A high school dropout-turned-NSA techno whiz kid leaks details of a super-secret government program for mass surveillance on innocent Americans. Then he goes on the lam.
Edward Snowden’s story could have been ripped out of the pages of a pulp fiction spy thriller.
It was believed he was heading to Ecuador, the only place he officially applied for political asylum.
Things changed on Monday. He missed his connecting flight out of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport to Havana, Cuba.
A diplomat here with close knowledge of Snowden’s asylum application in Ecuador believes the situation has changed and now Snowden might not be going to Ecuador.
“He has been (in Moscow) already five days, so it seems he has other options that look more promising than political asylum in Ecuador,” said a diplomatic source based in Seoul.
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino during a visit in Korea in mid-June said the South American country granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange because Ecuador valued fundamental principles and acted on its sovereignty.
WikiLeaks lawyers traveled with Snowden to Moscow where he was met by Ecuadorean diplomats. So, it remains unclear what “other options” Snowden could be waiting for.
“It is pretty much decided he can go to Ecuador if wants, but I think if he does not leave Moscow by the end of the weekend, then it means he has better options and he will most likely not go to Ecuador,” the source said.
So far this brilliant and quirky dropout has managed to outsmart a plethora of U.S. intelligence agencies, including the NSA, FBI and the CIA, and U.S. talk shows are abuzz with speculation about his next move. Simply staying in Russia indefinitely might be one option for the 30-year-old.
Peter Brookes, a former CIA operative and deputy assistant secretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration, dismissed that possibility on a talk show on Tuesday.
“I doubt very much he will stay in Russia. It could also be a ruse here. He has a strong support network. They could be saying he is going to this place and in fact he could be actually going in another direction. There is a possibility that he could be diverting his travel,” he said.
Snowden implied Iceland was the country he preferred in an interview in Hong Kong on June 9.
But Iceland poses problems of its own. The country requires asylum seekers to appear in person to submit a request, and the country has an extradition agreement with the U.S.
One way around this conundrum is if Iceland instead bestows citizenship on Snowden in a vote by its legislature.
As outlandish as it seems, such a move is not without recent precedent. Iceland granted chess champion Bobby Fischer citizenship in 2005 while he was in detention in Japan awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face prosecution over charges of tax evasion and violating a 1992 embargo against Yugoslavia.
By Philip Iglauer (email@example.com