Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When will Snowden comment on civil liberties in the Russian Federation?

I am not one of those people who think that Edward Snowden had a moral obligation to stay in the United States and face criminal charges for his leaking. Yes, to stay and face the music when one opposes a government one sees as immoral might be heroic, but no one has an obligation to be a hero. And, criticism from a position of exile is not worthless for that reason. And, I do think that there are deep problems with our rapid approach to Panopticon, not to mention our military and pseudo-military adventures around the world, and the continuation of Guantanamo.
However, Snowden seems to have taken himself as some sort of warrior against the all-encompassing surveillance state and against the erosion of civil liberties. If that is the position he wants to take and he wants to be taken seriously as something more than just someone who has localized problems with the United States, that limits his options.
You can't accept asylum in the Russian Federation if what you oppose is the surveillance state, if what you are fighting for is civil liberties. Russia is governed by a former spymaster who continues to use the surveillance powers he learned, who regularly imprisons his political opponents, and strips them of all their assets, for whom a personal enemy is ipso facto, an enemy of the state. I know this is the point at which Snowden's defenders will crow about Bradley Manning, but for all the possible injustice in that case the parallel is a bad one. It is much more as if, having won the election, Obama had charges filed against Romney, imprisoned him, and took his fortune. Just last week, a Putin opponent running for mayor of Moscow was convicted on trumped-up charges so that he cannot run for office. This is where our warrior for openness and civil rights and liberties will be living, a country in which being "pro-gay" comes with a prison sentence, in which gay tourists are now being detained, in which any non-governmental organization with any foreign contact is shut down as a tool of foreign governments.
Of course, Russia wasn't his intended destination, but the records of China, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela with respect to openness, civil liberties, and freedom of the press are not much better. In the end, it looks like Snowden and his defenders care about abuses to the degree they are carried out by the United States. When others do the same or worse, it matters not at all. 
I do await his brave statements about the evils of Russian society, but I assume I wait in vain.

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