back to article Ecuador: Snowden is Russia's problem

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden looks increasingly stranded in Russia, with Ecuador's president reportedly saying that the country is not considering an asylum request from him. President Rafael Correa has told The Guardian that Snowden is Russia's responsibility, and he would need to reach Ecuadorian territory for the …


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  1. Danny 14 Silver badge

    15 countries eh?

    "thanks for the heads up snowden but we US aid money so get off our land"

    1. Titus Technophobe
      Thumb Up

      A good summary

      That would seem to be the long and the short of the situation. He doesn't seem to be as such in a position to claim Political Asylum and frankly he doesn't seem to know enough that any country would consider 'trumping up' Asylum refugee status on his behalf.

      I guess his best bet now is to submit himself to the American Justice system ... last time I heard it was a little fairer than say Ecuador or indeed Russia.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I doubt it's anything to do with US aid. They've given asylum to Assange already. And look how that's turned out...

      They've got an untidy bloke blocking up their sofa, and he's just persuaded one of their consuls to do something stupid, and possibly embarrassing, while the ambassador was away. Diplomats are supposed to be publicity-shy unless directly instructed otherwise.

      Anyway, the rules of asylum are that you're supposed to claim it in the first country you come to, when you get there. Or you can claim it in an embassy beforehand and then go off there. But I'm not sure that second one is of much practical use, because if you're fleeing from the country you're in - what's to stop them intercepting you on your way to the border, between embassy and target country? As usual with international law, it tends towards the impractical, and appears to be written to assume that all countries are good and honest global citizens. Given what a cynical bunch diplomats, lawyers and politicians are I've never quite understood how that happens...

      1. 123465789

        You don't understand how that happens? It's quite easy - those international laws tend to be written by those same cynical bunch...

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Assange was a mistake, one they cannot easily back out of. Assange turned up in an embassy. Ambassadors probably have a better remit to make decisions. I believe that ambassador was recalled (and probably given a kicking for accepting the request).

          With snowdon he ISNT on the doorstep so they can politely decline or at least give him enough hoops to jump through to make it all but impossible anyway.

  2. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Billy no mates

    Sucks to be him. Also goes to show how unimportant the lady bothering Ecuadorean couch surfer is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Billy no mates

      Also goes to show how unimportant the lady bothering Ecuadorean couch surfer is.

      Though as the Guardian article says that the Ecuadorian Presidents said the the travel papers that Snowden used were issued "in error" by the Consul in London (or, I think he says, "by the London Consul and Assange"). Sounds to me like that Ecuadorian Consul is starting to succumb from Stockholm Syndrome.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Billy no mates

        Sounds to me like that Ecuadorian Consul is starting to succumb from Stockholm Syndrome

        That matches with Assange's "I don't want to go to Stockholm" Syndrome...

  3. Anomalous Cowshed

    All the world is a stage

    Select whichever answer you like best:

    1. Ecuador, having raised its profile in the media 1000 times, has had its turn in the limelight and now enough is enough, the PR budget is running out, tourism is up and there's no more need for further stunts.

    2. US and Ecuador agree that this particular show should contain a twist in which The Man From El Monte he say: "no" and the Snowden saga continues in a different direction, perhaps including an exceptional "pardon" from President Obama and return to the motherland.

    3. US leans on Ecuador, and says "you've already got that other major criminal whom we are desperate to lay hands on; don't give this one asylum or else we'll do something nasty to you (withhold aid - do they get aid? - or bomb them).

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: All the world is a stage

      plus the US probably dont really care about Assange; they have Manning so face is saved. Snowden on the other hand will be pursued, Obama himself has mentioned him (I dont remember Assange being mentioned by any other senior US spokesperson). That alone speaks volumes.

      Snowden will be used as a bargaining tool by whatever country gets him.

      1. NogginTheNog

        Re: All the world is a stage

        Snowden is an American and so *has* to be seen to be being pursued as he's consider a 'traitor' and the US government can't just leave it alone. Chasing Assange, who's an Australian, is a much more fraught with international repercussions, and so if it's being done at all (which I doubt) then it will be being done so very very subtly.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: All the world is a stage

          The problem is that Snowden *has* committed a crime, and is now wanted to answer for that. Quite simply, he is a fugitive from justice and there is no way to sugarcoat that.

          Even the whistleblower defence cannot stand without acknowledging first that he disclosed secrets he signed up to keep quiet about, which is an act I have yet to find a government declare any enthusiasm for.

          This creates a situation analogous to Assange insofar that Assange too is a fugitive, using the asylum seeker process to evade justice. It sets bad precedents.

