Golly — do you think Edward Snowden is worried about his reputation at the moment, or his ability to remain out of the reach of the FBI? Senator Rand Paul appeared on CNN’s State of the Union after news broke earlier today that Snowden had boogie-footed it to the Muscovite paradise of free speech, probably as an interim stop on his way to Venezuela, Cuba, or perhaps Iceland. Paul hailed Snowden as a truth-teller and condemned DNI James Clapper as a liar, but said both had to account for their “criminal” acts. And if Snowden went to a nation hostile to both America and human rights, Paul warned that Snowden risked tarnishing his reputation by doing so (via Eliana Johnson at The Corner):
“I do think that when history looks at this, they are going to contrast the behavior James Clapper, our national intelligence director, with Edward Snowden,” Paul told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “Mr. Clapper lied in Congress, in defiance of the law, in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy. So I think there will be a judgment, because both of them broke of the law.”
Clapper was asked by Oregon senator Ron Wyden in a March congressional hearing whether the government was collecting “any type of data at all on millions of Americans.” He responded, “No, sir.”
Paul said that cozying up to Putin’s Russa will tarnish Snowden’s reputation, but that if he takes refuge in a neutral country, he may be seen in history’s eyes as an advocate for privacy.
Er, isn’t reputation a secondary issue at this point? Iceland may be the only legitimate destination on the radar which both respects human rights and doesn’t normally extradite people like Snowden to the US. Even Iceland might not be a sure thing, and Snowden has to arrive there before actually applying for asylum. With the US charging Snowden with espionage and not merely as a leaker, that application has some risk of failure. That basically leaves Snowden with a range of choices of nations with US relations that go from contentious (Russia) to hostile (Venezuela) to outright enemies (Cuba). He doesn’t have too many other choices. Unless France wants to put him up in Ira Einhorn’s old digs, that is.
Meanwhile, Paul’s colleague Chuck Schumer is steaming mad at Vladimir Putin for welcoming Snowden for a visit. On the same show, Schumer warned that Russia would face “serious consequences” in the diplomatic relationship for harboring Snowden (via Business Insider and WFB):
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader, said Sunday that Russia will face “serious consequences” if it harbors Edward Snowden, who has been charged with espionage.
“What’s infuriating here is Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin of Russia abetting Snowden’s escape,” Schumer said in a CNN “State of the Union” interview. “I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship.” …
Schumer said Putin likely approved Snowden’s flight to Russia and certainly knew of it.
“Something at this level in a state- controlled country, the minute Aeroflot got the notification he would be coming, I believe that Putin, it’s almost certain he knew, and it’s likely he approved it,” he said.
Barack Obama just pivoted to nuclear disarmament in his foreign policy efforts, so this comes at a particularly bad time for the White House. Schumer, who should be one of Obama’s big allies in pushing a treaty through the Senate, explicitly stated that the Snowden affair would impact all bilateral efforts, including nuclear disarmament. Frankly, that should be tied to Russia’s lack of effort on containing Iran and its drive for nuclear weapons more than the Snowden affair, but either way, it’s going to get the message across to Washington DC that Russia isn’t a friend to the US — and it never has been, reset buttons or not. Schumer mentions Russia “putting a finger in the eye” of the US whenever Putin gets the chance; it’s good to see a few people noticing that.