This is wild -- and I think it's bad news if you're hoping that Edward Snowden's NSA revelations will lead to serious changes in American surveillance policy:
The Hong Kong government announced on Sunday afternoon that it had allowed the departure from its territory of Edward J. Snowden....If you had any hope that a coalition of lefties and libertarians, including right-leaning Paulite libertarians, might ultimately pressure the U.S. government to dial down NSA surveillance, and if you were taking comfort in the fact that even non-Paulites on the right have been accusing President Obama of using the NSA as Big Brother, well, forget it, because that's over: Snowden is consorting with four entities the mainstream right deeply distrusts -- China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Wikileaks -- and that fact is going to drive right-wing reactions to Snowden from now on.
A Moscow-based reservations agent at Aeroflot, Russia's national airline, said that Mr. Snowden was aboard flight SU213 to Moscow, traveling on a one-way ticket to Moscow....
Russia's Interfax news service ... reported that Mr. Snowden would remain in transit at an airport in Moscow for "several hours" pending an onward flight to Cuba, and would therefore not formally cross the Russian border or be subject to detention. Someone close to Mr. Snowden later told Interfax that he planned to continue on to Caracas, Venezuela....
WikiLeaks ... said in a statement on its Twitter feed that it had "assisted Mr. Snowden's political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers" and safe exit from Hong Kong, and said in a follow-up Twitter posting that, "Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisers." ...
Pretty much everyone on the right, including Fox and talk radio, is going to take the McCain/Graham line henceforth: no more talk about excessive surveillance, and a lot of talk about how weak Obama has been as Snowden has jetted around the world, with the aid of America's enemies. I know Chavez is gone, but his party is still in power in Venezuela, and if Snowden isn't extradited -- I assume he won't be -- Obama's failure to get him back will be deemed by the right as effectively canceling out the killing of bin Laden.
The right is always more comfortable arguing that Democrats are weak on defense, and the mainstream press is usually very eager to accommodate of this point of view. Post-Iraq syndrome has helped Obama, as has his willingness to continue many Bush-era policies apart from fighting the Iraq War endlessly, but I imagine the Beltway Establishment will enjoy the opportunity to revert to the old stereotypes: GOP as patriotic war daddies, Democrats as feckless weaklings. So here it comes again.
Now, why Venezuela? I wonder if Snowden actually read this 2012 Business Insider post, titled "If You Had to Disappear, Where Would You Go?," written by Simon Black of the Web site Sovereign Man:
Black wrote while Chavez was still alive, but if what he wrote was accurate at the time, I imagine some of it still is:
... Venezuelans have a rich ethnic mix– African, European, indigenous, etc. Almost any westerner can pass as Venezuelan, so white or black, you don't necessarily stick out.So maybe we'll never get Snowden back. Won't that turn Obama into Jimmy Carter as far as U.S. politics is concerned?
Further, Hugo Chavez's brand of National Socialism has created a largely cash society in Venezuela. There are few financial records from which anyone could be tracked, unlike in developed countries up north where constantly using your MasterCard pinpoints your exact location to any government agency paying attention.
Then there's the bit about the extradition treaty....
There is a US-Venezuela extradition treaty dating back to 1922. However it's riddled with ambiguities and contains an extremely limited list of extraditable offenses (e.g. bigamy...seriously?) Even when the treaty does apply, Hugo Chavez rarely cooperates....
UPDATE: Wow, that was fast:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the few public officials sympathetic toward Edward Snowden, warned the national security leaker on Sunday not to cut deals or cozy up to any [hostile] government at the risk of losing credibility.Translation: I'm trying to run for president with a lite version of my dad's national security views while still hoping to get traditional Republicans' votes, and YOU'RE SCREWING IT UP FOR ME, SNOWDEN!
"I do think, for Mr. Snowden, if he cozies up to the Russian government, it will be nothing but bad for his name in history," said Paul on CNN's "State of the Union." "If he goes to an independent third country like Iceland and if he refuses to talk to any sort of formal government about this, I think there's a chance that he'll be seen as an advocate of privacy. If he cozies up to either the Russian government, the Chinese government, or any of these governments that are perceived still as enemies of ours, I think that will be a real problem for him in history."
(Via commenter tonycpsu at Metafilter.)