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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

What if Snowden was a Russian whistleblower?

The Atlantic - Would the U.S. Grant Asylum to a Man Who Exposed Russia's Spying?
Conor Friedersdorf asks us to consider a very instructive scenario.
Imagine that an employee of a secretive surveillance agency in Russia or China landed at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, somehow called a press conference, and revealed that the leaders of his country were secretly gathering up the private data of all Russians or Chinese in previously unknown ways, and that they were also spying on many Americans.

What would be the right thing to do in that situation? Should Obama return the leaker to Russia or China to face charges of revealing classified information and likely spend the rest of his life in prison? Or would the demands of justice and morality be better served by granting political asylum?
For all the freaking out about Russia granting Snowden temporary asylum, the fact is that all that freaking out is just ritual. The people doing it (at least those in government) have to do it, but it’s doubtful they ever seriously expected any other outcome. Russia will not do something simply because we demand it, for the same reason we do not automatically bend to Russian demands. Some people may not like the outcome, but thems the breaks.

We shouldn’t punish Russia for taking in Snowden, because it’s likely we would do the same if the situation was reversed. The global issues involved in our relationship with Russia are far more important than punishing someone who’s embarrassed the United States.

"To me, the U.S. would be foolish to let the Edward Snowden controversy affect its relationship with a nuclear power or to prioritize Snowden when so many more important issues are at stake," Friedersdorf writes.

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