Speaking in a live Q&A hosted by Amnesty International on YouTube, the world’s most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, said once again just how many countries are as yet unwilling to take him in.
There can be no doubt that pressure from, or fear of, the US is the primary reason why none of the 21 different nation states that Snowden has approached seeking asylum are playing ball.
To clarify, Snowden is wanted on espionage charges in the US for his role in revealing a gargantuan amount of evidence showing that US spying agency the NSA’s surveillance is getting/had gotten out of control.
Subsequent moves from states, and international bodies, all over the world have justified the moves made by the previous NSA contractor, as they changed laws to try to rein in spying activities.
21 letters and a long wait
“I have applied for asylum in 21 different countries across the world, including western Europe,” explained Snowden when asked what the immediate future holds for him, as he continues to live in Russia on a year-by-year basis.
“I’m still waiting on them to get back to me,” he says, without naming the countries.
Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary from when Snowden, along with journalists Glen Greenwald and Laura Poitras, began discussing the mountain of secret files that had been taken from the NSA’s ever-growing database.
In an op-ed that Snowden penned for the The New York Times to mark the date, amid evidence that the US decision-makers are showing a shift in opinion on the subject of surveillance, the American said he was pleased to see change emerging around the world.
“In a single month, the NSA’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress,” he wrote.
“After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticised its disclosure has now ordered it terminated.”
Both plenty, and little, has changed
States all over Europe are embroiled in their own surveillance fiascos, with the UK and Germany two standout cases of the powerful commandeering information from the powerless.
In the time since Snowden hit the headlines, supporters of his have campaigned against the ludicrous stance the US – and, by extension, most of the world – has taken towards someone whose revelations have so-soon proved popular.
But as the likes of Brazil, the EU and the UN come out in stark criticism of what the US – and many, many, many more – have been up to in recent years, it does seem bizarre that no states are willing to welcome in the person who did most to shape this new, far more aware landscape.
Since Snowden’s revelations, European institutions have ruled certain surveillance practices illegal, the UN has declared mass surveillance an unambiguous violation of human rights, and the Council of Europe has called for new laws to protect whistle-blowers.
No death penalty: Result
Here’s an article from almost two years ago listing some of the states Snowden has apparently applied for asylum in. Almost two years, and still no takers.
In seeking a return to the US, Snowden feels he could only do so if he was guaranteed a fair trial.
“Unfortunately … there is no fair trial available, on offer, right now,” he said recently, claiming “the only thing they have said at this point is that they would not execute me, which is not the same as a fair trial”.
“I wake up every morning with a smile on my face,” says Snowden now, though. “I have more hope today then I ever had before.” Plenty of hope, but no friends in government, sadly.
Edward Snowden sketch, via WikiCommons