          The only way to resolve what's going to happen to either is to let the legal processes take place as they should for normal people - both Assange and Snowden are not special, however much they like to pretend they are.

          In the case of Assange it's quite possible that the Swedes just give him a fine and send him on his way, thus punting him into the obscurity he fears (unless he passed on an STD that the girls' lawyer is keeping quiet about, in which case it's still obscurity, but for a different reason). If I was Assange I'd made sure I'd have no allergies (other than to condoms) because it only takes getting very ill to create a desire to swap the couch for a hospital bed. I'd be very careful with what I eat and drink - it would be a simple way out for Ecuador.

          In the case of Snowden, well, if you're that close to the fire you shouldn't play with it. His revelations have put some more meat on suspicions, but as far as I can tell, politicians are just riding the media wave - anyone who claims to be surprised by what Snowden revealed is only declaring themselves either liars or hopelessly naive. He revealed national secrets, and it's not like it's hard to find out what the punishment for that is - he knew the risk. He is naive if he thinks another nation will help, because it would be helping a fugitive.

          What puzzles me is that Snowden obviously planned the data theft, but doesn't seem to have invested the same amount of planning in his escape. What exactly did Snowden think was going to happen?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: All the world is a stage

            "What puzzles me is that Snowden obviously planned the data theft, but doesn't seem to have invested the same amount of planning in his escape."

            That's because he thought first of doing his civic duty, and only second (if at all) about his personal safety.

            Such decency and courage is bound to puzzle many people nowadays. The Romans would have understood.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: The Romans would have understood.

              The Romans would have put him to the sword without a second thought.

          2. Tom 13

            Re: What exactly did Snowden think was going to happen?

            He expected he'd be hailed as hero and welcomed back to a ticker tape parade. There was no thought involved. Typical Progressive behavior pattern.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: All the world is a stage

        Assange didn't embarrass The Big 0 personally, Snowden did. Snowden should have paid a bit more attention to the IRS TEA Party scandal before honking of the new Leroy Brown.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ecuador have the right idea, "You need to be on our soil for us to consider asylum" I like it. We should do the same thing with immigrants.

    "So you want to be an immigrant"

    First give them the task of getting to the country, then make them run an obstacle course of death, those who survive have earnt the right to stay in the UK.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Well

      What has immigration have to do with asylum? How do you become an immigrant to a country you never set foot in?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well

        A fair portion of asylum seekers come here first as illegal immigrants. They then apply for asylum once they're in the country, and since he currently has no state wouldn't that make him an illegal immigrant anywhere he goes?

        1. S4qFBxkFFg

          Re: Well

          He isn't stateless, his passport has been cancelled.

          (Which, from his point of view, is probably worse.)

          1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

            Re: Well

            He isn't stateless, his passport has been cancelled.

            That's right. He isn't like a web page, it's just that VeriSign will not vouch for him.

        2. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Well

          What do you think the purpose of border control is? He wont be able to get ON a plane without travel papers, no airline would let you do that because THEY get fined if they allow illegals to travel. Hence why he wants asylum before he boards a plane so that he can get travel papers.

          Cuba would have done it out of spite 20 years ago, not so much these days. Russia might use him as a bargaining tool to get the US out of Syria. Iran doesnt want the US parking next door in Syria so I imagine they will simply keep quiet. Israel would love him, turn his brain inside out then send him back to U.S. Iceland would take him, then realise they have lots of clean water and no money so will have some sort of deal with the US.

    2. oddie

      Re: Well

      ah, the old 1066 method... do they still get to run the country if they win?

  5. jubtastic1


    And lots of it to make the Equador President stand up and do a public 180, still, as Nixon says, 'hacker' Snowden is no big deal, we can take him or leave him etc, I'm not sure I believe him though.

  6. EddieD

    No-one wants him.

    He wasn't a spook, he was a contractor. He knows nothing about the "how" of the security services, all he did was download the results. If he was stupid enough to travel with his data stores, then the Russians will (probably) already have everything he took, and will just want rid of him.

  7. CmdrX3

    Does Russia have a timekeeping department now

    Any changes to the worlds clocks and watches must now be referred to the foreign minitry.

