In an end to his stay in the transit area of Moscow Airport, Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency operative who leaked details of secret government intelligence programmes, has finally been given asylum in Russia. One measure of this decision’s importance is that it will affect international relations with tensions already rising between Russia and the US. It will, of course, also impact issues affected by the nature of relations between the two countries, including the Syrian civil war, Iran, and could also have a negative affect on White House hopes for a nuclear arms reduction deal.
Snowden, who revealed that the US spies on its citizens by monitoring emails and other private conversations transmitted electronically, has terribly embarrassed the US by exposing its hypocritical nature when it comes to its rhetoric on human rights and the basic right of people to privacy. The US wants him back to make an example out of him, and now with Russia giving him asylum, is indicating that President Barack Obama may boycott a September summit with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Recently, a US military judge found Wikileaks’ source Private Bradley Manning guilty of several counts of espionage, and as a result of the ruling, he could be sentenced to several years in prison. The US is ready to move on to Snowden, who some analysts say, caused even more damage to government programmes by leaking how the US goes about its intelligence gathering operations.
The dilemma here is between national security interests and the people’s right to know what the government is up to. Snowden says he responded by doing what he felt was morally right: he felt US citizens should know the extent to which the US spies on them. The fact of the matter also is that such hypocrisy on any government’s part can only lead to practices, which with time, may spiral out of control and lead to much greater problems. Already with this programme, the extent of privacy US citizens enjoyed has rapidly been cut down.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2013.
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