Snowden’s Moment of Truth

Get ready!


That’s “Edward Snowden ready to leave for Iceland?”, from Belgium’s leading French-language business newspaper, L’Echo. And then the first paragraph:

A private jet paid by contributions collected by Wikileaks stands ready to take Edward Snowden to Iceland. However, the authorities of that country have not given the green light for the arrival on their territory of the ex-CIA agent [note: this is an incorrect characterization], responsible for unprecedented US intelligence leaks. As he waits, Snowden still is in hiding in Hong Kong.

“The plane can take off tomorrow,” is the further claim of one Olafur Sigurvinsson quoted here, an executive with an Icelandic company responsible for collecting funds for Wikileaks. As to the important question of “From where?”, the answer is apparently “already from China” (i.e. it does not have to fly there first from Iceland, or anywhere else), since it has been rented from a Chinese company.

Please note again: “a Chinese company.” For the key question here concerns the 10,000+ km journey that would take Snowden to Iceland: whichever way they take, there would be plenty of opportunities for interception by the US Air Force, should President Obama so order. And that fact of a Chinese plane adds a delicious dash of potential Sino-American confrontation to the mix; you might not recall, but those two countries already had a serious air-interception incident between them (that time the Chinese forcing down a US military spy-plane) more than ten years ago.

So, will Obama give that order? You’d have to expect so, meaning that Snowden will swiftly be diverted to the usual regime of pre-trial torture at a US military prison somewhere, à la Bradley Manning. Thankfully for him – for Obama, that is – his grand speech before that hand-picked audience at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate will already be in the past. The German public seemed remarkably content to ignore the latest NSA spying revelations during his visit there, but they could not ignore a slap-in-your-face gesture like that. Nor will the world at large, when it happens, sometime soon now.

By the way, there is also some uncertainty as to whether Iceland might not just reward Snowden for his long flight – even if they allow his arrivel – by promptly turning him over to American authorities themselves. As this L’Echo piece points out, in 2010 the Icelandic Parliament (a.k.a. the Althing) did adopt a resolution declaring the country a refuge for defenders of freedom of expression and transparency. Then again, in the words of Interior Minister Hanna Kristjansdottir (i.e. the official who would be directly in charge of the matter), “[That] resolution has nothing to do with the laws that apply to asylum-seekers.” Oh – well OK, then.

UPDATE: Nevermind. Snowden turns out to be too clever for that, at least when it comes to the means he intends to take to get to Iceland, if that is even where he is heading.

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