Snowden's Situation is Looking Increasingly Grim

Credit: The GuardianCredit: The GuardianWhile Snowden may have taken refuge in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after fleeing Hong Kong it now appears that Russian officials are keen to have the NSA whistleblower off Russian territory. According to Wikileaks, Snowden has applied for asylum in 21 countries. None of these countries have granted Snowden asylum.

American authorities are already preparing for Snowden to try and flee to South America, sending an arrest warrant to Ireland, thereby making a stopover there very risky.

In Iceland, an attempt by some legislators to grant Snowden citizenship didn't receive much support.

In addition to the diplomatic and legal obstacles facing Snowden it looks like an increasing number of Americans believe he did the wrong thing when he released classified documents relating to NSA surveillance programs.

Over at Politico Philip Ewing has argued that Snowden’s worst fear, that nothing will change as a result of his revelations, may be coming true:

One month after the Guardian’s first story, which revealed an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing the NSA to collect the phone records of every Verizon customer, there has been no public movement in Washington to stop the court from issuing another such order. Congress has no intelligence reform bill that would rein in the phone-tracking, or Internet monitoring, or cyberattack-planning, or any of the other secret government workings that Snowden’s disclosures have revealed.

Unless a government unexpectedly decides to grant Snowden asylum or he decides to try and flee Sheremetyevo airport it looks like Snowden will be back in the U.S. sooner than he expected under less than desirable circumstances.

Snowden knew when he revealed the extent of the NSA’s collection of communication meta-data that he would be in trouble with American authorities. You would have to be very stupid or naive to believe that leaks go unpunished or are forgotten. Anyone who has been following the Snowden story knows that he is not stupid. I don’t know how likely Snowden thought it would be that he would be granted asylum by a foreign government. If he expected to be granted asylum easily, which seems unlikely given the amount of preparation he put into leaking the information he did, then the last few weeks have almost certainly been an unpleasant grounding in reality. If he did expect that asylum was far from guaranteed then it remains to be seen what Snowden’s Plan B looks like.

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  • Warrren||

    There's always....Somalia.

  • datcv||

    If he can avoid the CIA's secret torture rooms there.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If we know about them, then they aren't really a secret.

    They're more like Barack Obama's Support and Knowledge Torture Rooms Brought to You by the CIA.

  • A Serious Man||

    Snowden knew when he revealed the extent of the NSA’s collection of communication meta-data that he would be in trouble with American authorities. You would have to be very stupid or naive to believe that leaks go unpunished or are forgotten. Anyone who has been following the Snowden story knows that he is not stupid.

    So either very brave or very stupid?

  • Pro Libertate||

    How did Snowden become the whole story? Even here, there's now more talk about him than about what he's uncovered.

  • Warrren||

    Exactly!

  • Tony||

    What did you expect? If you want meaningful investigative journalism, watch PBS. The political news leviathan, which is what most news is these days, cares about the drama.

  • Zeb||

    I have to mostly agree here. Frontline and the News Hour are about the best TV news has to offer these days.

  • A Serious Man||

    That is an unfortunate side-effect. One wonders if surrendering peacefully to the US authorities and making his case in a trial would have better served the cause of raising awareness about the surveillance state.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We demand a sacrifice!

  • Rasilio||

    I don't know where to find a Shrubbery for you

  • Pro Libertate||

    Call Roger. Shrubberies are his trade. He is a shrubber. His name is Roger the Shrubber. He arranges, designs, and sells shrubberies.

  • Rasilio||

    Does he have any that look nice but aren't too expensive?

  • Raven Nation||

    Assuming, of course, that he would get a trial in an open court.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Yeah. Something like "you are charged ...REDACTED... guilty, sentenced to. ...REDACTED..."

  • juris imprudent||

    That might be the only thing that would refocus the story.

    What are they really going to do - name him an enemy combatant?

  • Volren||

    More likely he's thrown in a cage somewhere and "processed" until he's forgotten, like Manning.

  • wwhorton||

    You mean like PFC Bradley "Hey, whatever happened to that one guy from the Army who was in that Wikileaks movie or something" Manning?

  • DJF||

    Because the government and its bootlickers in the MSM have been going on and on that what Snowden leaked was “old news” about a program that had been in place for years and had been supervised by both the Congress and the Courts.

