Who Will Take Snowden In?

Jun 24 2013 @ 5:47pm

Ben Smith asks journalists to stop debating Snowden’s character. But, with news that the leaker is now in Moscow and apparently seeking asylum in Ecuador, Moynihan pushes back, arguing that Snowden’s shelter under authoritarian regimes makes his character fair game:

[Y]es, it is necessary to point out that, from Moscow, Snowden looks to be relocating, after a possible stop in Havana, to Ecuador, a country classified by Freedom House as “partially free,” with an “unfree” press. As we debate protecting journalists like Glenn Greenwald from the scurrilous attacks of both his fellow journalists, and politicians, it’s also worth noting that the Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed its “dismay” over a repressive new media law, inspired by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s late mentor Hugo Chávez, that allows the government to “impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press.”

As we bang on about the importance of transparency, we should remember that the Ecuadorian National Assembly, in which 100 of 137 seats are held by Correa’s ruling party, approved the controversial measure, according to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, “without debating any of its provisions—not even the ones that were added in the last moment.” Or maybe revisit Amnesty’s 2012 complaint that Correa was overseeing a “pattern of criminalization of community leaders who have participated in peaceful protests and then face unfounded charges, arbitrary arrests, and strict bail conditions simply for campaigning against laws and policies on the use of natural resources.”

Max Fisher analyzes what Putin or Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa would stand to gain by granting asylum to Snowden:

By sheltering Assange and possibly Snowden, infuriating the United States in the process, Correa bolsters his image as a national champion standing up to the Americans as well as his case for vigilance against the imperialist threat, including in the independent media he has painted as pro-Washington. Snowden, wittingly or not, could risk granting Correa’s crackdowns some political cover by accepting asylum there.

It’s difficult to imagine that Snowden or Assange earnestly support Correa’s treatment of journalists or his ideology, much less the far worse abuses of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. And it’s not hard to see why someone might prefer asylum with a troubled Latin American democracy to risking life in a jail cell. But it’s difficult to escape the irony of these two high-profile activists, who got themselves wanted by the United States for leaks they say expose U.S. abuses, now allying themselves with governments infamous for abuses that are by any reasonable metric far more egregious.