Free At Last

No Need to elaborate on this post. As of this morning, Edward Snowden was issued temporary asylum in Russia. He is allowed to legally reside in the country for one year with the option to apply for renewal when the year is up. With his newly issued Russian passport in hand, Edward Snowden left the transit zone and took his first steps into Moscow as a (temporary) citizen of Russia. According to New York Magazine, Snowden was accompanied by Wikileaks rep Sarah Harrison. 

This couldn’t have happened at a better time. The heat has died down from other news stories such as the Zimmerman trial and the Anthony Weiner scandal (redux) so this story can once again take the spotlight. This comforting ending also signals my departure from this blog. I am currently concentrating on other projects that require more of my attention and while the Edward Snowden story can break something new at any moment, my focus needs to be placed on other topics. But don’t fear, if something monumental occurs regarding Snowden, I will be here to report on it.

I’m glad to hear that Snowden is finally somewhere safe, I hope this brings him some sense of closure.

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Mother Russia?

In my last post, I stated that I was eagerly expecting information on Snowden’s temporary asylum in Russia. After all, the man released statements that he would like to begin building a life for himself in the potential new homeland, maybe even settle down, get a job, and find a new girlfriend. While there certainly has been news regarding the case that has been released today, I’m having a hard time trying to piece together exactly what’s going on. I’m sure you are too reader, which is why I will put these developments together and try to sort through this mess in today’s post.

This morning, multiple news sources such as NBC news, the New York Times, New York Magazine, and many others released articles stating that Russian media outlets Interfax and RIA Novosti stated that Edward Snowden was issued a certificate confirming his asylum request. This certificate also granted him the permission he needed to leave the transit zone of the Moscow airport and move about the country while the rest of his application is processed. But earlier this afternoon, new reports from the same sources state that is no longer the case. The New York Times reports that Snowden has in fact not received the certificate in question.

NBC News has confirmed that he has been in contact with the lawyer assisting him with the paperwork, Anatoly Kucheren, and there is still no word from the proper authorities as of yet. Snowden kept his few belongings as well as a copy of Crime and Punishment close as he awaits his fate. Because of this, It looks like Snowden will be staying in the transit zone for at least one more night.

What happened here? Why was it reported this morning that Snowden was free to establish himself in Russia when it in fact wasn’t true? Reporters spent the entire day outside the entrance to Sheremetyevo airport just to have his lawyer emerge to dispel the happy rumor? There are a possibility of explanations but only two seem slightly credible. The less credible of the two is that Putin wasn’t quite ready to grant this temporary asylum yet. Snowden has already promised that he will not leak any information and Putin has made it very clear that he will not be extraditing the NSA leaker back to the US. With that said, Putin may have something to lose if this asylum is granted. US and Russia relations are already on shaky ground and if Putin grants temporary asylum, it may risk Obama’s visit with him scheduled for September. 

The other, more plausible reason for this madness is that the press misreported the story. On Monday, almost all articles pertaining to the Snowden case stated that Snowden would have some sort of tangible response by Wednesday. The actual quote is that Snowden could have a response as early as Wednesday, a big difference from the first phrase above. Because of that, the press demanded information today, as opposed to waiting it out, and were willing to report the news that they did no matter what actually happened. Misreporting is not new in our media, as we are unfortunately responsible for reporting incorrect information in times of tragedy, presidential elections, etc. This may just be another instance of the press reporting what it wants to because it simply can. The media was eager for a story and sources weren’t reporting fast enough so they could have made it up until other information was confirmed.

I don’t know how much longer Snowden will be stuck in the transit zone. The situation is being increasingly compared to the movie The Terminal, in which Tom Hanks’ character is stuck in the transit zone at an airport. I do however hope that this situation gives way to some sort of concrete answer for Snowden soon as the man does need to establish his next moves should the situation with Russia fall through. No one can establish a new life from the inside of an airport. In the meantime though, the man has Crime and Punishment to keep him busy.

It’s Just His Opinion

Because my final masters paper is due in less than a week, I’ll be brief in this post. After all, the keys to fixing terrestrial radio cannot simply write themselves. Anyways, onto the Snowden headlines!