    The fact that the government has repeatedly lied about the program and the supervision of the program involved rubber stamping everything that the government wanted is being ignored.

    Instead both the government and MSM are whispering about secrets and Chinese and Russians and how Snowden is maybe/could be/probably just another America hating traitor.

  • Mike M.||

    A far left wing democrat got elected president, that's how.

    If George W. Bush was still running things, half of the hypocritical vermin calling for Snowden to be locked up for life (if not summarily executed) would be falling all over themselves to bestow the Nobel Peace Prize on him, along with all the other great prizes of the world.

  • robc||

    How did Snowden become the whole story?

    The pro-administration members of the media made it happen.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You know, M*A*S*H lied. Suicide is not painless.

  • juris imprudent||

    That's only because liberty just won't DIE.

  • Zeb||

    WTF, Iceland? You take Bobby Fisher when no one else wants him, but not this guy?

  • Acosmist||

    Maybe Snowden should rant about the Jews.

  • Dave Krueger||

    The reason Snowden didn't get much support among the public is that the public mostly doesn't like to have their day interrupted with news that their country is becoming the state depicted in Orwell's book, "1984".

    Hahahaha! Just kidding. The vast majority of people wouldn't have any clue what that book is even about unless it was the subject of an episode of CSI Miami or Dancing with the Stars.

    I hope I live long enough for them to all be surprised when the U.S. becomes like East Germany used to be. It will be so much fun to hear them proclaim, "We never saw it coming!"

  • Zeb||

    Hey, Dave Krueger. I've missed your comments from the old Agitator blog.

  • Brandon||

    Is this the same Dave Krueger? The guy whose guest-blogging was so awful it convinced Radley to sell out to HuffPo?

  • Paul.||

    I hope I live long enough for them to all be surprised when the U.S. becomes like East Germany used to be.

    No one gets surprised. Your freedoms erode away, and shortly after each erosion, the litany of 'new normals' just become 'normals'.

  • Gray Ghost||

    + 1 "Neighborhood lockdown."

  • Dave Krueger||

    No one is surprised until it happens to them. Then they're suddenly very surprised. But, then it's too late.

  • ||

    I'm pretty surprised Putin's administration didn't outright tell DC to fuck off on the issue and grant Snowden asylum. I can't think of another country that would openly defy the federal government of the United States like that.

  • DJF||

    Putin said he would give asylum if Snowden stops giving out information. He probably just doesn’t want this becoming some long running diplomatic deal.

    He also probably does not care about how much the US government spies on the US public.

  • Rasilio||

    The problem with guys like Snowden is that as long as he is in the news he makes citizens wonder what their own government is doing to them.

    If he shut his mouth Russia would be more than happy to let him live in a nice little Dacha on the black sea just to rub it in the US's face but that doesn't mean they want this idea of the people prying into the governments business being propagated.

  • robc||

    Considering some of the banking stuff that is happened, Im surprised Switzerland didnt take him.

    Of course, they didnt say know, they just said he had to be in Switzerland to apply, which is a gamble.

  • Jerryskids||

    Snowden’s worst fear, that nothing will change as a result of his revelations, may be coming true...

    I don't think Snowden was stupid enough to think that his revelations by themselves would change things, he perhaps was naive enough to hope that his revelations would cause enough public outrage to cause elected officials to want to (or at least appear to) give a shit about government over-reach.

    Sadly, the lack of change confirms a small percentage of the public's worst fear - that government can do whatever the hell it wants and very few people are going to give a shit.

    Of course, even a cursory glance at history should have told you this was coming. Ever wonder how Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and a hundred other would-be Legends-league mass murderers got away with what they did without a popular revolution leading to their execution? Because people generally don't give a shit.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Ever wonder how Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and a hundred other would-be Legends-league mass murderers got away with what they did without a popular revolution leading to their execution? Because people generally don't give a shit.

    It's just how it was proclaimed in Game of Thrones. The plebes don't care about what those at the top do. They just want a long summer and enough rain for their crops.

  • Paul.||

    And free healthcare. Always free healthcare.

  • Warrren||

    Activia!