  8. Thorsten

    Quod erat expectandum

    Snowden's daftest move so far: Letting himself be "helped" by WikiLeaks.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Quod erat expectandum

      I agree. Assange is nearly universally disliked and no government can possibly approve of what Wikileaks does. Now Assange can add two more victims to the list of people harmed by his ego, Snowden and the guy from Ecuador who granted the initial travel document. He got to be in the news again though so he's probably quite pleased with himself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: universally disliked

        better tell those 26% of australian voters who under polling say they would vote for him and his party. Oh hang on, we don't want facts involved do we

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: universally disliked

          I think you should go back and look at the details of that poll. I believe, among other things, you'll find that saying '25% of Australians' is about a 95% overstatement.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems Putin has offered (publicly, at least) terms

    If Snowden values any semblance of liberty, perhaps it's time to shut up and take what might be the best offer on the table? It's hard, I know, and I think he's done a good thing, but publicly fucking with the Americans is going to have consequences.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About face

    I wonder how many calls from the US state dept it took to get Ecuador to 'see sense', or whether its was more down to having milked the positive press enough without having to actually piss the US off.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: calls from the US state dept it took

      I doubt it was from the US government. Those would have been more likely to encourage them to take him, no matter what leverage they thought they were attempting to apply. More likely an EU country that realized it had as much to fear as the US. UK would be at the top of the list except everybody knows they're at the top of the list so it would be stupid of them to do so. Although it could have been Russia. Snowden is mostly used up and now they need to dispose of the body without being seen to be disposing of the body.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Equador, the pillar of freedom

    - no more, apparently, despite all their posturing and "we won't be told by the USA what to do", etc.

    Likewise other, apparently more advanced practitioners of "freedom of expression". UK, obviously, because. Island - suddenly not that keen. Germany, despite the indignity of being classed by the USA as "3rd tier partner" - democracy ist gut, aber $$$ is besser. And the French? I'm sure they' would love to piss off America, but not THAT much. Maybe show a middle finger from afar but to come close and kick it in the balls... non!

    Likewise Poland, which, one might think, should remember a thing or two about the value of free speech but is obsessing with trying to be "a friend of America" - at any cost.

    Nobody wants to fuck with the big bully, fair enough. But at least they should be honest about it, cause all this dancing by the politicos is just embarrassing to watch.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

      You don't understand. No-one wants him because it's too much hassle. He's trouble, and you never know what he'll do. And whatever it is, it'll generate automatic publicity. Plus there's all those forms to fill out. Paperwork's a bitch you know...

      In the case of the genuine democracies it's even worse. I'm not sure he's got a valid case for asylum. He broke US laws and they're seeking to arrest and try him. That's not political persecution, that's legal due process. So the German government could stick two fingers up to the US, and then have a legal minefield to walk though, then find they have to extradite him anyway, on instruction from their own courts. Or maybe not, as it could be regarded as a political crime, and therefore exempt from extradition treaties.

      Remember, internet wish-fulfilment is not the same as actual, real life.

      As for Russia, they can do what they want, as their courts will do what they're told. But it's one thing to make mischief and get free publicity, while embarrassing an adversary. It's another to actually do something, and create a diplomatic incident. Putin wants trade with the US, and diplomatic deals with them too. There's no point gratuitously pissing them off, unless there's something in it for him. As an ex-KGB officer, he's unlikely to be shocked at the idea of spying...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

        Paperwork's never been a bitch for either true and "true" democracies when it suited them to show to the world what a pillar of freedom and democracy they are, against that vile regime of (enter any country name but the True Democracies).

        This is my whole point - they don't want to fuck with the US of A - let them say it, instead of coming up with laughable excuses. I want to hear it loud and clear: "We value our trade links and good relationship with USA much, much more, than giving shelter to somebody, who confirmed that USA spy on us".

        there's one more aspect: the reaction of the world is a clear go-ahead to the US: we can spy on them and even if we slip, like with this Snowden, they will do fuck about it. Plus a strong message to wanna whistle-blowers: you've got nowhere to hide.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

          No-one can do anything about the US spying on them. Because they're busy spying on the US right back. Plus there's no point trying to stop spying, it's like trying to stop gravity.

          Governments spy. They always have, and probably always will. There'll be a short period of public embarrassment, then everyone will go back to business-as-usual.

          As for paperwork being a hassle, it really is. One of the things about being a proper democracy is the rule of law. That means the courts can overrule the government. So you can get lumbered with people like Abu Qatada, because the courts won't let you kick his sorry arse out the door due to his human rights.

          So if you take in someone like Snowden, the courts might rule that he isn't a genuine asylum claimant and make you send him back home. Which could be embarrassing if you've just been using him to polish up your credentials with his hero-worshippers online.

