Despite U.S. threats to retaliate, the Russian Federation government on Aug. 1 granted whistle-blower Edward Snowden temporary sanctuary. Snowden left Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, where he has spent the last 39 days, to move into an apartment. He has already been offered employment at VKontakte, a Russian social network website. (New York Times, Aug. 1)
Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have offered Snowden permanent asylum, but the U.S. has threatened to block air traffic carrying Snowden to those countries – – a clear act of air piracy. Washington already forced its European allies to block Bolivian President Evo Morales’ aircraft leaving from a conference in Moscow when the U.S. suspected Snowden might be on board.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife.” Schumer recommended that the Obama administration move “out of Russia the summit of G20 leaders planned for St. Petersburg.” (Reuters.com, Aug. 1)
Right-wing Sen. John McCain called the Russian government’s decision “a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States.” He called on the Obama administration to expand NATO and accelerate the European “missile-defense program” (Reuters.com, Aug. 1), even though Washington has always insisted that this program is only to defend against a potential Iranian missile attack, not the Russian missile program.
Obama administration spokesperson Jay Carney threatened that the U.S. would pull out of a planned September meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And in a move seemingly beyond coincidence, the U.S government declared a global “terrorist alert,” supposedly based on National Security Agency gathered information.
With no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Russia, Russia is under no legal obligation whatsoever to turn Snowden over. And this week, a U.S. military court convicted whistle-blower B. Manning of weighty charges for exposing military atrocities and State Department corrupt backing of “friendly” dictatorships. Snowden would likely receive similar harsh treatment.
Attorney General Eric Holder promised that Snowden would not be tortured or killed. Based on Manning’s experience of torture at Quantico military base, this pledge carries little weight.
Why has Russia’s decision to refuse Washington’s demand to turn over Snowden to face espionage charges left the Obama administration and both right-wing and “liberal” politicians frothing at the mouth?
The NSA is a key arm of the U.S. military. Edward Snowden has exposed powerful NSA computer programs like PRISM and XKeyscore, which are used not only to monitor phone calls, email and Internet chats in the U.S. and abroad, but also to spy on any number of foreign countries, such as Russia and China, as well as any number of U.S. “allied” governments and foreign corporations.
The U.S. government has arrogantly demanded that the very same governments that were targets of illegal U.S. spying turn over Snowden for harsh punishment for exposing these spy programs. Of course, there is no lack of hypocrisy – the U.S. government has refused the Venezuelan request for extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, a CIA operative who planned the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
The decision by the Russian Federation is re-enforced by popular support. Some 43 percent versus 29 percent of Russians polled favored their government’s decision to grant Snowden asylum. This comes after a recent U.S. poll here that shows that 52 percent of those polled consider Snowden to be a whistle-blower. A majority of those polled here have also said that neither Russia nor any other country should be punished for granting Snowden asylum.
Despite the U.S.’s gigantic military apparatus and its immense economic and political power, the events around Snowden show a dramatic erosion of the ability of the U.S. to get its way.