The flight of Edward Snowden

The flight of Edward Snowden

A good man fleeing from evil. A fugitive chased by powerful forces which had no regard for justice and fair play. Where will Edward Snowden escape and...

A good man fleeing from evil. A fugitive chased by powerful forces which had no regard for justice and fair play. Where will Edward Snowden escape and hide? After Washington, it was Moscow, then possibly Havana and then perhaps Ecuador, the new escape haven of political refugees who were hounded by the US government. As the Obama administration went back on its word to stop political persecution, Snowden, formerly of the National Security Agency and accused of leaking out classified information, is on the run. But he is not without support. Within the US more than 1, 00,000 people signed petitions urging President Obama to stop the manhunt and pardon Snowden. Russia, China and the Left-leaning South American nations backed him. Ecuador may finally accept him as a political refugee. He would join the WIKILEAKS boss, Julius Assange, who is now holed up inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. It is strange that the might of the US, the most powerful nation in the world, was pitted against such individuals as were not terrorists, did not believe in violence and posed no threat to the US. They were just repelled by the double standards of the Obama administration which claimed to preach democracy and freedom of expression but in practice undertook one underhand deal after another in the guise of protecting the world from global terrorism Assange and Snowden never leaked American military secrets to the rest of the world. They did something which deeply embarrassed Washington, by exposing how the American government practiced the worst kind of double standards, pretending to be peace-loving and working democratically but in reality spied on individuals, infringing on the various freedoms offered under the Constitution and completely ignoring basic, decent, acceptable democratic norms. This type of duplicity could really expose and embarrass any nation, but these days 'pillars of democracy' like the US and the UK lead the field in curtailing freedom of the individual. They have developed thick skins and chosen to ignore protests from different sections of the world community. Snowden's dramatic flight was meant to embarrass the US authorities and security agencies. He disappeared from Washington apparently on a flight to Moscow and it was presumed he was bound for Cuba on his way to Ecuador. As the Moscow-Havana flight took off, dozens of reporters and government officials found that the seat reserved for Snowden was empty. Where had he disappeared? Moscow rubbed its hands in glee, satisfied at the embarrassment suffered by the US. In fact, the US warned Moscow, Beijing and other pro-Snowden nations to keep away from Snowden but there was worldwide sympathy for someone who had blown the lid of misdeeds of the US government. The worst misdeed was the mass snooping ordered by the government to spy on ordinary people. Assange and his Wikileaks team did the same, but on a much larger scale. Having prepared a vast network of dissenters within the American bureaucracy, including State department, Pentagon and even the White House they recorded in great detail minutes of meetings which dealt with national and international security crisis. This was then released to the media. The US government did not know where to turn. Leaks came from all sides, covered every arm of the government and had national and international repercussions. The leaks were of such a massive scale that people, including allies, came to believe there could be no secrets in US government policies. The embarrassment was twofold. First it exposed that in its foreign policy, the US could not be trusted because while it offered a certain public stand on sensitive issues, in private conversations (as taped by Wikileaks), and it meant to do exactly different things. The US double standards in dealing with several countries with whom it professed friendship were exposed when the tapes said something different; India suffered a lot on issues like Kashmir, relations with Pakistan, cross-border terrorism and so on. In quite a few instances, Washington suffered huge embarrassment. But the leaks kept on coming. The system was so well-entrenched and so professionally organized that even after Assange was held in custody, leaks went on merrily. This was due to the commitment of the group which was determined to expose and embarrass the US. The man who was embarrassed most and stood isolated was President Barack Obama. The Snowden escape hit him hard. Where was the open government he promised the American people? How was the American security system so full of loopholes that practically details of every major decision leaked out to the media? This happened only when the President went on taking unpopular decisions as in the case of former president Richard Nixon. Obama brought much more hope to the American people but in waging war against the overlooked sensitivities of his people, did not take them into confidence and in fact tried to spy on them. However popular an American President turned out to be; his people would not forgive such a betrayal of trust. It was ridiculous to tell people that their safety depended on the government snooping on their e-mails and taping their telephone calls. Today's America is much more intelligence-conscious. Every year thousands of thrillers are published, most of them on espionage. What began with James Bond and Le Carre novels have now become a flood. The chase of Assange and Snowden could well have been taken out from one such thriller. Very soon, Hollywood would come out with movies on the episodes. Even today, the Snowden flight continues to be the top-ranking news story. It divided the nation and even the security-conscious sections of the people did not agree with the mass snooping or pitting the powers of the State against individuals like Assange or Snowden. Barring Britain which has become a semi-police State, the US had no allies in this witch-hunt. Ironically, Russia and China, former bad guys, covered themselves with cloaks of righteousness to condemn the American excesses. Moscow would do nothing if Snowden escaped to Havana from its airport. Ecuador, Venezuela and Iceland were prepared to offer asylum to Snowden. The days when the US landed Marines or used the CIA for a 'snatch' are over. Obama should now assess the situation more carefully; the world has changed and any foolhardy action would have unpleasant consequences.
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