  • John||

    You have to remember something here. Obama is a fucking moron who is incapable of thinking anything through. I don't think a trial is anything the government wants. A trial will open up the whole can of worms about what Snowden leaked and how he got access to it. The government will have to admit in court what of this stuff is true and how they managed to let some contractor get access to it. That will embarrass the shit out of the NSA and a lot of other people. It will not end well for the government or Snowden.

    A smart administration would have secretly given a nudge and a wink to some country to take Snowden in. Snowden would have then faded into obscurity along with this story. But Obama is not smart. He is epically stupid. So, he went after Snowden and got him. And now he is going to wish he didn't have him and will no idea what to do with him.

  • Pro Libertate||

    They'll just have stuff kept from the public under the label, "NATIONAL SECURITY." At worst, the judge might see it.

  • John||

    It won't be that simple. There is a reason why real scumbags like the Walkers got plea bargains. It is because a full trial would have been a real embarrassment. It is the same thing here.

    They will have to offer Snowden a plea bargain. And if he doesn't take it, they are screwed. Where are they going to get a jury? What if it hangs? Only takes one guy who thinks Snowden is a hero.

    If Snowden takes the offer, it will be better but it still will suck since they will have to say what of what he said was both true and classified. They would have been better off having him go into exile somewhere to be forgotten. His return will only put this stuff on the front pages for months on end.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Would the jury need to all have TS/SCI clearance? Or would the judge just examine all of the evidence in camera, and tell the jury basically that Snowden's on trial for divulging classified info, and that they don't need to know what the info actually is?

    IANAL, but can't the judge just disallow Snowden's whistleblower defense from ever making it in front of the jury? Similarly to how MJ dispensary juries weren't allowed to know that the MJ was legal under state law? I see the guy ending up like Mordechai Vanunu, if he's lucky. Only, O would also try to throw the Sunday Times reporter in jail too.

    Amazing to me how the populous just collectively went, "Meh," when told that all of their communications were being listened to and stored by the Fed. We truly don't deserve this republic anymore.

  • John||

    but can't the judge just disallow Snowden's whistleblower defense from ever making it in front of the jury

    He could have except for one thing, they charged him with espionage. His whistleblower claim is not a defense to leaking classified information. But it is a defense to espionage. To prove espionage, the government will have to prove Snowden was working for a foreign power and released the information to aide that power. Snowden's claim that he did it to uncover what he though were abuses to the American public is a defense to the espionage charge.

    They were total morons to charge him with espionage. They just made all of his whistle blower claims relevant and admissible in court.

  • Gray Ghost||

    I don't understand. If this is the actual criminal complaint, then Snowden is getting charged with violating 18 USC (sections) 641, 793(d), and 798(a)(3). I'm guessing that the Espionage Act crimes you're referencing are 793(d) and 798(a)(3). But neither of them require that Snowden publish to a foreign power---though foreign powers are mentioned in one of the "Or" clauses---merely that he disclosed to "any person not entitled to receive it" (793) or any "unauthorized person" (798).

    Isn't the judge able then, to merely ask, "Did you disclose to anyone not authorized to receive this info? Yes or No?" and that ends the inquiry? The statute, as I read it, doesn't require an explanation by the accused of their motives for disclosure, only if they knowingly and willfully disclosed.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Arrgh. Complaint linked here.

  • John||

    793 is straight up leaking classified information. That is what he should have been charged with. Section 798 (a) says

    Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—

    And they charge him with (a)(3) which says

    (3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or

    Understand the government has to prove every element in the statute. So they have to prove that what he released was done for the benefit a foreign power (i.e. he was a spy) OR that the release was "in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States" meaning they have to show why and how the US was harmed. In either case his whistle blower claim is a valid defense. If the program was illegal and abusive, then revealing its existence wasn't prejudicial. If he released to to show abuse, it wasn't released to help a foreign power.

  • Gray Ghost||

    O.K., looking at 798(a)(3), (which is a shittily drafted statute, but I digress) Snowden:

    Willingly and knowingly communicated, [Check]
    To an unauthorized person, [Check]
    Any classified information, [Check]
    (3) Concerning the communication intelligence activities of the U.S., [Check].

    Is the "[O]r uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States," language just another OR clause, or is it another element of the crime? The drafting makes it really ambiguous what's required, and I don't want to go trawling through '798 cases to find where the judge explains the required elements.

