The U.S. government is accusing Edward Snowden of espionage for leaking classified information about American surveillance programs.
Ariel Cohen, with the Heritage Foundation, said this is a huge embarrassment for the Obama administration, given the security breach.
“Somebody with so much access is allowed to just board the plane carrying, allegedly, four laptops with him and skipping to Hong Kong. That is a failure of security of enormous proportions.”
Snowden did not stay in Hong Kong as Chinese authorities allowed him to leave for Moscow.
White House spokesman Jay Carney strongly criticized that decision.
“This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive, despite a valid arrest warrant and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship,” he said.
Carney also urged Russian officials to expel Snowden to the United States.
But Charles Kupchan, with Georgetown University, says in China and Russia, there are domestic political pressures to help Snowden.
“There is a certain frustration and impatience with American lecturing about domestic freedoms, the lack of democracy, domestic surveillance and now, all of a sudden, the United States has been shown carrying out its own surveillance,” said Kupchan. “I think there is a certain amount of what one might call schadenfreude, enjoyment on behalf of others of the plight that the United States finds itself in.”
Some analysts are asking what the United States can do to pressure Moscow to expel Snowden.
“There are lots of issues in play with the Russians from Iran to Afghanistan, to the issue of intelligence cooperation in dealing with extremism, to the question of missile defense and arms control,” said Kupchan. “But does the United States really want to take one of those issues in which it has clear geopolitical interests and tie it to Snowden? I think the answer is that that kind of linkage is problematic.”
As for China, Kupchan said the United States doesn’t want to end up doing things that harm its own interests.
“And in that respect, I don’t think the U.S. has a lot of sharp arrows in its quiver. There is a lot at stake with China and yes, the U.S. can and should express its displeasure with the fact that Hong Kong let Snowden out,” said Kupchan. “But it’s hard to see powerful punishments that don’t in some ways work to the disadvantage of the United States.”
Kupchan says in the final analysis, it is better for the United States to let the Snowden affair run its course.