          Look at Assange. Ecuador took him in for some cheap PR. In the hopes that the UK would do a deal. But the UK can't do a deal, as our courts have ruled he's got to go to Sweden. Remember our government doesn't get to directly tell the police what to do. Of course, hints could be dropped, and he could be easily sneaked out of the country if the Met were willing to cooperate. But it would be a career-ending screw-up if (when) it leaked out, and possibly a criminal conspiracy. Even if they wanted to, it would be too much hassle and risk to ignore the law.

          1. kyza

            Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

            Not to mention of course that St. Julian is now a criminal under UK law as he's broken his bail terms, so he'd also need to extricate himself from having provably, and very publicly, broken the law.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

        "In the case of the genuine democracies it's even worse."

        What genuine democracies? If you are aware of any, please tell us where they are to be found.

        Before you start, consider that an explicit goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy, or anything of the kind. It was to be a "republic" - a conveniently undefined concept, but with a pleasantly libertarian ring to it.

        In that respect, nothing has changed since 1789. The USA has never been a democracy, and never will be.

        1. Irony Deficient

          “conveniently undefined concept”

          Tom, where exactly is it made explicit that a goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy? The late 18th century understanding of democracy was demonstrated primarily (if not only) by the city-states of ancient Greece; given the size of the US in 1789, and the communication technologies of that age, democracy as it was understood then would have been an impossibility, rendering such an explicit goal entirely unnecessary.

          Regarding the “conveniently undefined concept” of what a republic was then, I’d suggest rereading Federalist Paper #39, written by James Madison:

          If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior.

          How well that “conveniently undefined concept” of the late 18th century might match an early 21st century concept of democracy is left as an exercise to the reader.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: “conveniently undefined concept”

            "Tom, where exactly is it made explicit that a goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy?"

            Pretty much throughout the history of the period. This is not a convenient forum in which to write a book, so I'll just provide a few links. As a starting point, take a look at:




            Ironically, although the USA has never become anything remotely like a democracy, Jefferson's fear of "elective despotism" has been completely fulfilled. I can't think of a better description of recent US presidents than "elected despots". After four years, the voters get to elect a new despot.

            "Regarding the “conveniently undefined concept” of what a republic was then, I’d suggest rereading Federalist Paper #39, written by James Madison..."

            Thank you for the assumption that I had already read that paper. However, the passage you cite seems to me an utter lack of definition dressed up to look like a definition. "[A] government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people..." What does it mean to say that a government derives its power indirectly from the people? Nothing at all that I can see. It's just an impressive-sounding form of words.

            1. Irony Deficient

              Re: “conveniently undefined concept”

              Tom, thanks for the links that you’ve provided. In the Liberty Under Fire article, Dr. Pease’s evidence relies solely upon the Founding Fathers’ use of the word republic instead of democracy. This occurred not because democracy was associated with a “share the wealth” philosophy in the late 18th century; this happened because democracy then was associated with governments of a city-state scale. His claim that Benjamin Franklin was the source of the “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch” definition of democracy, as well as his use of a purported quote from the non-existent The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic, does not reflect well upon his research skills.

              For the article from the Cato Institute, Professor Hanke is correct that the Founding Fathers were aware of the evils that can accompany a tyranny of the majority. However, in the Founders’ view, that tyranny of the majority was exemplified by the contemporary British Parliament — Wherever the supreme power of legislation has resided, has been supposed to reside also a full power to change the form of the government. The Founders did not view the British Parliament of their time to be an example of a democracy. Like Dr. Pease, Professor Hanke is comparing the Founders’ views to modern definitions rather than to contemporary definitions.

              On the RedState article, Mr. Horowitz interprets democracy as being synonymous with Jefferson’s “elective despotism”. This also is an instance of modern definitions being used instead of contemporary definitions. Mr. Horowitz correctly notes John Witherspoon’s quote on “pure democracy”, though — Witherspoon was speaking in regards to city-state scale governments, just as Madison did in Federalist Paper #10. Here’s another extract from #10:

              The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.

              Again, the Founding Fathers did not make explicit that a goal of the US constitution was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy. The US in 1789 was too big to be a democracy, in the late 18th century sense of the word, given the available communication technologies of the period.

              Regarding Madison’s definition of republic in Federalist Paper #39, my understanding of an example of “powers derived indirectly from the people” would be the single vote of a province by its set of representatives in the Staten-Generaal of the Dutch Republic.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: “conveniently undefined concept”

                Thanks for your well-informed and instructive points, Irony Deficient. I suppose we may have to agree to disagree.

