Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Snowden ''Marooned'' in Russia, Asylum Offer ''Off" !

Editor's Note:  As I achieved the 100 posting mark last month, I decided to take a breather and take 10 days off to give more attention to my soul-mate and grandchildren. With my investigative files filling up I am now ready to expose more true facts in the months to come. Thanks for your patience.
National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden's fate seemed to grow more dire on Sunday as the president of one country offering him asylum seemed to back away from the offer while the nation currently hosting him won't let him leave the airport. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange acknowledged that Snowden appears to be ''marooned in Russia.'' The president of Ecuador -- Rafael Correa -- said that the Ecuadoran refugee documents originally issued to Snowden were are mistake and that Snowden is ultimately Russia's problem. ''He doesn't have a passport. I don't know the Russian laws, I don't know if he can leave the airport, but I understand if he can't.'' Correa told The Associated Press.

Correa confirmed that the Ecuadorean consul in London committed ''a serious error'' by initially issuing the letter-of-safe--passage for Snowden, which is what allowed him to leave Hong Kong for Russia after U.S. authorities revoked his American passport after he fled drawing vital attention to the U.S. eavesdropping  program and potential violation of human rights. Correa appears to be sending the message that it is unlikely Snowden will ever end up in Ecuador. He repeatedly emphasized the importance of the U.S. legal process. Of course this was after Vice President Biden's half hour conversation asking him to send Snowden back to the United States immediately on his arrival and highlighted threats made by a group of U.S. senators to revoke Ecuadorean trade privileges.

After spending more than a week in limbo in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport transit lounge and applying for political asylum to 20 countries, including India, and being turned down, Snowden is reported to have applied for asylum in Russia. Earlier, president Vladimir Putin suggested Snowden could stay in Russia but on the condition that he stopped harming what Mr Putin called ''our American partners. He repeated again the following day, ''If he wants to stay here, there is one condition. He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips.''  However, Putin said he suspected Snowden would not stop leaking information because ''he feels himself to be a human rights activist''. So Snowden will look further.

Actually there is quite a bit that can be done by various people to help Snowden reach a safe place where he can be free from ''persecution'' by the U.S. government. The legal basis for political asylum is very strong, especially since the U.S. has charged Snowden under the Espionage Act. Since it is pretty clear that there was no espionage involved here -- no evidence that he collaborated or even met with any foreign government. And politically, despite efforts by much of the media to brand Snowden a criminal and a traitor, most of the world appears to sympathise with him. Any government that helps him would almost certainly have popular support at home.

The problem is that these governments are reluctant to take the necessary steps to get Snowden freedom because of possible U.S. retaliation. Of course, retaliation is not as likely as many people think: Washington was angry with Hong Kong for about a day after it rejected a request for extradition, and then it blew over. Mr Putin repeated that Russia had no intention of handing him over to the U.S.. ''Russia has never given up anyone to anybody and does not plan to. And nobody ever gave up anyone to us, '' he said. He also verified that Russian intelligence agencies were not working with the 30-year-old American even though there is no stopping the steady trickle of intelligence leaks to the media. The Russian leader appeared unconcerned about the latest revelations about the scale of U.S. government surveillance of EU headquarters and the United Nations.

The Way I See that Ecuador's Foreign Minister tweeted that his country was again considering Snowden's request for asylum. But is Snowden a refugee? The U.N. defines a refugee as someone who fears ''being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion'' and is, as a result, unable or unwilling to return to his or her country. The U.N. excludes from refugee status anyone who ''has committed a serious non-political crime.''  That means Snowden is unlikely to meet the definition.

The U.S. says Snowden is not being persecuted for his political opinions and that he is free to express his views about NSA programs under the First Amendment. But releasing secret details about these programs is a violation of U.S. law, according to the Justice Department. Snowden didn't help his cause in an interview with the Guardian when he said he was ''subverting the power of government, and that's a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.'' That could be seen as an admission of the kind of serious crime that denies him the protection of of refugee status. The U.N. lets each country decide who qualifies, however, and while refugees fleeing violence in Columbia are often denied asylum in Rafael Correa'sphoto above ) Ecuador. It seems high-profile protesters get more sympathy there.

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