    As for '793, U.S. v. Morison, 844 F.2d 1057, (1988), seems analogous, and also didn't require disclosure to a foreign power, just that the information related to the national defense. Morison did end up getting pardoned in 2001, FWIW.

  • John||

    I read A as being required meaning you have to show that the interests of the US government were prejudiced or that it was FOR the benefit of a foreign government, not TO the benefit. I read the for to mean they have to prove you did it to help a foreign government.

  • MasterDarque||

    Even if you have a clearance you still need the need to know aspect...this is sad but once again I fear the rank and file American would watch Snowden be killed on TV and not shed a tear

  • mad libertarian guy||

    There is a reason why Obama insisted on adding the indefinite detention clause in the AUMF.

    Snowden is that reason. Snowden will disappear and no one will hear from him again as he rots in some American prison with no trial or due process.

  • John||

    He is not going to indefinitely detain Snowden. The AUMF would not trump the Constitution. Snowden is a US citizen and they will have him in custody. The Courts will never let them just lock him up. Hell, even Padia got habaeus review. So would Snowden.

    Obama is craven and border line retarded. But even Obama understands he couldn't get away with that.

  • Mike M.||

    You mean Nidal Malik Hasan was the reason. The AUMF was put in place way before anyone had ever heard of Snowden.

  • DJF||

    Maybe this is what the Putin deal was. Snowden shuts up and he stays in Russia, but Snowden so far has not taken the deal.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I watched a few minutes (don't ask me why) of that insufferable douchebag Lawrence ODonnell a few nights ago. Snowden was the topic, and he and some woman were gleefully talking about how Snowden hadn't "fully thought through" the endgame. The woman said Snowden should come back and get the fatal government assfucking he so richly deserves, and ODouchenell, having already tried and convicted him, said he could understand why Snowden doesn't want to come back and spend the next twenty or thirty years in prison.

    They seemed utterly unconcerned with the substance of Snowden's revelations. HE MADE THE ASCENDED ONE LOOK BAD, AND FOR THIS HE MUST PAY!

  • DJF||

    “””I watched a few minutes (don't ask me why)””

    I do it because I generally have a good opinion of people and if I don’t watch them every few months then I start thinking that the politicians and MSM are really not that bad. So I watch them and I realize that, yes they are that bad and even worse.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If you want meaningful investigative journalism, watch PBS.

    *outright, prolonged laughter*

  • The Late P Brooks||

    One wonders if surrendering peacefully to the US authorities and making his case in a trial would have better served the cause of raising awareness about the surveillance state.

    I see no likelihood whatsoever of Snowden being allowed to present anything resembling a defense based on the facts in open court.

  • John||

    He won't have to. The government will have to show what information he leaked and that it was classified.

    Where they really fucked themselves was charging him with espionage. That means they are going to have to show who he was spying for. And it will allow him to enter the defense that he revealed to to make the information public not to aid a foreign power.

    Again, Obama and Holder are morons. They are going to fuck this case up.

  • Not an Economist||

    I remember reading Snowden was in contact with Greenwald and Wikileaks before he joined the NSA and that he joined the NSA for the sole purpose of gathering and leaking documents. That is pretty much the textbook definition of espionage.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    Where they really fucked themselves was charging him with espionage.

    It's theater. Obama plays up to the statists by showing he's tough on Snowden. And the espionage charge drives aways some possible support from the general public Later it's either a stick to get him to plead to a lesser crime or they go to trial on a simple leaking classified info and stick him in a hole for twenty years.

  • el Diablo Gigante||

    cry me a fucking river. this idiot, like assange, is an attention whore. he could have dropped this information anonymously and it would have still had the same impact.

  • John||

    He could have given the information to someone like Ron Wyden. Wyden could have then leaked it on the House floor, where he has total legal immunity, and there would have been nothing anyone could have done about it. Or just told Greenwald not to reveal his source. Then Greenwald would be the one going to jail and even then only if they called a grand jury and managed to subpoena Greenwald, which would be difficult as long as Greenwald stayed in the UK. He could have leaked this stuff and not been caught.

    Of course, that wouldn't have made Snowden famous, which seems to have been the point.

  • juris imprudent||

    Ha, immunity in the Senate for embarrassing Fine-stain (Chair of Intel Committee) and Obamessiah? There would only be two votes to save his ass - Paul and Merkeley.