                In any case, I think we have drifted away from my original point, which is that - however you define "democracy" - there are no real working democracies in the world today. It's very possible that there cannot be, because there is no practical way of organizing a government "of the people, by the people, for the people", even with modern technology. And that's before even broaching the question of whether the people can be trusted to make important decisions at all.

                The words "democracy" and "republic" come apart in your hands when you try to unpick their "true" meaning. And that makes it clear that those who use them so frequently do so only as "hurrah" words that raise enthusiasm and sound goo, but mean nothing at all.

                1. Tom 13

                  Re: even with modern technology.

                  Technology has never been the problem with organizing government. It has always been the people it is intended to govern. If the people will not mitigate their own evil intentions by obtaining morality through religion, those intentions will flow through and find expression in the government as well.

          2. David Cantrell
            IT Angle

            Re: “conveniently undefined concept”

            FWIW Madison is clearly thinking about the Roman republic as his model there, not the Greek city-states. Anyone interested in how the Roman republic worked, and how it was corrupted and collapsed, Tom Holland's book "Rubicon" is excellent.

          3. Tom 13

            Re: was to prevent the nation from becoming a democracy?

            I know you are responding to a different Tom (who is a twit and got a down vote on his post from me) but given that the founders generally equated democracy as it was then understood with mob rule, there is a sense in which this is correct. Where the twit went off the rails was in implying the real purpose was to institute a regime without restraints on its power, untethered to any conception of morality, and bound only by the ambitions of those who could manipulate it to obtain ever greater power. The form of Republican government the founders attempted to engineer was one in which the evils of mob rule could be constrained while maintaining as tight a connection to the people's moral authority as possible. That we have subsequently ignored their warnings and cautions about the perils of democracy degenerating into mob rule is our own fault and not theirs.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

          Tom Welsh,

          First define democracy?

          The US founding fathers were referring back to Athens. The Athenians had drastically changed own their democracy after the disaster that was the Sicilian expedition, loss of the war with Sparta etc.

          Actually, before defining democracy, define demos. If you were Athenian that was male citizens only, no immigrants, no women and no slaves. You can rule a medium sized city with reference to an assembly of all your voters, bit harder to do it with a country. Speed of communications is a problem for a start, which is why Americans still don't get to elect their presidents directly.

          However, I think it's pretty obvious what I meant by genuine democracies. And you were being deliberately obtuse. And yes, I am making a value judgement about the validity of different systems, just because I can. Russia does not have a free media, free electoral commission or a free judiciary. Therefore it doesn't have free-and-fair elections, therefore it's not a democracy. However Putin is probably the leader most Russians want, even after the last election (which was more imperfect than usual). So I wouldn't call Russia a dictatorship - just not a genuine democracy. Maybe an oligarchy? It's a word they use themselves...

          While imperfect, the US, UK, Germany, France etc. do have free-and-fair elections. Therefore they're genuine democracies.

          However, as you correctly point out, none of them have an assembly of all free adult male citizens meeting in the town square to decide on policy.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

            "First define democracy?"

            That's straightforward. The word means "people power", "power of the people", or perhaps "rule by the people". If it means anything practical - which is arguable - it means that the people as a whole have power over their government. Not just power to alternate between two more or less equivalent groups of politicians every few years, but to get laws and policies that they actually want.

            "However, I think it's pretty obvious what I meant by genuine democracies."

            I disagree. Indeed, you yourself have already given quite powerful arguments for believing that, in a modern nation, there cannot exist anything remotely resembling a real democracy. If so, the first step is to admit that fact openly.

            "While imperfect, the US, UK, Germany, France etc. do have free-and-fair elections. Therefore they're genuine democracies."

            OK, now we know what you consider to be the definition of a genuine democracy. Under the circumstances, I don't think it's worth our while continuing this discussion.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

            "However, as you correctly point out, none of them have an assembly of all free adult male citizens meeting in the town square to decide on policy."

            Oddly enough, we currently have a real-life experiment in town square democracy going on under our very eyes - in Egypt. The huge numbers of ordinary people who jammed into Tahrir Square and other parts of central Cairo were directly responsible - and quite quickly, in political terms - for the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak. Now many of the same people have come back for a repeat performance, seeking to control the policies of President Morsi, who was elected to replaced Mubarak.

            Those Egyptians look very naive to Westerners. They actually believe that they ought to be able to elect a president on the strength of his promises, and then remove him from office if (in their opinion) he has not delivered on those promises! Any citizen of Britain, the USA, or any other modern "democracy" could set them right about that. As our presidents and prime ministers are "elective dictators", once in office they serve out their term and do whatever they wish, quite regardless of platforms and promises. And if the citizens don't like that, it's just too bad.

