Snowden Escapes

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Not so fast, but very furious – U.S. officials have been checked by the latest move on the part of the Russian government to grant Edward Snowden a year’s asylum. This is not so much cat and mouse as better feline against tricked feline, a combination of various animals and self-interested entities who want Snowden for various reasons. That said, having navigated the labyrinth that is Russian bureaucracy, Snowden finds himself with some paperwork and temporary sanctuary.

With that paperwork, Snowden neatly slipped out of Shremetyevo airport. Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told AFP that, “Snowden has left Sheremetyevo airport. He has just been given a certificate that he has been awarded temporary asylum in Russia for one year.” He will be helped, according to his legal help, by “American friends”.

The timing of Snowden has been near meticulous. Disclosures have been scattered like well-timed gifts of merit. True, for a time, it looked like he had slipped in his estimation – the sharp thinking had been blunted after American power pressed, and to some extent succeeded, in encircling him. The Bolivian President Evo Morales fumed. The European authorities complied in attempting to search the plane flown by a sovereign head of state. But from the curiosity that is Sheremetyevo, he managed to resist and ultimately deflect those who so desperately wanted him.

White House spokesman Jay Carney had to put up a brave front, but claimed that the U.S. was “extremely disappointed.” The “reset” with Moscow is not quite setting according to plan. It was imperative now that Washington evaluate “the utility of a summit in light of this.”

Robert Menendez of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee had little patience, claiming that Snowden was “a fugitive who belongs in a United States courtroom, not a free man deserving of asylum in Russia.” Of course, Menendez is simply doing what his colleagues have had a compulsion doing: presume guilt, scream blue murder and hope for the worst.

Time and time again, Snowden’s disclosures have caught the clay-footed dunces in Washington unawares. The shadow of criminality is a long one – it stretches from Washington to Canberra, and bores its way through Europe. Rather than implicating Snowden, it does the opposite. It is the mirror of guilt for those in denial.

The latest was his revelations about XKeyscore, yet another NSA program that has involved the comprehensive collection of U.S. citizens’ data by means of mass retrieval. The Guardian duly reported that the mechanism allowed analysts to “search with no prior authorisation through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

Surveillance, for the Washington establishment, is not as bad as all that – till the NSA admits it is, casting a good portion of egg at the face of those who should better. True, there is a betrayal here, but it tends to be closer to the sort Julian Assange has noted, that of the “young, technically minded”, the hope stuffed generation that wished Obamania was more than just a manic delusion. With that turkey consumed, we best look elsewhere.

The NSA’s own response in a statement asserts that, while Snowden is correct in terms of disclosing the data retrieval program, “the implication that NSA’s collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false. NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate intelligence targets” (Washington Post, Jul 31). Presumably, friends and enemies are in the jumbled mix. They are not to know.

As if to cover its tracks, the NSA has also claimed that the operation is limited. XKeyscore is only used by “those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks.” Every well qualified thief needs a good crowbar and a few other handy implements.

The Obama security establishment has undergone a dramatic mummification. Snowden was good enough to remind us that the bandages were already well and truly applied. The tomb has been open. The bodies are turning to dust.

Snowden has also reminded his detractors about those “international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience” (Time, Jul 13). Nazi Germany’s officials were told of it, and several made the journey to the gallows for not abiding by them. The criminally delinquent detractors of a democratic state can also receive similar treatment. The legacy of the Nuremberg trials should impress themselves like streaks of thunder. Snowden “did what I believe right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing.”

He is not the only one to refer to the Nuremberg precedent in recent years. Lt. Ehren Watada of Washington State was of similar mind, refusing a deployment to Iraq in 2006 on the basis that the war was marred by illegality. Snowden has reached into the treasure trove of international law, as well as he might. The government of his home country has attempted to delegitimise him; why not return the favour by citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reminds us that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence”? And that is just the start.

In any case, we are bound to see a whole range of “revelations” (are we truly surprised anymore?) come March, when Glenn Greenwald will release his bomb heavy publication with Metropolitan Books. The publishing house has a record of releasing tomes that thumb the establishment with a degree of disdain. Brace yourselves.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire