How Snowden has exposed the limits of American power

The New York Times reports: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia offered the first direct confirmation on Tuesday that Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former American national security contractor, was in an international transit area at a Moscow airport, and he appeared to rule out American requests for his extradition to the United States.

Speaking at a news conference while on an official visit to Finland, Mr. Putin offered no new information on where Mr. Snowden might be headed from the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. But he said Mr. Snowden had broken no Russian laws and that Russian security officials had not made contact with him.

“The Russian special services are not engaged with him and will not be engaged,” Mr. Putin said, according to the government-financed Russia Today news site.

“On the territory of the Russian Federation, Mr. Snowden, thank God, did not commit any crime,” Mr. Putin said in an Interfax news agency account of his remarks. “As for the issue of the possibility of extradition,” Mr. Putin said, according to Interfax, “we can only send back some foreign nationals to the countries with which we have the relevant international agreements on extradition. With the United States we have no such agreement.”

Mr. Putin spoke hours after the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, chastised the United States for its demands regarding Mr. Snowden, whose successful effort, so far, to elude his American pursuers has captivated global attention, showed the limits of American power and strained American relations with Russia and China.

The Washington Post reports: Administration officials have not detailed any actions that Obama has personally taken to bring Snowden to justice, saying only that he has set the administration’s strategic direction and has been briefed regularly by his national security staff.

Unlike other crises, the White House has not distributed any photographs of Obama and his advisers monitoring Snowden’s movements in the Situation Room or calling foreign leaders from the Oval Office.

And wouldn’t that Situation Room photo be priceless!

Of course we’ll never see such a photo because the ability of the U.S. to track Snowden — mass surveillance powers of the NSA notwithstanding — is actually quite limited. And right now, this is Obama’s problem: that Snowden is simultaneously exposing the over-extension of state power and the limitations of that power.

For Obama to adopt an in-charge posture would merely underline the extent to which events are unfolding outside the control of the president of the United States.

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One thought on “How Snowden has exposed the limits of American power

  1. A Meshiea

    A big strategic error in charging him in the first place. They should have let the story die with the usual apathy of the press, now it literally has legs and is running.


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