Fugitive Edward Snowden, wanted on charges of espionage against his own country, is caught in a trap of his own making.
He finds himself stranded in a Moscow airport where he’s been promised political asylum by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who says he will never turn Mr. Snowden over to the United States to stand trial on criminal charges of exposing national security secrets to our enemies.
However, the former Soviet KGB agent’s offer of a safe haven comes with one condition: “If he wants to stay here … he must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips,” he told reporters at a gas exporters’ conference in Moscow on Monday.
It sounds more than strange from the lips of a man who ruthlessly rules Russia with an iron hand, crushing his political opponents and imprisoning people who dare to criticize his autocratic government, which has led Russia back into a dark era of political corruption, skullduggery and fear.
It is more than likely that the Russians have debriefed and interrogated Mr. Snowden by now, and no doubt made him enticing offers of asylum that they hoped he could not refuse. Many secrets could still be hidden in his laptop, but can anyone really believe Mr. Putin’s intelligence apparatchiks have not seen them?
There are those who suspect that Mr. Snowden is or was a Russian agent who sought jobs in the CIA and the National Security Agency, which ran Prism, the telecom surveillance program he exposed to the world.
Mr. Snowden has been in Moscow for nine days in a transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, plotting his next move, even as he declares that he would not accept any demand by Mr. Putin or anyone else that he stop revealing more secrets about U.S. intelligence activities.
U.S. intelligence officials here think that Mr. Snowden has a large cache of information about American surveillance programs that he intends to reveal over the coming weeks and months in an effort to further damage U.S. security on the international stage.
In a letter to Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, seen by the Reuters news agency Monday, Mr. Snowden complains he is being wrongly persecuted by the United States for revealing its surveillance methods, but says he will not be silenced.
“I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest,” he wrote in a bizarre, delusional, far-left manifesto of his larger, long-term goals.
“No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world,” he wrote in an appeal to Mr. Correa, the leftist leader who has launched his own campaign against the right of a free press to criticize his administration.
At times, Mr. Snowden’s self-serving writings veer off into the psychotic, accusing the United States of unfairly conducting “an extrajudicial manhunt costing me, my family, my freedom to travel, and my right to live peacefully without fear of illegal aggression.”
In a statement released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, Mr. Snowden said the Obama administration had used tactics that had turned him into “a stateless person.”
Indeed, he seemed naively and peculiarly surprised that the United States revoked his passport in its efforts to bring him to justice. Why on earth does he think WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, his hero and role model, who published reams of classified U.S. documents, is holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London?
President Obama, while traveling in Tanzania, said the U.S. has been working through law enforcement channels and at other high diplomatic levels with the Russians “to find a solution to the problem.”
Mr. Putin, enjoying any opportunity to stick it to the United States, was not budging from his conditional offer of a safe harbor, even as he acknowledged that Mr. Snowden isn’t going to buy it because “he feels himself to be a human rights activist.” If Mr. Snowden will not agree to his conditions, Mr. Putin said, then “he must choose a country of destination and go there.”
Mr. Snowden wants to do just that. The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that he’s given Russian officials a list of 15 countries to whom he plans to apply for asylum.
Mr. Snowden is a young, naive, undereducated computer hacker and political zealot who is under the simple-minded delusion that America’s government shouldn’t have any secrets; that it should conduct no surveillance programs to protect Americans from deadly terrorist attacks; and that a free society means that law enforcers should not conduct precautionary inquiries about people here and abroad who are, with just cause, suspected of plotting to kill as many of us as they can.
This week, evidence was presented in the court-martial trial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks that showed al Qaeda leaders reveling in the secret information that they said will help them to attack our country.
“By the grace of God, the enemy’s interests are today spread all over the place,” said Adam Gadahn, a member of the terrorist group, in a 2011 al Qaeda-produced video.
The video urged terrorists to study the material revealed by WikiLeaks, whose release was applauded by Mr. Snowden.
The prosecution at Pfc. Manning’s trial offered excerpts from the winter 2010 issue of al Qaeda’s online magazine Inspire, which said, “Anything useful from WikiLeaks is useful for archiving.”
The government also submitted evidence that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, obtained Afghanistan battlefield documents published by WikiLeaks. They were discovered during the May 2011 raid on his Pakistan compound where he was killed.
This is what’s at stake in Mr. Snowden’s unconscionable theft and disclosure of vital national security information that has terrorist leaders cheering his evil acts. He is not a hero. He’s a criminal who is helping terrorists wage war on Americans and our homeland.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.