            However the Egyptians, apparently not yet understanding that "democracy" is just a social convention like that of the people who ignored the Emperor's nakedness, are actually trying to get their elected ruler to carry out the policies they want! I suppose that they will learn, soon enough, that the system just doesn't work that way.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: have a real-life experiment in town square democracy

              Your real life experiment looks to me like replay of the French Revolution(s). And while I would like to see the current despot deposed, have no confidence that his replacement will be any better than the one just removed. And even though at this point it certainly looks to me like the military is (thankfully) acting on the will of the people, I do not hold great hope that it will end any better than the French ones did.

          3. Tom 13

            Re: Americans still don't get to elect their presidents directly

            Speed was part of the reason, but not the only one. The US Constitution has always been directed at protecting as large a portion of the minorities as possible and as recognized by the cultural norms of the time. One of the great compromises in passing the constitution was adopting the exact method of Presidential election. If done strictly by popular vote it would have given too much power to the large states. If done as one vote per state (the EU model) it gave the small states too much power. Instead it was combined into an electoral college where each state had a fixed number of votes plus a number of votes based on the size of its population. Usually this means if you win the popular vote you will win the general election, but if you trample too much on the small states you will get a President who did not win the popular vote.

        3. David Cantrell

          Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

          The UK is a genuine democracy. As is the US. If you're thinking of an Athenian-style democracy where everyone (well, all the people who matter anyway, which is far less democratic than the UK or US) gets to vote on everything, then the closest that exists is Switzerland.

          You are also incorrect in thinking that republics are automatically different from democracies. Some are democracies (Ireland, Germany, the US, Switzerland), some aren't (China, Belarus, Syria), and democratic republics can be anything from mostly benevolent (Finland) to kinda evil (Israel, Iran) or accidentally evil as a result of corruption (South Africa, Russia).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

        I'm not sure if you're really missing my point, or deliberately trying to deflect it - the issue of legality is purely an excuse - and a petty one too. I'm absolutely convinced, had the bloke been a Russian, and holed up in some EU airport, or US airport, having just run from his Moscow masters, there'd be absolutely no problem with granting him asylum in a matter of hours in any of those "democracies", or "true democracies". Even if there would have been legal reasons to send him back, or at least, have it looked at, from a legal standpoint. Unless, obviously, we'd want to use him as a bargaining chip against Russia or China, and all necessary rules and laws would be broken again, as and when needed.

        But now all those champions of democracy feign indignation at the disclosure that their "ally" spies on them, and they scramble for some desperate excuses not to shelter the bloke who exposed it. I know they don't give a shit about morality, etc. But I wish they were a bit less... ridiculous, trying to pretend how they're oh so awfully sorry, but some God-imposed small print make it, alas, utterly impossible, to provide a home for this unfortunate person. I want to hear them say, politely, and in public: "Fuck you, Snowden, if you're so naive to think that we really care about those values we say we care about. You're too much hassle, Snowden. In fact, you'd do everybody a great favour, if you shot yourself in the head now, ideally in full view of the cameras, so there's no silly talk of "falling off the staircase". And if some bloggers blame some Russian remote control gun / melting bullet combination, or something - even better. Then we get back to the normal wheeling and dealing, and the public gets to see a couple of movies in a year or two".

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

          I'm not sure if you're really missing my point, or deliberately trying to deflect it - the issue of legality is purely an excuse - and a petty one too. I'm absolutely convinced, had the bloke been a Russian, and holed up in some EU airport, or US airport, having just run from his Moscow masters, there'd be absolutely no problem with granting him asylum in a matter of hours in any of those "democracies", or "true democracies".


          Britain has given several Russian citizens political asylum. It's a government that persecutes legitimate and peaceful opposition leaders and journalists. We would struggle to extradite anyone to Russia, even if we wanted to, because they also don't have a free-and-fair judiciary. 98% of people charged with a crime in Russia are convicted. Apparently you have to bribe the police before you're brought back to the police station. Once the process of filling in the charge sheet is begun, you're almost certain to be found guilty.

          Thus paperwork is a problem. If we had a Russian citizen here we wanted to send back, the rule of law probably wouldn't allow it. You'd have to resort to illegal actions, such as rendition. And look how much trouble that caused.

          So I'm neither missing, nor deliberately deflecting your point. Our governments should be, and mostly are, governed by the rule of law. If they give shelter to someone, and they have an extradition treaty with the US, they would have to justify that action in court. Now they could probably get out of it, by citing political factors and therefore block extradition. But that depends on their own political set-up.

