Edward Snowden. (Courtesy of guardiannews.com)
President Obama is risking a serious break in relations with both Russia and China over the travels of Edward Snowden. “We are not looking for a confrontation,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. But the United States just might get one if it’s not careful.
Snowden, still apparently hanging out in the transit area of Moscow’s airport, isn’t talking. But, at least in the view of US intelligence specialists, it’s all too late, and both China and Russia have harvested Snowden’s classified bounty.
Kerry sounded downright schoolmarmish, in an earlier statement: “There are standards of behavior between sovereign nations. There is common law. There is respect for rule of law.”
Meanwhile, Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, slammed China for letting Snowden travel to Moscow:
“The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust. We think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem.”
The Chinese, it appears, found a way to ignore or misplace American demands that Snowden be extradited.
“We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive, despite a valid arrest warrant. And that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship.”
Snowden’s travels have posed delicate diplomatic problems for both Beijing and Moscow, although it’s also possible that either one or both of them have reaped a bonanza if they’ve gotten their hands on whatever is in Snowden’s several laptops and thumb drives—either because Snowden gave them the material or, more likely, because their intelligence agencies have managed to acquire the information surreptitiously. As The New York Times reported:
American intelligence officials remained deeply concerned that Mr. Snowden could make public more documents disclosing details of the National Security Agency’s collection system or that his documents could be obtained by foreign intelligence services, with or without his cooperation.
Senator Dianne Feinstein said over the weekend that Snowden still has more than 200 classified documents in his possession, and some of them could be doozies. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first published Snowden’s initial documents, says that there are “thousands.”