Since we last spoke, nothing monumental has occurred in this case. Edward Snowden formally put in his application for temporary asylum with Russia, but we all saw that coming from miles away. The official application however puts Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin in a rough spot. He does not want to further damage his country’s tenuous relationship with the United States. But he also thinks that this whole situation will eventually blow over and work itself out. According to New York Magazine, Putin is not really sure what to make of Snowden himself.  “He’s a young man,” said Putin. “In fact, I do not even really understand how he intends to continue to build his life. But it was his destiny and his choice. And we have our own national objectives.” I think that as long as Snowden keeps his word regarding the end to leaking information during his stay, Putin will grant him temporary, but not permanent, asylum. In Putin’s eyes, the sooner Snowden leaves, the better.

Here lies the real issue at hand. Obama is supposed to pay a visit to Russia in the coming months in order sit down with Putin and well, have a chat regarding said tenuous relations. According to the BBC, “Mr Putin is clearly aware of the sensitivities involved, and the issue risks overshadowing talks with US President Barack Obama who is due to visit Russia in September.” I’m sure that no one wants the Snowden asylum issue to interfere with these talks, including Snowden himself. However, the tedious relations will become even more tense if asylum is granted. You better hold onto your hats readers, because once an asylum, temporary or permanent, decision has been made, this story will become a lot more interesting. 

Privacy vs. Protection

In recent developments, Edward Snowden is perceived to have decided to call Venezuela his new home. According to CBS News, Venezuela seems to be the best choice because they are the most well equip nation to get Snowden there safely and keep him protected from extradition. Venezuela Foreign Minister, Elias Jaua, states, “Even if we wanted to, and we don’t, we wouldn’t extradite him, nor should we because it is not legal nor ethical.” Although a destination has finally been decided upon, the mission to get Snowden to safety is far away from complete. Currently, Snowden’s route on his “flight of liberty” has yet to be decided, and according to New York Magazine, the journey could become very costly. “A former CIA analyst suggested a private jet, which could run up to $200,000, but might be able to make it to Caracas from Russia where, as far as we know, Snowden remains at Sheremetyevo Airport — without refueling. ” Edward Snowden’s travel arrangements could take weeks to finalize.

The story of Edward Snowden brings many different points of debate to the forefront of the national conversation. The one that currently interests me the most is privacy vs. protection. When discussing a nation that was founded on certain established freedoms, is it more important to hold a citizen’s right to privacy in the highest regard? Or is the government’s obligation to protect its citizens from harm its highest responsibility?

There are strong arguments that could be made for both sides of this debate. Those who value their privacy very close to them have every right to do so. Whether there is a justifiable reason to do so or not, they have every right to stand up and say “I don’t want my government meddling in my private matters.” However, in this digital age, it is very difficult to keep even the most mundane activities private. With social media and internet usage at an all time high, media companies such as Facebook and Google are constantly selling your “private” information to third parties in order to create personalized advertising campaigns (always read your terms of use). And because new technology is developed every day to create shortcuts, most information is stored somewhere on the World Wide Web. Even medical records have become digitized and are living in an internet based cloud – without your permission. So although you may hold your private life in high regarding, there is unfortunately no such thing as 100% privacy in the digital age.

For those of you who find comfort in the large and soft security blanket that the USA has cast upon you, then I’m sure you can remain comfortable knowing that the NSA will not stop keeping track who you communicate with, when, where, and what about. But beware that in this post 9/11 world, “big brother” will always be watching. What I find troubling in this argument is that despite the claim that we are being watched for our own protection we are not fully protected. Terrible tragedies that have recently occurred in our country such as the Boston Marathon Bombings have taken place during this period and there was no way to prevent them. None of the communication took place online or over the phone, as far as we know. Even though our government wants to keep us safe, there is no way to fully accomplish that.

I hate to remain undecided in this heated argument, but I have already accepted that there is no way I will be able to keep my life completely private and protected. Every time I walk out of my apartment, I risk my well being in order to live my life. But it is a chance I am willing to take. Edward Snowden wanted to inform the citizens of this country that their daily activities are being monitored by the NSA, but I had assumed long ago that these activities would be monitored, especially if there was something to hide. From national terrorist suspicions to small-town local injustices, law enforcing departments constantly monitor activities such as phone calls and internet use in order to solve crimes. Why should this be any different? While I would rather my government not monitor my activities such as read personal texts from friends and family and look at pictures from the party I attended last weekend, I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.

I can appreciate the urgent manner in which Edward Snowden attempted to warn us about our privacy being infringed upon, but the bottom line is that the government spy game has taken place for a number of years at this point. As long as you have nothing to hide, there is no use to fight it because the NSA will continue this for the foreseeable future.