For a change I decided to look abroad at the drama unfolding around Edward Snowden, the 30-year-old American in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
Questions have already been asked on whether he is a villain or a hero who deserves praise from the world.
As of 3 July 2013, the young man was unable to fly out the airport because he has no legal travel documents and also has no Russian visa.
Many countries in Latin America, Asia and Europe had spurned his asylum requests despite a call by Venezuela for the world to protect the former U.S. spy agency contractor wanted by Washington for espionage.
Even Germany was not keen to have him, even though it was the most targeted European country by these snoops. There is no reason for the US to spy on Germany on this scale, since it is not a hostile nation. Some say the US was snooping on German companies and other areas of economic interest…
Who is Snowden
Unless you have been out of touch with world news, Edward Snowden is a US former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who leaked details of top-secret US and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.
In June 2013, Snowden revealed information about a variety of classified intelligence programs, including the interception of US and European telephone metadata and the PRISM and Tempora Internet surveillance programs.
Snowden said the leaks were an effort “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”.
Snowden’s leaks are said to rank among the most significant breaches in the history of the NSA. He is currently in the process of seeking asylum from U.S. prosecution.
Snowden a hero?
While several countries have refused his requests, some countries have offered him asylum, but the whistleblower will need transport and documentation out of Moscow since these countries say an application can only be made on their soil.
Bolivian President, Evo Morales used a television interview in Moscow to hint strongly that Bolivia would look favourably on an asylum request from Snowden.
His comments were echoed by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who said Caracas was also ready to consider Snowden’s asylum should he ask for it.
Maduro said Snowden should be given a “humanitarian medal” for revealing details of NSA surveillance programmes on US and foreign citizens.
“He did not kill anyone and did not plant a bomb,” Maduro told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
“What he did was tell a great truth in an effort to prevent wars. He deserves protection under international and humanitarian law.”
Many people in the United States and around the world are wondering what can be done to help him, reported the Guardian paper in the UK.
More than 123,000 Americans have signed a petition on the White House website saying that “Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon”.
Other petitions of support have gathered as many as 1.3 million signatures. And politically, despite efforts by much of the western media to brand Snowden a criminal and a traitor, most of the world appears to sympathise with him!
‘A whistleblower, not a spy’
Snowden is clear that he leaked information in order to alert the world to the unprecedented and industrial scale of NSA and GCHQ secret data trawling.
He insists that he did not leak this information in order to damage the US, its interests or its citizens.
The US has since charged Snowden under the Espionage Act although it is pretty clear that there was no espionage involved.
There is no evidence that he collaborated or even met with any foreign governments and traded secret US information.
Snowden’s father says his son is a hero
Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, meanwhile, stepped up the rhetoric in favour of his son’s actions on Tuesday, publishing an open letter that compared him to US colonial independence fighter Paul Revere.
In the open letter, Lon Snowden wrote in glowing terms about his son.
“You have forced onto the national agenda the question of whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause to believe crime is afoot to vassalage,” he wrote.
“You are a modern day Paul Revere: summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government.”
Snowden a villain?
The US State Department said it was “hopeful” Snowden would be returned to the US to face charges of espionage and theft.
Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, rejected claims made by Snowden on Monday that the US had bullied potential hosts, such as Ecuador, into withdrawing their offers of asylum.
“I am not sure what the basis for those claims are,” she said.
The US insists it has simply impressed upon possible host countries the seriousness of the crimes that Snowden has been charged with.
Psaki also defended a decision to suspend his passport which Snowden described as “using national identity as a weapon”. The State Department says such a response is normal when a US citizen attempts to flee arrest in this way.
What should happen now to Snowden? The answer matters most to Snowden, as well as to the United States, whose data was published by the Guardian and the Washington Post.
The answer still also matters to everyone in the world, because the internet is a global phenomenon, not an American one, and the data that the NSA is now routinely capturing worldwide does not belong to the agency or to the US.
What do you say?