Watching the Edward Snowden sideshow escalate in the past week has sent increasingly violent waves of nausea through Washington even as it has sent Hollywood executives scrambling over the prospect of developing a film adaptation (or five). Of course, the lack of an ending on “Chasing Snow” (Snow Fall? Snow Games?) leaves things in momentary limbo and there is the probability that Hollywood might be left with an ending less suitable than desired – i.e. anything that doesn’t end in Snowden’s escape. But rest assured, come autumn of next year, there will be an A-list topped blockbuster hitting theaters- just in time for Oscar season.
However, there could be a significant problem in Hollywood’s treatment of a potential film, mainly that the story seems too preposterous to be true. I don’t mean Snowden’s leaking of NSA documents that started the political brow sweating, that the U.S. Government spies on its, and other, citizens comes as no surprise to anybody and even caused many to initially brush the Snowden “revelations” off as just that, the verification of an inconvenient truth that, much as the Obama Administration would have liked it to have stayed buried, was common knowledge both inside and outside the Capital.
Rather then, it’s what has happened since Snowden’s release of documents revealing the remarkably vast scope of Government surveillance (insider speak for “spying”) where things go truly beyond belief. Snowden has disappeared inside the Moscow Airport’s transit zone (the most thrilling Travel Channel special ever) leaving various world leaders to suck up the limelight the international media is desperate to cast on somebody in Snowden’s absence (Next on CNN, we interview the optician who shares with us Snowden’s perspective on the world- he’s, brace yourself, far-sighted!).
It all started normally enough, charges of treason brought by government goons on the left, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and right, Sen. Lindsey Graham as is custom in cases involving whistleblowers (see: Julian Assange, Bradley Manning).
President Obama made an initial statement last week seemingly heralding the chance for “debate” that Snowden’s revelations had brought (note: bringing debate comes at a high price if you’re the messenger) before fleeing the country himself (for Africa), leaving his underlings to bully the countries on Snowden’s bucket list.
And THAT is where things get really topsy-turvy. It all started with statements Jay Carney made on Monday, verbally castrating China for “deliberately” choosing to allow Snowden to leave for Moscow, threatening that the decision would have an “unquestionably” negative impact on U.S. – China relations. China didn’t take the carnage lying down, shooting off an angry response accusing the U.S. of, among other things, bullying.
Secretary of State John Kerry decided to spread the blame around while on an overseas trip in the Middle East, calling on Russia to “do the right thing” and deport Snowden, warning that a lack of action would bring “consequences.” Unsurprisingly, Russia took the threat as well as the Chinese, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemning Kerry’s remarks as “groundless and unacceptable.”
Since then officials ranging from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns (the newly named “point man” for U.S. efforts to arrest Snowden) to U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul have all gotten in on the act, each urging Russia to expel Snowden, McFaul tweeting: “U.S. expects Russia to consider ‘all options’ to expel Snowden,” and recycling Kerry’s point of the U.S. having returned “1,700 Russian citizens to Russia” with over 500 of them “being criminal deportations.”
All of which raises the question not of why those other 1,200 Russians were deported (although that is curious), but more so what the hell are U.S. officials thinking?? Bullying and coercion might work in private if you’re the world’s foremost superpower, but publicly demanding that countries comply or suffer the “consequences”? Doesn’t sound like much diplomacy coming out of the State Department, or the U.S. Government in general. Seeing the type of leaders they’re dealing with here, it’s a wonder that these supposed foreign policy wonks ever thought that this kind of threatening rhetoric would ever work (Because Putin is oh so willing to publicly comply with the U.S. and suffer losing face at home).
Last night, in the face of this barrage of international resistance to his demands, President Obama dispatched the United States greatest, umm, ambassador, Vice President Joe Biden, to make a call to Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, to plead with him to reject Snowden’s Ecuadorian asylum bid. This comes after New Jersey Sen. Bill Menendez blatantly threatened to cut U.S. trading ties with Ecuador should they grant Snowden asylum. Ecuador’s total trade with the United States exceeded $5.4 billion last year, a significant amount of the Andean country’s GDP.
What all of this represents is nothing less than a despicable performance by the world’s foremost, though clearly waning, economic power. The U.S. has its back against the wall thanks to Edward Snowden but rather than approach the situation coolly and diplomatically, enabling it to retract some of the damage done by the NSA scandal, it has chosen instead to try to bully the rest of the world into submission. The only thing this has accomplished is to reveal the United States of America, once a bastion of a free people and press, as a hypocritical bully who, seething with rage from the egg which Snowden’s revelations left shattered on its face, swings blindly only to injure its own global reputation.
Where it all ends is to be seen but, at the end of the first act, it’s the U.S. Government wearing the black hat and young Mr. Snowden who, lost in transit, the audience’s hopes hinge on.
1. Does Obama really ‘welcome debate’ on his national security policies?: http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/06/18/does-obama-really-welcome-debate-on-his-national-security-policies/
2. China rejects U.S. charge over NSA leaker Edward Snowden: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2013/06/26/China-rejects-US-charge-over-Snowden/UPI-28511372225310/
3. Kerry softens tone with Russia in Snowden dispute: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/world/europe/kerry-russia-snowden.html?_r=0
4. Lavrov calls US accusations against Moscow over Snowden “groundless and unacceptable”: http://english.ruvr.ru/news/2013_06_25/Lavrov-says-US-accusations-against-Moscow-over-Snowden-unacceptable-5970/
5. Our unlikely man in Moscow takes on Putin over human rights, spying and Snowden: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/29/19176611-our-unlikely-man-in-moscow-takes-on-putin-over-human-rights-spying-and-snowden?lite&ocid=msnhp&pos=1
6. Biden asks Ecuador to reject Snowden’s asylum request: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/29/snowden-biden-ecuador/2475953/
7. U.S. Senator says Snowden case risks Ecuador trade status: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/26/us-usa-security-snowden-congress-idUSBRE95P1DR20130626