Edward Snowden has now gone invisible with only Wikileaks founder Julian Assange having a strong peg on his whereabouts, claiming that Snowden is “safe and in good health”. In a live updated conference call with Assange, The Guardian updated that Snowden did not board his scheduled flight from Moscow to Cuba. Now, the American government is running low on options in their pursuit of Snowden.
Russia is still resisting pressure from the U.S. as Snowden’s whereabouts remain unknown to the U.S. government. This resistance is crystal clear as the Russian head of the foreign affairs committee said, “Why should the United States expect restraint and understanding from Russia?” Russia and its officials have been critical of the U.S.’s foreign relations in the past.
There are only prospects of Snowden’s next destination. Earlier, it was revealed that Snowden had submitted a request of asylum to the Ecuadorian government, citing the unlikeliness of receiving a fair trial should he return to the U.S.
Ecuador has a history of protecting whistleblower types as president Rafael Correa, who was recently sworn in to his third term, granted asylum to Julian Assange at their London embassy. However, there is a bit of discretion concerning the possibility of Snowden’s request for asylum.
Former Ecuadorian diplomat Mauricio Gandara believes granting Snowden asylum would be “irresponsible.” Gandara notes that “It would be an illegal act, because what he has done is a crime in both the United States and Ecuador.” But whether or not the opinion of Gandara is of any weight is questionable considering the already highly polarized stance of millions about the nobility and righteousness of the leaks.
Obtaining asylum could be a risky move for Snowden, however, as the U.S. has a history of “covert abductions of Americans in Ecuador.”
In 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accused herbalist Greg Caton selling “unapproved drugs,” thus having the State Department get “red-listed” by Interpol. The Interpol “red-list” is meant for “extreme war criminals and international murderers.” Caton was neither. Caton was in Ecuador developing and selling herbal anti-cancer remedies and it has been speculated that the FDA saw Caton’s actions as a threat to the profits of the cancer industry.
And for that, Caton was convicted of fraud and was sentenced to 33 months of incarceration.
Obviously, these countries are willfully refusing to comply with the U.S.’s requests for Snowden’s extradition, or else they would have done it already. Because there has been no cooperation with the United States by the hosting countries, it could put America into a corner.
Going back to the instance of Greg Caton, the United States exercised what is called “extraordinary rendition.” This procedure is the extraction and apprehension of whomever the U.S. government has deemed a criminal and international fugitive. The U.S. has done just that with Edward Snowden. But rather than government demonization of an herbalist that was, more or less, low-profile, the NSA leaks have placed U.S. actions on centerstage.
There has been an overwhelming outpouring of international support, as well as outcries to bring a so-called “traitor” to justice. Performing extraordinary rendition will strain the already tense international relations with the world at large and would cause America’s domestic and international popularity to take a nosedive.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.