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Kevin Bayona: Where in the world is Edward Snowden?

Posted: June 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Where in the world is Edward Snowden? If you know his whereabouts, the United States intelligence community would like to talk with you.

The largest intelligence leak in American history at the hands of Edward Snowden was a huge blow to American intelligence operations — and now the hunt is on for a traitor.

Mr. Snowden’s infamy began when he contacted reporters from the Washington Post and The Guardian about disclosing information on secret NSA intelligence programs.

On June 6, the Washington Post and The Guardian revealed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program that allegedly allows the NSA to monitor emails, phone calls and other Web traffic in real time.

During the following weeks, The Guardian continued to disclose information on secret American and British intelligence programs as well as other documents.

The Guardian revealed Snowden’s identity, at his request, on June 9. Snowden decided to identify himself after claiming, "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong."

Ironically, Snowden absconded on May 20, several weeks before, to Hong Kong, presumably to proclaim the virtues of exposing his country’s intelligence secrets, then surreptitiously fleeing to a Chinese territory after disingenuously claiming to "have done nothing wrong."

On June 23, Snowden secretly flew out of Hong Kong to Russia with help from the Chinese government as well as the Wikileaks organization and its founder, Julian Assange, (who remains in hiding at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.)

Snowden has been charged with espionage, an arrest warrant has been issued by the United States government and his passport has been revoked.

Snowden was specifically charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence with an unauthorized person. He could, and should, face life in prison for what I consider to be an unparalleled act of treason.

The United States has been placed in the embarrassing position of begging the Russian government to hand over Snowden before he gets on a plane and heads for Ecuador via Cuba, as he’s expected to do.

As of this writing (June 24), Snowden remains in Moscow and the U.S government continues to pressure Russian president Vladimir Putin to intervene and return Snowden to the United States.

Putin may be stalling to extract a price for Snowden that involves some sort of trade or diplomatic favor.

Secretary of State John Kerry recently interviewed with CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan in New Delhi and revealed that the U.S government is engaged in an "effort to try to persuade our Russian colleagues that this is important to the U.S. (and) important to them," adding that the U.S. has "returned seven prisoners to (Russia) in the last two years that they requested.

"I think it’s very important to them to adhere to the rule of law and respect the relationship," Kerry said.

The American public, like almost everything else, is divided on whether Snowden is a hero or a villain.

The Pew Center for People and the Press conducted a survey in which Americans were asked about the implications of Snowden’s actions. The results showed 44 percent of Americans believe they harm the public interest and 49 percent believe they help the public interest.

When asked if the government should pursue a criminal investigation against Snowden, most Americans said "yes," with 54 percent in support and 38 percent opposing such an investigation.

Ecuador’s foreign minister announced Snowden had applied for political asylum in that country. Although Ecuador has an extradition treaty with the United States, the Ecuadorian government likely views the criminal charges against Snowden as political persecution.

The fact that Edward Snowden, a self-proclaimed defender of free speech rights and self-righteous promoter of electronic freedom and government transparency, has decided to champion his virtues on the China-Russia-Cuba-Ecuador Express is laughable beyond words.

I enjoy my privacy as much as the next man, but until I find myself living in a world where everyone plays poker with their cards inverted and viewable to all, then I must confess to prefer a world that still allows itself to have secrets — that still partially operates in the shadows.

Unfortunately, now that the world has now seen our flush, we have to hope that our enemies don’t come back with a full house.

Kevin Bayona is a Valencia resident. He earned a BA in international relations and political science from Fairfield University, studied global affairs at New York University, and is a member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.


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