Following the diversion of the Bolivian president’s jet, which was forced to land in Austria on Tuesday, the Washington Post reports:
The highly unusual detour of a head of state’s flight came just days after Obama seemed to signal that the United States would avoid extraordinary measures beyond seeking Snowden’s extradition. “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” Obama said during a visit to Senegal last week.
It also pointed to a possible intelligence blunder. Still, former U.S. officials said that if the United States were involved, it may reflect a calculation by the Obama administration that the risk of embarrassment from an unsuccessful search was more than offset by a desire to avoid seeing Snowden arrive to a hero’s welcome in La Paz.
Before departing Moscow, Morales had suggested his country would be willing to consider granting Snowden asylum, a remark that triggered speculation that the Bolivian president might head home with the former NSA contractor in tow.
For that reason, former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair said, U.S. intelligence officials would probably have been asked not whether they could be certain Snowden was on the aircraft, but whether they could assure the White House that he was not.
The efforts being made by the U.S. to prevent Snowden finding political asylum have little to do with national security. After all, he has made it clear that he has already taken measures to ensure that even if he is arrested, he has already protected access to the classified material in his possession — meaning, it will remain available for future publication even if he is behind bars.
So, the hunt in which the U.S. government is now engaged has nothing to do with preventing new leaks. It’s intended purpose is to show that anyone who has the audacity to challenge American power will lose.
The prospect of Edward Snowden receiving a hero’s welcome in Bolivia or anywhere else, evokes an iconic image of American defeat. In spite of its ability to conduct mass surveillance, twist the arms of smaller governments, wage wars anywhere on the globe, assassinate its enemies at the press of a button, and in so many other ways reinforce its claim to be the most powerful nation on earth, it now risks being outsmarted by an individual.
The American Goliath cannot tolerate the idea of losing.