23 June 2013 — RT
Russia is “a very safe place” for the NSA leaker Edward Snowden as it will not be pressured by the US, former MI5 agent Annie Machon told RT as the whistleblower arrived in Moscow reportedly en route to a third country.
Snowden – who is wanted in the US for revealing two highly-classified surveillance programs – left Hong Kong and landed in the Russian capital on Sunday afternoon. It is unclear, where the 29-year-old source behind the biggest leak in the NSA history will head next, but reports suggest he might go to Venezuela via Cuba.
Annie Machon says whatever country Snowden ends up in, it must be “strong enough to push back because there will be immense pressure from the US to hand him over.”
RT: Why do you think Snowden left Hong Kong? Didn’t he feel protected enough there?
AM: I think he was very canny to flee there in the first place because Russia and China are probably the only two countries who can effectively stand up to the brute force of US diplomacy these days. Now it appears that the warrant for his arrest was sent to Hong Kong, there were problems with the paper work and that allowed Snowden to flee Hong Kong, while the Chinese reply to the problems.
It’s also interesting that in their press statement they said that they were complaining officially to the US for the US spying on them – which, of course, came from revelations leaked by Snowden. So, they are pushing back, they gave him the chance to flee. And again, I think it’s a very canny move to go to Russia because he can be safe there and then can plot to where else he wants to go.
An airport security guard walks past a sign at the departure hall of Hong Kong Airport June 23, 2013. Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, charged by the United States with espionage, was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday, his final destination as yet unknown, because a U.S. request to have him arrested did not comply with the law, the Hong Kong government said. (Reuters / Bobby Yip
Should Hong Kong have taken steps to prevent the wanted man from leaving its territory?
AM: I think they fulfilled the legal requirements. You know, there’s been so much in the western media for the last few years about the Chinese hacking our systems and everything. They must be very pleased to have evidence that the US in fact is doing the same to them, so they can push back. So, I think it was good place for Snowden to go.
The irony now is that it’s the US that the whistleblower has to flee from because at the moment the Obama administration is waging a war on whistleblowers: not just Snowden, but also people like Bradley Manning and a whole range of other whistleblowers from the CIA and the NSA. For example, John Kiriakou of the CIA – who exposed the US torture program – is the one currently languishing in prison for thirty months, not the torturers. So, I think the irony is the people have to fear the US when all they are trying to do is expose the crimes of the US. It must be bitter.
RT: The US had warned the Hong Kong authorities ahead of today’s developments, so how do you think it will affect relations between the two?
AM: Well, Hong Kong was just going by the legal book. So, really the US does not have anything to complain about. There was a sort of slow warming of the diplomatic relationship between China and the US. And I think that has probably sent it backwards.
However, I would suggest that Snowden has done a public service not only to the US people but to the people of the world in exposing quite how badly we are being watched and surveyed by the US and some NATO states.
RT: We’re getting reports that Snowden’s been granted asylum, although it’s still unknown which country’s offered safe shelter. What’s your guess?
AM: I know that it’s been a lot of speculation that WikiLeaks has been trying to help him in getting asylum in Iceland, but he needs to get there first. Iceland does have a very good reputation for protecting transparency and freedom of information on the internet. So that may well be a possibility.
But Snowden needs to ensure that he goes to a country which doesn’t have an extradition treaty [with the US] or does have an extradition treaty but it does not cover political offences. [A country] should also be strong enough to push back because there will be immense pressure from the US to hand him over.
RT: Is there a chance he could be intercepted by the US en route to a third state?
AM: Possibly, yes. So, in fact getting to Russia is a very safe place to be at the moment because they will not be pressured. The unfortunate choice though of Russia here is that it will make it very easy for the Western media to deem him to be a traitor now, which might mean he may face even more charges under the espionage act.
Strategically, if he was to remain in Russia and Russia was seen to protect him, and not try and use him it would send a very strong message to the whole world about who exactly is the totalitarian state these days – is it the US or is it other countries like Russia or China? And I think that Edward Snowden’s choice of refuge demonstrates very much that the US is currently the bullyboy of the world.