          However, they probably don't want to deliberately abuse their own legal due-process. But they probably do want to get cheap publicity. And as much as they don't like being spied on, they also know their own governments legitimately employ spies, and probably don't want to encourage a world where all spies can blab, then run somewhere safe and protected.

          Also, it's not totally clear to me that Snowden does deserve sympathy and protection. Well he does deserve sympathy, because he's in a godawful mess, and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for him. But he's got a perfectly valid reason to claim whistle-blower status if the NSA really were running a big program to spy on US citizens. But revealing the NSA spying on foreign diplomats, which is their fucking job - is pretty close to treason. If he didn't approve of spying, why did he get a job working for the world's largest signals intelligence gathering organisation (even if by proxy)?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

            "If he didn't approve of spying, why did he get a job working for the world's largest signals intelligence gathering organisation (even if by proxy)?"

            perhaps, because he was so naive - or misinformed - that he actually believed that the NSA's job (and their proxies') is to protect the USA against those nasty terrorists who blow up US soldiers in Afghanistan and innocent Americans in Boston, rather than to spy on the whole world - at the same time pumping out the propaganda that "we're holy, we're righteous, but those nasty regimes of North Korea and Iran, and, wink-wink, Russia, and, obviously, the Chinese..."

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

              They're spies. They spy. The clue is in the name. You would have an argument if all he'd revealed had been PRISM and spying on US citizens. That's clearly a scandal that needs attention. However he's also revealed stuff about spying on foreigners. Well that's what the NSA is for!

              Of course if they really are supposed to be helping to spot extremists like the guys in Boston, then they are supposed to be spying on Americans as well. But I'm pretty sure they're not, and that job is down to the FBI.

      4. David Cantrell

        Re: Equador, the pillar of freedom

        "He knowingly broke the law therefore he's not being persecuted" is silly. Try telling that to, for example, a Saudi who decides to change her religion.

      5. Tom 13

        Re: valid case for asylum.

        I'll be honest, I'd like to see him brought back, tried, then properly shot.

        But setting that aside for the moment, let's look tactically at the question. He doesn't necessarily need asylum per se. What he needs is to stay alive, and a place from which to do so. This should actually be fairly easy to achieve. As I noted in my opening statement, I want him shot. Being shot is the standard outcome for his type of treason. Therefore all he really needs is to be in a country that won't extradite if there's a chance he'd face the death penalty. Regardless of how much I hate the lying SOB in charge of our country, one thing I can count on is him not backing down if he's been personally offended, and on this one he's decided he was personally offended. So he'll never take the death penalty off the table to get the extradition. So once Snowden is in a non-death penalty country it is a stalemate. And those states are generally willing to issue asylum for cases that would otherwise be legitimate criminal cases. If he can't find one, that tells you there are other issues in play. Probably that regardless of how much flack we're catching for spying on world+dog at the moment, the truth is world+dog is doing it too or at least benefiting from what we've done. And if he stays on the loose that inconvenient truth might just leak too.

        Is this an amoral bastage analysis? Yes it is. So is the world. Deal with it.

  12. mad_dr


    "Not our stone, not our shoe"

  13. James O'Shea Silver badge

    Let's see

    The Chinese don't want him, the Russians won't even let him leave the airport, the Ecuadorians won't let him get within a few thousand miles of them... I know. Time to call Little Kim and see how life is in the glorious People's Democratic Republic of Korea. Or maybe to beg the Hawaiian Kenyan to allow entry into a nice Federal pen for the rest of his life. Frankly, breaking rocks in Leavenworth, Kansas, sounds a lot better than hanging out with Little Kim, but maybe that's just my opinion.

  14. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Time to come home...

    The irony is if the situation was reversed i.e a Russian was in a US airport with Russia's espionage secrets then he would be suffering a large dose of polonium poisoning by now.

    I actually have very little sympathy with Snowden. He is trying to make out like he is some sort of hero of freedom, but actually he is a low level technician who is seriously out of his depth in the murky world of international politics. He basically confirming what every else already knew, that everyone listens to everyone else.

    The Russians will use him to their political advantage then chuck him in the garbage when their was nothing else to gain.

  15. Simon Rockman

    Remember the Americans are not ostensibly after Assange

    It's supposed to be the Swedes who want him.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After all his barking, Correa backs down and leaves Snowden hanging in the breeze.

    Welcome to the Layer Cake, son.

