Sunday, June 23, 2013

Edward Snowden likely headed to Venezuela or Eucador

The Julian Assange Maneuver, this time perhaps in Quito

Update: BBC, Ecuador confirm that Snowden has asked Quito government for political asylum

Guadalajara -
World news agencies reported this morning that former American security contractor Edward Snowden is likely on his way to Caracas Venezuela or Quito, Ecuador.

Later reports from the BBC said that Snowden has solicited asylum from Ecuador, a claim which was soon acknowledged by its foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, on his Twitter account.

The U.S. State Dept. announced that Snowden's American passport was revoked over the weekend.

Snowden, 30, was charged by the government with espionage June 14, in a one page criminal complaint filed in a Virginia federal court which was released Friday. He is a former employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a 26,000 strong Fairfax consulting firm which performs top secret intelligence services for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

U.S. vs. Snowden

Earlier this month Snowden leaked details of electronic surveillance programs and the mass seizure of telecommunications metadata by NSA. The warrantless seizures, approved by a secret tribunal known as the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, set off a firestorm of controversy at home and abroad.

Snowden traveled to Hong Kong just before his disclosures, which violated confidentiality agreements he had signed with Booz Allen. The company fired him earlier this month. Snowden remained in the former British crown colony while the case erupted on the world stage.

Last week the U.S. Justice Dept. asked Hong Kong authorities to detain Snowden. But in a surprise announcement over the weekend, the local government said the U.S. request did not fully comply with legal agreements and extradition treaties between the two jurisdictions. "There was no lawful basis to detain Mr. Snowden and he has left for another destination," Hong Kong officials reported.

Snowden is in Moscow today, according to reports, preparing to depart for an intermediary stop in Havana, Cuba. His ultimate destination may be either Caracas or Quito. Because there are direct daily flights from Moscow to Havana, Snowden would not be required to pass through any country which has a strong extradition treaty with the United States.

A Caracas newspaper, El Universal, reported this morning that Snowden will stay in Moscow tonight in the residence of the Venezuelan ambassador to Russia.

That news may come as a surprise to American officials. Washington just ended a tense standoff with Caracas over the case of U.S. national Timothy Hallet Tracy, who was arrested in Venezuela on April 25 after the government of president Nicolás Maduro accused him of trying to launch a civil war. The charges were dropped and Tracy was deported on June 5. The next day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua announced that they would reopen talks on an exchange of ambassadors. The two countries have conducted diplomatic relations through low level officials since 2010. Kerry thanked Venezuela, including president Maduro by name, for freeing Tracy, in what appeared to be the first step in a thawing of long frozen relations. Venezuela deports American after dropping espionage and sedition charges. Snowden's arrival could undo that process.

But Quito also could be Edward Snowden's ultimate destination. Last week Wikileaks founder Julian Assange completed one year of an effective house arrest in Ecuador's London embassy. Assange entered the embassy on June 19, 2012, just as British authorities were preparing to turn him over to Sweden, where he faces criminal sexual assault charges. Assange has refused to return voluntarily to that country, claiming the accusations against him are a frame-up and that Swedish authorities plan to deport him to the United States, where he could himself be charged with serious crimes based upon thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables publicly released by Wikileaks in recent years.

Shortly after Assange entered the London embassy Ecuador granted him full diplomatic protection, and demanded his safe passage to Quito. But the British refused, and warned that Assange would be arrested the moment he stepped outside the embassy compound. Although the foreign ministers of both countries met recently to discuss the case and to negotiate some mutually agreeable solution, Assange remains holed up in very confined quarters, purportedly not in the best of health. He blames the U.S. for his predicament, and in recent days publicly urged Snowden to head to Latin America.

News sources reported today that Snowden is being accompanied by a team of Wikileaks attorneys and consultants as he travels travels halfway around the world, hoping to avoid an appearance in a U.S. courtroom. If he makes it to Quito he will likely be beyond the reach of American justice forever.

June 24 - In Vietnam, Ecuadorian foreign minister praises Hồ Chí Minh, while focusing on U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden
June 25 - Putin says Snowden is still in Russia, but not really

Poor Julian Assange . . . trapped inside the Ecuadorian compound, he's had to rely on embassy staff to pick up socks and underwear at the nearby Harrods of London - and probably a Starbucks, too.

Aug. 16 - Ecuador grants asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, while stalemate at London embassy continues.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, an inveterate bully of the press in his own country, never misses a chance to slam the U.S. for its prosecution of those who violate national security clearances. He'd welcome Snowden with open arms, as he did Assange to the London embassy. It's another great anti-U.S., anti-U.K. publicity opportunity.

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Wikileaks suspect Pfc. Bradley Manning arraigned in first stage of full court martial
Wikileaks suspect bound over for trial; will face general court martial this year
Did the man behind explosive Wikileaks disclosures really want to be a woman?
U.S. intensely focused on Yucatán security in 2008-2009, diplomatic cables reveal
Mexican archbishop asked U.S. to help in derailing Manuel López Obrador's 2006 presidential bid, according to Wikileaks

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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