The United States is directing threatening language at countries which don’t do what they’re told when it comes to handing over former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is on the run after leaking details of PRISM to the media.
Snowden proved that the US government is spying on its own citizens using some dodgy court orders made possible by the Bush government’s Patriot Act. So far, the political establishment has said it was acting within the law, but since the initial leak, further damning evidence has come to light – including details of a British GCHQ operation to wiretap fibre-optic cables crucial to internet communications.
Snowden initially fled to Hong Kong, fearing the reaction of the US government, but has now left after his country attempted to have him extradited. Hong Kong told the United States that it would have to apply for a formal extradition according to the law, and that it wasn’t legal to hand over individuals because of US pressure.
While Washington and Hong Kong traded blows, Snowden flew to Moscow – and it is reported that he plans to fly from there to Cuba while Ecuador mulls whether it will grant him asylum.
For reasons known only to itself, the White House said it expected the Russian government to send Snowden back to the United States. It has also lodged “strong objections” to Hong Kong and China over the decision to allow Snowden to escape.
The explosive leaks have humiliated the White House and turned the narrative that China is the world’s sole surveillance state on its head. A smear campaign has been underway to paint Snowden as a “traitor”, although he appears to be motivated by the unconstitutional practices of the NSA.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, insisted that Moscow should look at all options available to return Snowden back to the States for questioning.
The US is now threatening countries which even consider providing Snowden asylum.
In an official threat, a State Department official warned governments that Snowden “should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States”.
While US officials are busy snubbing China and Russia for their suspected involvement in Snowden’s escape, this ignores the reasons they could have for wanting to provide him with assistance. Snowden revealed that the US had been serially hacking into Chinese computers in a way that made Bejing’s alleged incursions into the US look very small potatoes.
Snowden pointed out that the US had been hacking Chinese mobile phone firms as well as targeting China’s elite Tsinghua University, the alma mater of many of China’s top leaders.
This behaviour flies in the face of the US government’s insistence it has been an innocent victim of Chinese government computer hacking.
Ecuador and Cuba, where it is reported Snowden hopes to travel to, are members of the ALBA bloc, an alliance of social democratic or purportedly leftist governments in Latin America that pride themselves on their credentials of national autonomy from the United States. Venezuela is also part of the group.
Ecuador has been sheltering the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, at its London embassy for the past year.
Wikileaks said Snowden was accompanied by diplomats and Sarah Harrison, a British legal researcher working for WikiLeaks.