  17. 123465789


    There is one thing I don't quite understand. You would think that after the Assange-story someone who is about to blow a whistle on something like this, should know that he needs asylum, that you can only apply for asylum in the country where you physically are (or at least in an embassy) - and that the two most likely countries to provide asylum are Iceland and Ecuador. So why not book a nice holiday to one of these very beautiful countries, make sure that you are there - and THEN go public?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: why?

      it all looks obvious now, and from a safe distance of our armchairs. However, consider the following:

      1. it might have been not too wise to make prior inquiries about political asylum, by whichever means you might want to inquire, as such probing might raise some red flags and bring you into a focus of attention.

      2. you might think, based on the generally acquired information, that Hong Kong, which is also a reasonably innocent tourist destination for someone based in the Hawaii, is a place where political asylum would be a "safe bet" for applying for political asylum.

      3. you might have felt, rightly or wrongly, that your time's running out, and then, booking a "holiday" in Iceland, let alone, Ecuador, might raise those red flags, and you might not make it even through the first airport.

      4. any other reasons, etc.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: why?

        Yes actually making the inquiries would have been as foolish as what he did. But there are ways to plan that sort of thing.

    2. zooooooom

      Re: why?

      I don't think he originally intended to disclose his identity - then realised just how quickly they would work it out anyway.

  18. Anonymous Brave Guy

    He should have sorted his escape plans out and executed them BEFORE blowing the whistle.

  19. Jelliphiish

    he didn't think it through..

    If he knew this was going to happen.. and I'd have thought given his background, he should have.. Why didn't he get himself to Ecuador or somewhere useful Before he started this game? no travel problems if he's already in somewhere he can request asylum from IUIC?

  20. graeme leggett Silver badge

    multiple applications

    are there 15 (or more, the Beeb had a figure of 21) countries which really respect independence of thought or are some of these "enemy of my enemy" types?

    and do you lose points in the application process if you've also applied to more than one country?

    perhaps there should be a UCAS* for asylum seekers "I'm sorry, Mr X, America wouldn't take you but we got you a place somewhere else. Here's your Albanian passport.

    (*Universities and Colleges Admissions Service - the British system for managing placement in higher education)

  21. Rol Silver badge

    It has worked before....

    1...Snowden is visited by voluptuous women to help console him in these dark days.

    2...Woman pulls out of her expensive shoulder bag, wig, cosmetics and suitable padding.

    3... Snowden totters off.

    4...Woman is found bound and gagged.

    5.. Snowden, now wearing a priests outfit, collected from left luggage heads for some obscure Russian port.

    6...Snowden now travelling as farther O'Leary boards the next ship out of there.

    7.. Makes his way to Pakistan and lives in a house near the national security base, where he will go unnoticed for years.

    8.. After several more revelations, America finally apologises for its scurrilous actions and grants amnesty to all the good citizens of the US who helped keep her on the straight and narrow.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK should give him asylum

    We can swap that foreign spy William Hague, for him.

    We get rid of Hague, who we know has been spying on us for a foreign power, and we gain a bloke that informed us about the double agents in our government.


  23. 23de3d3e34

    why Moscow and not Ecuador?

    What I don't understand is: if he managed to get the safe passage document (all be it with a "mistake" from Assange's mates at the embassy) Why didn't he fly straight to Ecuador instead of going to Russia? Then he would have easily been able to apply for asylum and he most definitely not have been refused since he has a bigger case than Assange anyway.

    Our president would have had no choice but to grant the asylum, however now he has a clever excuse to pull out of this mess. In a way its' probably the more sensible thing to do as he doesn't want to piss the US even more, they are a big bully and we are very small, shame no other country is willing to stand up to them, at least we have.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Why didn't he fly straight to Ecuador

      Really? This bit puzzles you? It doesn't me. (Keep in mind as I stated above, I'm one of the people who'd like to see him shot.)

      Tell me, exactly how much national airspace is there between Hong Kong and Ecuador? Now, how much national airspace is there between Hong Kong and where he is?

      Simple answers: an awful lot and very little respectively. Forcing a plane down from international airspace is quite a bit more tolerable than forcing one down when you have to violate national airspace. So once he was discovered, moving through national airspace is better. The difficulty is national airspace that is also safe for your intended purposes.

      The real question is why Hong Kong instead of a South American country in the first place. He probably could have safely landed in say Peru, then used land transit to Ecuador, then released his info bomb. At which point he's already safely in the country, can ask for asylum, and it is relatively painless to punch the bear in the nose.

      If I could put that kind of plan together in two minutes here on El Reg, why didn't he? He's got a hell of a lot more on the line than I do.

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