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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Edward Snowden - Playing Superman in a World He Doesn't Fully Comprehend



Truth is sometimes hard to find. Wikileaks lately published information, courtesy Edward Snowden, about the US spying on the EU. Nobody has reported the whole context or extent of that spying, or what information was gathered, or to what end. There are plenty of dramatic headlines but very few specifics. Also absent is information supplied by human rights activists from other countries about the spying their governments indulge in. 

So it looks as if the US is the only big bad wolf in the world. And that’s the real story. Which is a lot more dramatic than a scenario where EU, African and Latin American countries are all spying on each other and China and Russia are spying on everybody. 

Does it justify what the US has done? I have no idea, because I don’t know enough about what they’ve done and what is generally accepted at those levels in all countries. John Kerry, when asked to comment on allegations that the US has spied on the EU, refused to comment specifically until he had studied all the evidence, which was refreshing to hear. But he did say “every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security.” 

As for Edward Snowden, he continues to vilify the US, yet seeks asylum in Russia and China, amongst other countries. It’s clear what China’s position is. Vladimir Putin stayed out of the fray for a while, but he’s recently said that he’ll grant asylum if Snowden stops publishing damaging information about “our American partners”. Which he acknowledged would never happen as Snowden sees himself as a human rights activist.

Ecuador has backed right off. President Correa granted Snowden temporary travel documents to get out of Hong Kong and fly to Russia. He initially said Ecuador would decide the asylum request on its own merits and make a decision independent of foreign influence. Then he said that Snowden had to be in the country to start the process and there were no guarantees as to the outcome. He followed that up with an acknowledgment that he’d spoken to Joe Biden who was very polite and respectful. I’d love to have been listening in on that conversation. Perhaps Mr. Biden reminded him of how dependent Ecuador is on US trade.

Whatever was said, Correa’s latest statement was an admission that he acted rashly in granting those temporary travel documents. And he now says that to even process the asylum request could take months.

The net seems to be closing in on Snowden. He appears to be well under Assange’s wing now and speaks about how his life is in danger, just as Assange always has. I always thought there was a tinge of paranoia in that. 

Assange had a lot of connections and power but even he is mostly forgotten now. And what did he achieve? Meanwhile, those assault charges in Iceland still hang over his head. He says they were trumped up and it was all a conspiracy plot to get him back to the US. Maybe he’s right, but it doesn’t totally ring true. Men who did it always say they didn’t. He speaks about being a hero but he isn’t really. He’s just a sad man who never gets enough sun who’s on the run.

Snowden has nobody. He’s in the limelight now and a lot of the world thinks of him as a hero but his actions probably won’t lead to any change either. And much of the world isn’t convinced that what he did was heroic. 

It’s hard not to have compassion for him, though. The leaders of the countries he’s turned to who happily betray their own people don’t give a damn about him or about truth. At heart he believes he’s freeing the world but he isn’t really. This isn’t about the pursuit of truth or impacting on infringement of human rights. If it was, Snowden would have spoken out loudly against Russia and China. But he happily turned a blind eye to their behaviour - because he thought they might be useful to him, I guess. 

So it’s about the pursuit of half the truth. Which is no truth at all and speaks more of an agenda than anything else. I believe this is really about a young man with a childishly na├»ve understanding of international relationships playing Superman. Not fully comprehending that in the real world he’s entered, his cloak, more a fantasy for him than an absolute reality, can’t protect him.

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