Snowden's flight confuses picture
Fugitive jet-setter Edward Snowden is doing his best to avoid a return to the United States.
The bewildering case of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is growing stranger by the day, as the fugitive jets from country to country in search of a comfortable locale that will grant him asylum.
Over the protests of the Obama White House, Snowden was allowed by the Chinese government to leave Hong Kong over the weekend and fly to Russia. U.S. authorities are pressing Russia to take Snowden into custody and then extradite him back to this country.
For the record, the Obama White House is expressing confidence that Russia will return Snowden to the United States. But this is a game of spy vs. spy, and it would be no surprise if Russia didn't follow the example set by China and blow off the diplomatic niceties.
Besides, Russian President Putin has not been reluctant to challenge President Obama's position on the civil war in Syria, so what's the cost of repeating this show of disrespect?
Snowden is said to be armed with a boatload of intelligence information China and Russia would love to have, assuming they don't have it already.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who published the military secrets stolen by U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, has joined Snowden's team and is assisting his flight.
Snowden's dash for a permanent place to hide undermines his self-portrayal as a conscience-stricken dissenter who felt compelled to alert the news media about high-tech violations of Americans' privacy. He's looking less and less like Henry David Thoreau or Martin Luther King Jr., high-minded dissenters who were willing to be held accountable for their actions, and more and more like a not-so-common criminal on the run.
Although much is known about Snowden and the high-tech snooping that he revealed to news media outlets in the United States and Great Britain, there is much more to be learned.
Described as a contract employee of a consulting firm working with the NSA, it's unclear how Snowden came into reach of so much sensitive information during a relatively short of amount of time. It's undisclosed, at least for now, just what information he stole and how much damage to security interests, if any, that it will cause.
The NSA is a well-known intelligence-gathering agency that tracks electronic communications all over the world. Called the "puzzle palace" and steeped in intrigue, it operates under federal law and its activities are overseen by a secret federal court.
There's no question that Snowden's activities have caused consternation and concern among Americans protective of their privacy. But it is unclear to what degree those privacy rights are at risk, particularly in an age when foreign terrorists communicate electronically with each other from all over the world.
The first step to straightening out the information from the misinformation is getting Snowden back in this country, where his conduct can be put under a judicial microscope.
That appears, however, to be the last thing Snowden wants; hence, his bizarre multi-country flight from justice has the Obama White House fuming and our foreign adversaries licking their chops.