Standing next to Edward Snowden’s seat on flight to Cuba. He ain’t here. pic.twitter.com/NVRH3Pzved
— max seddon (@maxseddon) June 24, 2013
The above tweet came early this morning from Max Seddon, an Associated Press correspondent in Moscow. Seddon, along with several other journalists, bought a ticket on Aeroflot flight 180 to Havana. Why? Because that’s the flight whistleblower Edward Snowden had a seat booked on for his widely reported journey from Hong Kong to Cuba and then on to Ecuador, where he is said to be seeking asylum from U.S. authorities. But Snowden was a no-show, and a plane full of journalists now sit on a 12-hour flight without their intended subject (and painfully, without liquor service), and the whole Ecuador-asylum story is now in question.
In fact, the UK’s The Guardian, which has been leading on this story, questions whether Snowden ever set foot in Russia at all, noting that this remarkable statement issued on Sunday from Hong Kong’s government about Snowden’s departure made no mention of Russia or any other destination (it did, however, explain why Hong Kong was ignoring the U.S. warrant on Snowden, and included a cheeky “meanwhile…” about the Snowden-supplied revelation that the U.S.has been hacking Hong Kong computers).
The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden
— Ricardo Patiño Aroca (@RicardoPatinoEC) June 23, 2013
While it has been confirmed that Snowden filed a petition for asylum with Ecuador, it’s possible that this paperwork was just part of a careful smokescreen, providing credibility for an alternate voyage to, well, who knows? Maybe Iceland?
So hang on – Edward Snowden’s been charged with espionage for refusing to spy on people? And they say Americans don’t do irony.
— Mitch Benn (@MitchBenn) June 23, 2013
It’s a cloak-and-dagger caper for a young man whose prior experience with geopolitical intrigue chiefly took place while he was seated in front of a computer screen. Though he may be charged with “espionage” for leaking news of America’s bulk spying campaigns, the idea of Snowden as a spy has been met with ridicule.
Still, placed in extraordinary circumstances, with the eyes of the world seeking him out as he faces decades of incarceration, Snowden is proving a quick study in 21st century spy games. As he told Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian, the real focus here should be on what he’s uncovered, not on him. But it’s hard not to watch on as his drama unfolds. Hell, it’s hard not to root for him.
Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown