Faced with the prospect of decades in prison, Mr. Snowden panicked. Instead of waiting for the territory or its masters in Beijing to decide his fate, he packed his laptops and headed for Moscow. Now he gets to see a soft dictatorship (such a lovely phrase) up close. On Sunday, the willful naïfs from WikiLeaks who are “helping” Mr. Snowden said that Sheremetyevo airport would simply be a stopover. But why would the Russian government let him go before it has squeezed him dry? In interviews, Mr. Snowden has said he has plenty of secrets left on his hard drives, and there’s no reason to doubt him. He has already disclosed details of American and British spying on a conference in 2009 in London.
Mr. Snowden has put himself in a terrible spot. Moscow will surely protect him for as long as it feels like irritating Washington. But by the time the Russians are finished sifting through his laptops, he’ll be their spy, whether or not he meant to be. Beijing may have already pulled the same trick; some intelligence officers believe that Chinese spy agencies copied Mr. Snowden’s hard drives during his Hong Kong stay.
We have treated a whistle-blower like a traitor — and thus made him a traitor. Great job. Did anyone in the White House or the N.S.A or the C.I.A. consider flying to Hong Kong and treating Mr. Snowden like a human being, offering him a chance to testify before Congress and a fair trial? Maybe he would have gone with President Vladimir V. Putin anyway, but at least he would have had another option. The secret keepers would have won too: a Congressional hearing would have been a small price to bring Mr. Snowden and those precious hard drives back to American soil.