Then there is the question of how he gets to a safe country. Here, any friendly government could offer him a private plane – it is a minimal expense for a government. Prominent citizens from the US and other countries could offer to accompany Snowden, to reduce the chances of risky behaviour by the US military (although Obama has said that he “was not going to scramble any jets” to get Snowden). The Russian government could also make sure that the Aeroflot flight to Cuba, if it carries Snowden, is re-routed so that it does not fly too close to the US.

The Russian government, if it is unwilling to offer Snowden a visa for its own country, could provide transportation to the Ecuadorian or another government embassy in Moscow, where Snowden could apply for asylum and then resolve the travel document issue. From there, the Russians would be legally obligated to offer Snowden safe passage to the country that had offered him asylum. (The British government’s confinement of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past year, after he has received asylum from Ecuador, is illegal under international law.)

Finally, there is the “second superpower”, as global civil society was named in 2003 when tens of millions of people hit the streets worldwide against the planned US-led invasion of Iraq. In addition to pressuring their governments to take one or more of the various steps outlined above, citizens can act on their own. For example, they could form a “Snowden Aviation Club”, to raise money for a private plane to take him to a safe place. Or even a helicopter to transport him to the Ecuadorian embassy in Moscow. The funds for either of these options should be easy to raise, given his popular support.