Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Only politics, not law, can secure Snowden's extradition

Other commentators have pointed out that Snowden's alleged political crimes do not merit extradition under international law.  Says Falk:

If anything, President Vladimir Putin, considering the nature of the Snowden disclosures about the global reach of American surveillance systems, acted with exceptional deference to the sensitivities of the United States. Instead of merely pointing out that Snowden could not be transferred to the United States against his will, Putin went out of his way to say that he did not want the incident to harm relations with the United States, and even went so far as to condition Snowden's asylum on an unusual pledge that he refrain from any further release of documents damaging to American interests.


Of course, Putin's new identity as 'human rights defender' lacks any principled credibility given his approach to political dissent in Russia, but that does not diminish the basic correctness of his response to Snowden. There is a certain obtuseness in the American diplomatic shrillness in this instance. Snowden's acts of espionage are pure political offense. Beyond this, the nature of what was disclosed revealed sustained threats to the confidentiality of government communications throughout the world.

Falk also points out the hypocrisy in the indignation of the Obama Administration and Senators McCain and Graham:

We should ask these deeply aggrieved senators for honest answers, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham never ones to shy away from a good fight, what they would have done had a comparable Russian whistleblower revealed a Russian surveillance system that was listening in on secret government deliberations in Washington as well as invading the privacy of ordinary Americans. The righteous indignation surrounding such revelations and the gratitude that would be bestowed on a Russian Snowden would know no bounds.

There is also the U.S. record of hypocrisy in refusing to honor other countries' extradition requests for genuine terror and genocide charges, as mentioned recently by Noam Chomsky. 

Indeed, most extradition cases are "90% politics and 10% law," a fact worth remembering as we huff and puff and threaten to blow Putin's house down.

By Richard Falk
August 5, 2013 | Al Jazeera

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