Moscow.

Edward J. Snowden has received many offers of political asylum and he announced that he has accepted all of them, but for reasons that aren't entirely clear, he claims he is unable to "enjoy" these offers because he cannot travel within Russia nor can he legally leave the transit zone of the airport where he has apparently been housed at the capsule hotel since he arrived from Hong Kong. So, as far as I can puzzle out from the rather elaborate legalese of his statements, he is once again requesting asylum in Russia (which request he previously withdrew due to unacceptable conditions placed on his asylum by Vladimir Putin) so that he may travel in country until such time as external travel arrangements can be made and safe conduct assured for his eventual departure to Latin America.

Where in Latin America is not exactly clear as a number of Latin American countries have granted him asylum including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador -- or maybe not. Exactly what has been offered and by whom is quite as murky as Snowden's whereabouts and activities during his weeks-long disappearance before his brief semi-public presence at the meeting with human rights organization and legal representatives in Moscow today.

Snowden took the opportunity to denounce the United States and unnamed European governments for acting lawlessly to prevent him from "enjoying" asylum, and for their despicable acts in forcing down the airplane of a sovereign nation's head of state in order to search the plane for his presence.

It's not exactly clear what he is demanding. If I were trying to help him, I'd have no idea what he wanted me to do.

His main complaint seems to be that he is not allowed to travel legally from the transit zone because his passport was canceled by the US State Department, an arrest warrant has been issued for his apprehension, and he's afraid that the United States Government will not treat him well if he is apprehended.

Yet others have already pointed out that he can travel within Russia -- say from the airport to an embassy -- in a diplomatic car without a problem, and any nation that grants him asylum (as several have done) can also provide him with valid travel documents for his journey, wherever he wishes to go.

Nevertheless, he says he is trapped in the airport until... what?

What I gather from the statements he's made and the statements made on his behalf by WikiLeaks and the Guardian is that he seeks a status equivalent to diplomatic immunity from some country, whether Russia or some other, and a complete cessation of efforts by the government of the United States to extradite and apprehend him -- so that he may freely travel to some third country to enjoy their grant of asylum.

This is not as strange as it may sound -- of course, to his partisans, nothing he says or is said on his behalf sounds strange, but that's another topic for another day. Clearly he's been handled by WikiLeaks at least since his departure from Hong Kong, and WikiLeaks' posture has been that of a nation-state contending with other nation-states. WikiLeaks personnel have come close to demanding diplomatic immunity for themselves from other nation-states. Of course it is not granted, but they keep demanding.

Though Snowden is not a WikiLeaks factotum -- at least not so far as we know -- it appears that he is under the care and feeding of his WikiLeaks handler in Moscow, and much of what he is purported to have said or written himself since arriving in Moscow is widely believed to have been the product of WikiLeaks, or even of Julian himself. There have been reports that WikiLeaks is paying at least some of his expenses while he is on the run (or stationary in Moscow as the case may be).

His argument is so legally muddled, however, and is so compromised by propaganda and ritualized denunciations of the United States and its European handmaidens that interpretations of what he is saying and what he means and wants are required. They aren't much clearer than his own statements and those made on his behalf.

I've long believed that WikiLeaks was likely being run as a honeypot to attract would-be whistle blowers and extract whatever information they might have before turning them over to the appropriate authorities ("sorry about that!"). In that context, I saw Julian as an agency asset who went rogue when he got above himself and said he was going to release the bank docs that had come his way. All holy hell broke lose at that moment, and he became  a real fugitive and WikiLeaks was effectively neutered. Those promised bank docs were never released. Its revelations since that time have been minimal at best. But during its hey-day, WikiLeaks and Julian were media giants. Now, they're closer to pariahs as far as most of the media is concerned.

The advent of Young Snowden injected new life into Julian and WikiLeaks, though it didn't gain them much respect from People Who Mattered, respect that was largely pissed away some time ago. While Julian might be an asset that went rogue, the question has been, if he is an asset, for whom? We might be able to sort that out given the way the Snowden Thing has devolved.

It's obvious (to me) that Snowden is an asset, and it's not certain that he has actually gone rogue, but he may well be a limited hangout or even a mole. If so, there has been some speculation that he is an asset for the CIA out doing a number on the rival NSA -- and its partners. If so, that may be why, even now, the government has been somewhat reticent about rounding him up. The government is as factionalized as any other aspect of American life, and when powerful agencies and their corporate partners contend with one another for primacy, the fireworks show can be entertaining -- but very confusing. In these circumstances, we're not meant to know what's going on, and we usually don't.

I don't know what's going on here, but I doubt that little of what we're being told about it is true.

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