Ruminations, June 30, 2013
And the NSA hits keep coming
The former National Security Administration consultant Edward Snowden continues on the lam from an espionage charge. That is, Snowden and his three laptop computers are on the lam. And no one seems to want to help the United States capture him.
China. China was the first nation where Snowden fled and had jurisdiction over him while he and his three laptops were in Hong Kong. The United States revoked his passport and asked China to arrest Snowden and send him back to the United States in accordance with the U.S.’s and China’s extradition treaty. It was assumed that shipping Snowden back to the U.S. would have been done as a matter of course – but such was not the case. China cited a technical error on the U.S. request and let Snowden travel. (The Chinese may have been further incensed over Snowden’s claim that Chinese private text messages have been hacked by the NSA.)
Interpol. At the same time, the U.S. could have asked assistance from the international police agency – Interpol. Some 190 nations are members of Interpol and a request by the U.S. would have broadened the net. But, for some reason, the U.S. has never asked for Interpol’s help.
Russia. In Russia, where our former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously pressed the reset button signifying a new and better relationship with the U.S., things have gotten worse. Snowden flew from China to Russia and has been in the transit lounge of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for better than five days now and Russian President Vladimir Putin says that technically, since Snowden is in the transit lounge, he is not in Russia; therefore Putin has no jurisdiction over him. Really? Anne Applebaum, historian of Eastern Europe and columnist for the Washington Post last week said that Russian law limits stays in the transit lounge to one day. So now that Snowden has overstayed his limit, he is technically in Russia and violating Russian law; so Putin can ship him and his three computers back to the United States – if he wants to.
Ecuador. Snowden has said that his ultimate destination is Ecuador, where he hopes to find political asylum. But last Friday’s phone call from Vice President Joe Biden to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa asking Correa to deny Snowden asylum, came one day after Ecuador announced the cancellation of its free-trade agreement with the United States. That can’t be a good omen – especially since Ecuador stood to benefit from that treaty far more than the U.S. The U.S. may have been hoping to use its financial muscle to help ensure that Ecuador doesn’t offer asylum to Snowden, but that evidentially is not going to work. Ecuador’s communication minister, Fernando Alvarado, said that the U.S. could use the $23 million in aid earmarked for Ecuador to help itself “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity.” Well. (Meanwhile, Ecuador has announced that it will meet with Russia, Cuba and Venezuela next week to discuss Snowden.)
Europe. A wedge between the United States and Europe is now being put in place by today’s assertion by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the NSA has placed listening devices in the European Union diplomatic offices in Washington and New York (EU offices at the UN) and “Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington.” In addition, they say, the U.S. listened in at the EU headquarters in Brussels.
The source of their Der Spiegel’s Information is none other than Edward Snowden.
To say that the EU is alarmed is putting it mildly. The EU countries view themselves as allies, more or less, of the United States even when the U.S. becomes, in their eyes, a bit reckless. But to many, this surveillance of allies seems to go too far and puts in jeopardy all of our European relations. On Monday, Der Spiegel promises to make more assertions and Washington will scramble to offer explanations.
The good old days of the cold war. When Secretary of State Clinton “pressed the reset button,” she had visions of going back to the good old days before George W. Bush. It seems that we’ve gone back, all right. Back to the good old days before President Nixon took the initiative to widen the gap between Russia and China. It seems that the Obama Administration, by its actions, is driving China and Russia closer together.
And back to the good old days when Stalin tried and failed to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe. It seems that Obama might be successful in this.
Even if these surveillance activities were initiated by George Bush, it makes no difference. Bush is gone and history. The current policy belongs to Obama period. If the scandal is as big as it threatens to be, it will surely rock the administration and all of Obama’s domestic programs.
The cold war was not the good old days. A revival of it is not good.
Quote without comment
European Parliament President Martin Schulz, quoted in Der Spiegel, June 30: “We need more precise information. But if [the NSA surveillance of the EU] is true, it is a huge scandal. That would mean a huge burden for relations between the EU and the US. We now demand comprehensive information.”