  • John||

    It is not up to a vote. It says in the Constitution members of Congress cannot be prosecuted for anything they do on the floor. Goldwater read out the ROE from Vietnam on the Senate floor one time. They were classified but there was nothing anyone could do about it.

  • robc||

    he could have dropped this information anonymously

    No he couldnt. The source of the information would have been freakin obvious.

    He was fleeing before the info was published because he knew the source would be easily figured out. Getting his name out there may have saved his life.

  • John||

    No he couldnt. The source of the information would have been freakin obvious.

    I don't think so. Snowden was just another contractor. If he had access to this, a lot of other people did. It would not have been obvious at all who leaked it.

  • tarran||

    I believe the NSA would have figured it out very quickly by looking at the logs of who Greenwald talked to.

    This shit is their bread and butter.

  • John||

    No he couldnt. The source of the information would have been freakin obvious.

    I don't think so. Snowden was just another contractor. If he had access to this, a lot of other people did. It would not have been obvious at all who leaked it.

  • ||

    "Amazing to me how the populous just collectively went, "Meh," when told that all of their communications were being listened to and stored by the Fed. We truly don't deserve this republic anymore."

    uh, no. The communications weren't being listened to and stored. The "metadata" was being stored. Iow, the content of the communications wasn't heard, only the data about who from/to, time and length etc. It's the difference between storing an email header vs. the content of the email itself

    If Snowden had revealed that the NSA was actually listening to and recording the CONTENT of the communications, that would have been a much more damning revelation, although what he did divulge is still damning the NSA pretty strongly.

  • robc||

    Metadata is bad enough.

  • MasterDarque||

    Explain to the average person what metadata is - the cause for liberty and freedom is truly hopeless

  • Warrren||

    That's like a Transformer, right?

  • robc||

    Metadata IS data.

  • Fluffy||

    No.

    The metadata revelation was on the first day.

    Then AFTER that lying cocksucker in the White House got up there and said, "Hey, it't just metadata, we don't grab any content!" subsequent releases showed that they do in fact grab voice and data content.

    Thank you, Mr. Low Information Voter.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The "metadata" was being stored. Iow, the content of the communications wasn't heard, only the data about who from/to, time and length etc."

    If the FBI came and knocked on your door tomorrow and asked you for a list of everyone you've talked to on the phone for the past month, what their phone numbers are, and how long you talked to them...

    Would you just give them all that information because it was metadata?

    Or would you tell them to go get a warrant and take the fifth?

  • Cdr Lytton||

    What's the problem? Supercop just calls up the phone company all the time for metadata.

    hth

  • Ken Shultz||

    I wonder if Obama already had his people write a speech in case Snowden offs himself.

    God forbid Snowden actually did such a thing, but if I had to spend the rest of my life in prison...it's something to think about.

    And there's no way Obama is gonna let Snowden get off with a light charge--lying to Congress under oath is one thing, but there's no way Obama's gonna let Snowden wiggle into a ten year sentence on this. Snowden's gonna be an old man when he gets out--if he ever gets out.

    Especially after he embarrassed Obama like that--that's the unpardonable sin in Prog World! Obama's gonna completely destroy Snowden for that.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    they didnt say [no], they just said he had to be in Switzerland to apply, which is a gamble.

    How awesome would it be if Putin put Snowden in a sealed train car and shipped him secretly across Europe to Switzerland?

  • juris imprudent||

    [stands and applauds...]

  • Cdr Lytton||

    And once he gets there, the Swiss will open it up and walk him onto the US government plane waiting for him.

    Or it could be a complete coincidence that USA Today ran a story in today's paper about Swiss involvement in money trafficking.

  • FatDrunkAndStupid||

    I know it isn't what he wants because he won't be able to continue to criticize the US Government with complete freedom, but at this point he should probably just take Putin's deal and stay in Russia for the time being. If Rand gets elected, he can come home within four years, and if not, at least he's operating as a free man and not cooped up in some airport prison. Plus he can always continue the quest to get asylum in Iceland or elsewhere from within Russia itself.

  • Mark Lambert||

    It's "try TO flee" not "try AND flee." "Try and" is grammatically incorrect and logically makes no sense.

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