Arlington VA June 23, 2013
Heads for Russia, and then ....
The news this morning is that Edward Snowden, former contractor/analyst for the National Security Agency in hawaii has left his digs in Hong Kong for another location, possibly Cuba or Venezuela. News media reports have him ;landed in Moscow, and awaiting another flight out of the country..
Snowden had been in Hong Kong for more than a week, mostly in isolation, although he has given several interviews to various news outlets. His change of location is probably due to the charges filed earlier in the week in the Federal Court in the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), which charged him with both theft of government property, and other charges under the Federal Espionage Act of 1917. The US had asked the Hong Kong Government to extradite Snowden under those charges. Honk Kong's Government ,in turn, asked for clarification of the charges, and, before any reply was received, allowed Snowden to board an Aeroflot flight to Moscow.
While Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, there are exceptions in the agreement, mostly relating to what might be considered 'political' crimes, which would allow either the Hong Kong Government, or China itself, to deny the extradition request. Assuredly, the US Justice Department must have been aware of those provisions.
From a personal perspective, while I strongly want Snowden prosecuted, it would seem that the Justice Department could have been satisfied with a set of charges concerning the theft of the information and data; leaving any other charges to follow extradition. Perhaps they wanted to make an example of Snowden, or wanted to avoid another Assange debacle, but they managed to lose their leverage with the Hong Kong Government over their overly broad initial reach. That overly strong-handed approach has been a hallmark of the Justice Department under Eric Holder.
Several question still remain, of course. What did the Chinese get while he was in Hong Kong (Whether he gave it to them or not), and what will the Russians get (Whether he gives it to them or not) are two important ones, while what will end up on WIkileaks is still a major issue. Only time will tell. Meanwhiule, the US Government again has egg on its face.