Why Would Ecuador Appeal to Edward Snowden?

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On Sunday it was reported that Edward Snowden, the whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor, would seek asylum in Ecuador. (This morning things were a little more cloudy.) Since coming forward last month with documents related to massive dragnet surveillance of American citizens by the U.S. government, Snowden has put on his best Carmen Sandiego impression. Clearly U.S. officials don’t have a copy of the World Almanac available, because so far Snowden has been successful.

On its face, Ecuador doesn’t seem like the best choice for Snowden to relocate, as they have an extradition treaty with the United States. But so far the international community has enjoyed playing Alderaan to America’s Galactic Empire. (President Obama is probably regretting his foolish decision to pass on building a Death Star.) Hong Kong answered the president’s demand for Snowden by booking him (i.e. Snowden) on a one-way flight to Moscow. Everyone knows Hoth is the coolest planet (ha!) in the galaxy, so of course Russia wasn’t going to miss playing the part.

And it turns out that Ecuador is the perfect Yavin IV. In 1872, when the U.S. government signed that extradition treaty [pdf], we were still serious about the Fourth Amendment. So our ambassadors didn’t think much about the clause that reads: “The stipulations of this treaty shall not be applicable to crimes or offenses of a political character.” Today, it’s hard to think of anything more politicized than our sprawling secrecy apparatus.

The Wikileaks Connection

If he does make it to Ecuador, Snowden will be in good company. (Technically.) Since the WikiLeaks release of 350,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and war logs, Julian Assange, the sunlight organization’s founder, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has diplomatic asylum. (Indeed, it was WikiLeaks that facilitated Snowden’s passage from Moscow to Ecuador.) President Rafael Correa of Ecuador is a big fan of Assange. "Your WikiLeaks has made us stronger!" he told the activist last year.

"I love and admire the American people a great deal," said Correa. "The last thing I'd be is anti-American, but I will always call a spade a spade."

And let’s face it: The U.S. intelligence community is spadier than ever. So unless Delta Force is sent in to snatch Snowden (which would be an act of war) or all this Ecuador business was a big misdirection, the NSA whistleblower could look forward to long, sunny days of snorkeling in the Galápagos Islands.

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June 24, 2013 - 8:30am
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