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Hunt for Snowden may have seriously damaged U.S. reputation

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Both China and Russia have refused to cooperate in the United States' pursuit of whistleblower Edward Snowden, the security contractor who leaked details of government surveillance programs. Foreign policy analysts now warn that the United States does not have the leverage it otherwise might to persuade other countries to return him.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to make light of the Snowden affair as he ruled out handing him over.

He dismissed American criticisms that Russia is helping Snowden as "ravings and rubbish," Putin reportedly said at a news conference in Finland: "I myself would prefer not to deal with these issues. It's like giving a baby pig a haircut: There's a lot of squealing, but there's little wool."

There is word that Snowden is reportedly hiding somewhere inside Moscow's massive airport.

Some say the U.S. is getting an uncomfortable lesson in the limits of its own power.

"It certainly feeds the image of fading American power," said Robert Jervis, a professor of international politics at Columbia University says.

He says the NSA debacle has made the U.S. look in some parts of the world "like a hypocritical bully," Jervis said, due to the nation's long record of freedom of information and protection of whistle-blowers. Chasing Snowden around the globe makes it worse. "There's nothing worse than an incompetent hypocritical bully."

The Snowden incident comes at a highly inopportune time. The U.S. needs China to exert pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, and wants help from Russia to end the civil war in Syria - even though the powers have chosen opposite sides.

Snowden has so far eluded authorities. Revealing himself as the leaker in Hong Kong, Snowden fled there to Russia after Hong Kong dismissed a U.S. extradition request on a technicality - and used its statement to take a jab at the U.S. over cyber-hacking.

The U.S. has filed espionage charges against Snowden and wants him back in the country for prosecution. U.S. officials have come up empty in their pursuit despite sharp rhetoric aimed at China, which partly controls Hong Kong, and at Russia.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned that there would be "consequences" for both Russia and China if they willfully allowed Snowden to board an airplane.

"We think it is very important in terms of our relationship," he said in New Delhi, in reference to Russia. "We think it is very important in terms of rule of law. There are important standards."

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said he understood why the United States is coming down hard on Snowden, but not why Kerry came down so hard on Russia.

"Why would you elevate it to a Tier 1 issue at a time when you've got Iran and Syria and North Korea and other matters, which clearly are Tier 1 issues?" he said in a phone interview.

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