Dr. J.’s TPJ Commentary No. 250 (Mag. 48): The Mysteries of Edward Snowden

Much has been written about this young man (who at the time of this writing, 7/1/13, is having quite some problem finding a country that will give him unconditional asylum.  Ecuador [which is likely receiving very heavy pressure form the US, is saying publicly that they don’t like his connection to Wikileaks even though they are still housing its founder, Julian Assange in their London embassy behind one of the most famous department stores in the world, Harrod’s. And all of a sudden Vladimir Putin, obviously concerned about his own potential leakers, is saying that he can have asylum only if he agrees to shut up for all future time.  So we shall see what we shall see.)  It is likely that much will be written about his adventures/achievements for quite some time in the future.  At this time, it seems that he is still a “guest” in the Transit Lounge at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Some remarkable occurrences around this young man and his feats have taken place so far.  The Russian President Vladimir Putin, stocking his finger firmly in President Obama’s eye has allowed that Mr. Snowden is not technically in Russia (although now with his conditional offer of asylum has pulled it partway back out.  Therefore the Russian government could not act on any arrest and extradition request from the U.S. (And in any case, surprise, surprise, Russia and the U.S. do not have an extradition treaty.)  Of course, before flying off to Moscow Mr. Snowden was in sort-of China, otherwise known as Hong Kong.  Much was made in the U.S. media about Hong Kong’s “separate legal system.”  However, if anyone thinks that the Chinese government was not pulling the elastic bands that catapulted Mr. Snowden out of Hong Kong before the U.S. could get its request-for-arrest papers in order has another think coming.  Finger-in-the-eye no. two.  With all of these fingers in his eye(s), Obama will likely be consulting his ophthalmologist soon.  And he might be taking his glorious Attorney-General along with him.

As to the mystery of where Mr. Snowden might end up that remains an open question.  There are several possibilities. Putin has offered him that conditional asylum in Russia (which is kind of ironic, given the way that Putin treats his own dissidents, even those who just write and sing about him and the way he runs things).  Cuba and Venezuela have been mentioned.  But both, while certainly sympathetic with what Snowden has done, have their own geo-political reasons for not wanting to be the nation sticking the third finger in Obama’s eye(s).  Ecuador and Iceland seem to be at the top of the list, and indeed Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and Tom Hayden are leading a petition drive asking Ecuador to provide him with sanctuary (even though they are now having a hissy fit about Assange’s role in the whole affair).  Bolivia and even Argentina have also been mentioned as possibilities.  That there are so many countries on the “possible” list, tells us something about the declining state of the U.S. Empire, especially in Latin America.  This could not have happened even 10 years ago.  By the time this column has been published, we will likely know the answer to this mystery.

The next mystery, which I have yet to see addressed (although with the myriad articles flying off the key-boards around the world it may well have been) is where is Mr. Snowden’s financial support coming from.  A) He is off the Booz, Allen, and Hamilton payroll and his BAH expense account has been shut off.  Presumably, c) his credit cards have been cut off, and d) his U.S. bank account(s) have been blocked.  (Hey, if the NSA/FBI can spy on you without probable cause, surely they can block your bank account with it.)  The Aeroflot coach fare from Hong Kong to Moscow is $974.10 (actually pretty cheap when you think of the distance).  Moscow to Havana is $1071.90.  (I have not looked further.)  So, unless he is carrying around tons of cash, someone paying his way.  Who and Why are very interesting questions.  How much does Wikileaks have to do with the whole enterprise (much to the concern of Ecuador), and where do they get their funding from, since the U.S. has made it impossible to fund-raise in the traditional ways, through Pay-Pal and such.

Then there is the matter, not so much a mystery as a major issue raised by this case, of the privatization of U.S. Federal government functions that has occurred on a major scale since BushCheney took over.  Doing so was one of Dick Cheney’s major “achievements.”  He had two major goals: as U.S. profits declined due to de-industrialization, this strategy was designed to provide for private profit-making in functions not previously open. At the same time the process de-legitimized and shrank the Federal government in the operation of traditional government functions. 

Booz, Allen, Hamilton reportedly gets somewhere between 95% to 99% of its income from the Feds.   Then there are mysteries, or shall we say questions that have never been answered (and most often not asked, either in the Congress which has had to approve the switchovers or the mainstream media). From, what is the functional rationale for the change, to how did Mr. Snowden in particular get his position with BAH, given that his primary motivation for doing seems to have been to get the goods so that he could open up the whole enterprise?  How did Mr. Snowden convince BAH that he, with a GED, was qualified for the job?  Was that an inside job at BAH?

And then, a) what else does Mr. Snowden have?   B) we know that the NSA runs a massive, unconstitutional domestic spying program in the U.S., presumably authorized by the Patriot Act.  Why has the Democratic Party gone along with this stuff?  Why does a President who was a Constitutional law professor go along with it, and not just go along with it, but enthusiastically go along with it?  (Well, Virginia, it all started with Sen. Joe McCarthy, but that’s another story.) 

Finally, is there anyone out there who still thinks that Obama is a “librul?”  When the 2016 Presidential election rolls around, and the GOP voter-suppression operation is in full swing, and hopefully a Progressive Democratic Party has split from the current “enabler-of-the-whole-mess” party, just how many defenders of the traditional party, Obama, the Clintons, and all, will be crying “we must vote for the lesser-of-the-evils.”  That, right now, might be the biggest mystery to come out of the whole Affaire Snowden.  What is the future of the traditional Democratic Party in its aftermath?  And oh yes, could you think of a better writer of this one than John Le Carre?


This is Dr. Jonas' Commentary No. 250 (!) for The Political Junkies. Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy (http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/).  Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, http://www.puntopress.com/jonas-the-15-solution-hits-main-distribution/, and available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.