Monday, June 24, 2013

Edward Snowden - How Much Does He Really Care About Citizen's Rights?

There are more than one ways to skin a cat. Oprah Winfrey once said she always wanted to be a star. Naturally she was drawn to Hollywood but she didn’t like what stars had to do to achieve fame. Nobody does, but some suck it up, believing they don’t have another option. Not Oprah. She chose another route and got nicely rewarded for that bit of lateral thinking.

What about Edward Snowden? Did he reveal US surveillance secrets for a noble cause? Was he a traitor to or a martyr for his country? He has denied that he’s either and insisted he’s just an ordinary guy wanting to protect ordinary Americans from their Big Brother nasty spying government.
Regardless of whether he’s succeeded in doing that or not and whether or not he actually believes his own motives to be pure, he’s created a diplomatic nightmare for the US, China and Russia and possibly even Eduador. More importantly, the choices he’s made since the revelation show him as not being so fundamentally noble after all.

In protecting Americans from having their privacy violated, Snowden chose to seek asylum first in a country with horrific human rights and gargantuan freedom of speech violations. Granted Hong Kong has autonomy but it answers to the Chinese government, which Snowden has got to have known, given the work he did. 

China didn’t want him and he’s been neatly shuffled out of Hong Kong. Under the pretext of the arrest warrant not being properly filled out, which allegedly left the Hong Kong authorities no option but to let him go. The US and Hong Kong are huffing and puffing at each other, but the reality is, they’ve neatly averted a situation that would impede the trade relationship they’re both trying to build. Ironically, they both cyber-spy on each other and they both know they do. It’s unlikely China would want somebody like Snowden in the country.

From China, it was onto Russia. Another country whose human rights record is atrocious and where freedom of speech is severely curtailed. A country whose leader supports Bashar Al-Assad. Nice work, Snowden.

They apparently don’t want him either. Putin has been accused of taking pleasure in sticking his middle finger up at the US for even allowing Snowden into the country without a passport, but he’s just stuck in a transit lounge at the airport. That’s a pretty clear message from Putin. I doubt he has feelings of affection for Snowden who has put him in a right spot. Obviously he doesn’t want to wave that finger too close to the US nose, otherwise he would have granted Snowden asylum. But officially ganging up against him would discredit him with his voters.

He chose a pretty wise diplomatic option. A kind of halfway measure that lets him off the hook in both directions. He’s no fool, Putin. So it’s on to Ecuador for Snowden.

Which has defamations provisions in its criminal code that allow the government to persecute its critics. In 2011 journalist Emilio Palacio wrote an opinion piece in El Universo in which he accused Ecuadorean President Correa of being a dishonest dictator. Correa sued Palacio and three of the newspaper’s board members, brothers Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga, César Enrique Pérez Barriga, and Carlos Nicolás Pérez Barriga. They were jailed with 3 year sentences and ordered to pay $40 million in fines altogether.

In an interview with The Guardian, where Snowden talked about his motives, he said "I don't want to live in a society that does these sorts of things..." Really? China, Russia and Ecuador don't do these sort of things?  

Predictably, Jullian Assange and his lawyers and friends were behind getting Snowden out of Hong Kong and attempting to get him asylum in Ecuador. Whether it’ll work or not is debatable. Assange is still holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he’s been for almost a year. He’s obviously not that bothered about freedom of speech in Ecuador either. 

You can’t tell much about a person from what they say. You can’t even always tell who they are from what they do, especially in the beginning, when the ramifications of their behaviour haven’t kicked in. But you can tell a lot from the company they keep. That Assange and Snowden happily accept help from countries with atrocious human rights and freedom of speech violations  makes a mockery of the cloak of nobility they wear as whistle-blowers hell-bent on protecting everybody’s freedom.