Sunday, June 09, 2013


So after gathering the materials he was about to leak, the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, went to Hong Kong -- which means I wasn't completely off base on Friday when I speculated about a China connection to the leak. Of the two reasons Snowden gives for choosing Hong Kong, the first strains credulity:
On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.
In a NPR interview Glenn Greenwald doubles down on this "spirited commitment" nonsense.
He chose it [Hong Kong], I think, for a couple of reasons. One is that he said that there was a history of very vibrant commitment to free speech and free association. There are political protests all of the time in Hong Kong that are very free. People think that because it's technically in China that it's oppressive, but Hong Kong is under its own rule and has a lot of civil liberties.
Charles Johnson cites Wikipedia on the subject of press freedom in Hong Kong:
That year [2011], Hong Kong's ranking on the Press Freedom Index published annually by Reporters Without Borders dropped twenty places to 54th place. In a report published alongside the index, it was noted that "arrests, assaults and harassment worsened working conditions for journalists [in Hong Kong] to an extent not seen previously, a sign of a worrying change in government policy."
In the 2013 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Hong Kong has slipped even further, to 58th place.

Josh Marshall ponders the choice of Hong Kong:
[Snowden] says in the article that his highest hope is get asylum in Iceland. I can pretty much guarantee you that that's not going to happen. A small country that wants to be close friends of the United States is not going to do that. I could see arguments for Russia or Venezuela or perhaps Iran. But of all the places where you might have a shot at not getting extradited, China's not a bad choice. Hong Kong might even give you the best of both worlds, hosted by repressive government which is a US rival and yet living in a city with Western standards of openness, wealth, etc.

... Call me naive but I think this is going to come down to how Beijing wants to play this. If they don't want a fight over this, Snowden's toast. If they like the optics of it, I don't think it matters what that extradition treaty says. China's a big enough player and the US has enough other fish to fry with the Chinese, that the US is not going to put the bilateral relationship on the line over this guy. And the Chinese might relish granting asylum to an American running from the claws of US 'state repression'.
I actually think the U.S. will be very, very insistent on getting this guy, at whatever risk to the bilateral relationship. And I don't think China is quite ready to be defiant in a Francis Gary Powers-style standoff over him -- but I think China will name a high price, which the U.S. will quite willingly pay.

But I'm still wondering whether there's more to this. I'm still thinking about one the tweets I reproduced on Friday:

Is there any possibility that China assisted Snowden before the fact?

And should I read anything into the fact that NBC anchor Lester Holt began a report on Snowden by referring to him as the "apparent" leaker?
The apparent source who exposed the government's top-secret collection of phone records has revealed himself -- so says the publication that broke the story last week.... Tonight the self-identified source of that story has stepped forward....
I'm not trying to be Alex Jones here. I'm just wondering if NBC is implying a suspicion that the leak could involve more than just this one guy.


Greg Hao said...

Lots of great stuff here but I think the reason NBC went with apparent leaker is more to do with the fact that their nose is bent out of shape since Snowden didn't go to them first but went to Greenwald & Washinton Post than multiple/different leakers.

Not to say that's not possible of course.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Good account. Good suspicions.

Victor said...

I guess I just don't know sh*t anymore.
I admit it.
When did Hong Kong become the bastion for freedom?

Elvis Lives said...

Money says the Chinese will hire him

BH said...

When I first read Snowden's & Greenwald's comments about the admirable state of freedom of debate in Hong Kong, I cracked up. Instant and full self-discrediting.

And why Iceland? Why not to Brazil with Greenwald? Surely GG wouldn't deign to live there unless its air were permeated with liberty.

Steve M. said...

And why Iceland?

Maybe he likes Bjork.

Or Sigur Ros.

BH said...

Heh. Might be.

Joseph Nobles said...

Greenwald asked him about allegations he might defect to China, an enemy of the United States, being why he chose Hong Kong. Snowden's answer?

1. China isn't actually an enemy. It's one of our largest trading partners.

2. Hong Kong is a bastion of free speech, etc.

Notice what's missing in that response?