Edward Snowden has escaped the limbo of the transit lounge at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport and now, in the style of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the fugitive leaker is hunkered down in an undisclosed location somewhere in Russia.
Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, has publicly thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for keeping his son out of the clutches of American authorities who want to prosecute Snowden for revealing details of U.S. cyber spying operations. Unlike the elder Snowden, White House officials are far less grateful and there is much discussion in political and diplomatic circles about whether Russia’s willingness to give Snowden safe shelter will disrupt President Obama’s upcoming visit to see Putin.
Activists in the WikiLeaks movement who pretty much see the United States as the world’s biggest bad guy and believe governments have no right to secrecy are applauding the Russians. Human rights activists are far less enthusiastic. They note the profound irony of the Russians being hailed as protectors of free speech and free access to information when Putin and company have such a horrendous record of suppressing such freedoms.
Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International Russia, was asked by a reporter from London’s Guardian newspaper how the Russian government would deal with a whistleblower who revealed Russian state secrets. “We could probably expect a diametrically opposed reaction,” he said.
“It should be noted that the Russian Federation is a country that human rights organizations have found to be a serious violator of human rights, including the right to express information.”
The temporary asylum Russian authorities have granted Snowden comes, of course, with a significant restriction: he is not free to reveal any additional information about U.S. and British intelligence gathering schemes. In other words, “Welcome to Moscow! Now, keep your mouth shut – or else.”