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U.S. Faces Major Diplomatic Challenge In Extraditing Snowden

Jun 24, 2013
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. U.S. officials have a huge diplomatic challenge ahead, how to convince countries around the world to stop Edward Snowden from escaping U.S. justice. The man who lifted the veil on U.S. surveillance programs left Hong Kong over the weekend. He's now believed to be in Russia. Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador. The U.S. is calling on Moscow to expel him before he gets any further and is reprimanding China for allowing him to leave Hong Kong.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, there seem to be plenty of countries willing to stand up to the U.S. on this.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: After revoking Snowden's passport, the State Department has been reminding countries that he is wanted on felony charges. Officials are furious that authorities in Hong Kong let him go and Secretary of State John Kerry is now urging Russia to extradite him.

SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: I would urge them to live by the standards of the law because that's in the interests of everybody. In the last two years, we have transferred seven prisoners to Russia that they wanted. So I think reciprocity in the enforcement of the law is pretty important.

KELEMEN: At a news conference in New Delhi, Kerry said it would be deeply troubling if authorities in Russia or China had adequate notice about Snowden's plans to flee and still allowed him to travel.

KERRY: There would be, without any question, some effect, an impact on the relationship and consequences.

KELEMEN: A former U.S. national intelligence officer on Russia, Fiona Hill, now with the Brookings Institution, doesn't expect the Kremlin to bow to the U.S. on this one.

FIONA HILL: It's just a high profile case and it gives the Kremlin the opportunity to score some points, politically, against the United States at a time when the U.S. has been accusing, obviously, the Russians and the Chinese of cyber spying at the highest levels and with the greatest volumes imaginable.

KELEMEN: Snowden lifted the veil on American surveillance programs, so Hill says this is PR heaven for the Russians, a chance to highlight what they see as America's double standards.

HILL: And now, the Russians are able to point back and say, well, hang on, who's calling names here? We now know, because of one of your own rogue employees, that you are doing exactly what you're accusing us of doing and perhaps even on a scale unimaginable from our context. So this is an opportunity that I would be very surprised if the Russians will forego this. It's a fantastic PR opportunity for the Kremlin.

KELEMEN: And for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who accuses the Obama administration of bullying countries that might offer Snowden asylum as a whistleblower.

JULIAN ASSANGE: It reflects poorly on the U.S. administration and no self-respecting country would submit to such interference.

KELEMEN: Assange told reporters in a conference call that Snowden is traveling on a refugee document given by the government of Ecuador. Assange himself has been living in Ecuador's embassy in London for more than a year. And that country seems to relish this chance to be on the world stage, says Carl Meacham, the America's program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

CARL MEACHAM: At least the way that they see it, they benefit from being placed in this role, a role where they can stick it to the United States and highlight all of these issues or concerns or problems that they have with the United States.

KELEMEN: He says Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, is trying to pick up the mantle from the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in standing up to the U.S. But Meacham is quick to point out the irony of Ecuador protecting whistleblowers.

MEACHAM: Even though the Ecuadorians are trying to say that they're for freedom of speech and for these whistleblower laws, et cetera, the Ecuadorian legislature just passed a bill that's called the Organic Law on Communications, which talks about freedom of speech and press, but actually builds into the country's legal code a whole bunch of loopholes that the government can use to restrict both.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State Kerry is also trying to highlight the irony of Snowden's travel path, saying he wonders if the former intelligence contractor chose Russia and China to help him because they are, as Kerry sarcastically puts it, such powerful bastions of Internet freedom. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.