Snowden still in Hong Kong -- and talking to the press

But, er, not really saying all that much, at least not yet.  Despite speculation that arose after Edward Snowden disappeared from his hotel, he hasn’t exited Hong Kong.  Speculation ran so high that the AP issued a breaking news alert when Snowden resurfaced this morning … still in Hong Kong:

In fact, Snowden told the South China Morning Post that he trusted in Hong Kong’s rule of law, and wants to leave his fate in the hands of its citizens:

Edward Snowden says he wants to ask the people of Hong Kong to decide his fate after choosing the city because of his faith in its rule of law.

The 29-year-old former CIA employee behind what might be the biggest intelligence leak in US history revealed his identity to the world in Hong Kong on Sunday. His decision to use a city under Chinese sovereignty as his haven has been widely questioned – including by some rights activists in Hong Kong.

Snowden said last night that he had no doubts about his choice of Hong Kong.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post.

“I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law,” he added.

Snowden says he has committed no crimes in Hong Kong and has “been given no reason to doubt [Hong Kong’s legal] system”.

“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate,” he said.

Snowden doesn’t have much to fear.  Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, but Beijing can veto those decisions.  With the American intel community in an uproar over Snowden, why would they hasten to end the crisis, even if Hong Kong really did decide to extradite Snowden?  Not that there’s much chance of that:

A march from Chater Garden to the US Consulate in support of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been set for this Saturday at 3pm, the organiser said on Wednesday.

In-media, a website supporting freelance journalists, that organised the march urged people voice their concerns because Snowden had sacrificed his personal safety and freedom to defend internet freedom and the right to free speech. …

Some prominent local pro-democracy politicians have agreed to join the rally. They include legislators Albert Ho Chun-yan, Claudia Mo and Charles Mok, Director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor Law Yuk-Kai, and In-Media’s Ip Iam-chong.

“We call on Hong Kong to respect international legal standards and procedures relating to the protection of Snowden; we condemn the US government for violating our rights and privacy; and we call on the US not to prosecute Snowden,” the group said.

I doubt that the Hong Kong semi-autonomous government will go out of its way to extradite Snowden, not unless Beijing pressures them to do so, and that seems very unlikely.  The path of least resistance, politically speaking, is de facto asylum through inaction; it keeps the pro-democracy activists focused on the US instead of Beijing, and it doesn’t require any extraordinary action in either direction.  That also bolsters their credibility on free speech while not challenging Beijing’s authority.

So Snowden will probably stay put while the rest of us back home focus on the meaning of the leaks.  Ron Fournier at National Journal argues that we should ignore Snowden as a distraction — one which benefits Barack Obama:

Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? I don’t care. You read right: I don’t give a whit about the man who exposed two sweeping U.S. online surveillance programs, nor do I worry much about his verdict in the court of public opinion.

Why? Because it is the wrong question. The Snowden narrative matters mostly to White House officials trying to deflect attention from government overreach and deception, and to media executives in search of an easy storyline to serve a celebrity-obsessed audience. …

But before perpetuating and immortalizing the Surveillance State, we need to remember that the precedents set today apply to the next president — and the ones that follow, perhaps men and women who aren’t as dedicated to democratic institutions as both Bush and Obama are.

It would help if the Obama administration would stop misleading the public, eroding trust in government that is already at record lows.

Let the Department of Justice deal with Snowden.  We should be demanding more transparency and more accountability from the federal government — and not just at the NSA.