This video says it all. Noticeably thinner and in an undistinguished grey shirt, flanked by the hitherto-unseen Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden reminded the world of his predicament.
Which is…testing, to put it mildly.
Sans a valid passport; with only conditional offers of asylum; temporary sanctuary at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and a wily Russian president playing politics and the bully at the same time. As Julian Borger, The Guardian’s diplomatic editor, puts it, Mr Snowden is trying to do more than make his way out of the airport transit lounge. “He is also attempting to navigate his way through a thicket of international law on political asylum while staying beyond the reach of the US and its allies. It is a balancing act that has so far proven hard to pull off.”
It is hard not to agree. And the prognosis seems dismal, with the Russians snootily aloof about Mr Snowden’s re-stated request he be granted asylum right there.
Whoever is advising Mr Snowden seems content with putting on a news spectacular that briefly leads the headlines and then lapses into the low end of the bulletin, before dissipating as a story by nightfall.
Muck Rack sums up the brief spurt of media interest:
“Paul Owen is covering Edward Snowden’s meeting with Amnesty and Human Rights Watch at Moscow airport live for the Guardian. Freelancer Ryan Gallagher said, ‘Snowden reportedly seeking temp asylum in Russia; 1st photo of him at Moscow airport surfaces.’Brad Gerick at the New York Daily News wrote, ‘Putin reiterates #Snowden must ‘refrain from harming the US if he wants asylum in Russia.’ Paul Sonne at the Wall Street Journal tweeted this photo of the ‘Scrum to end all scrums.’ Chris Turner with Mother Nature Network wrote ‘So many exclusives.’ Lisa Dillman at the LA Times thinks it looks like ‘…any Lakers practice’.”
Unfortunately, being a news story is not the same as being properly advised on your legal position. What can human rights organizations in Russia do for Mr Snowden other than add to the news story? They can squeal loudly, ad nauseum, something they often do about the human rights situation in Russia. But it’s hard to see them as enormously effective change agents.
I couldn’t help but be struck by the coincidence of an ordinary airport announcement almost as soon as Mr Snowden started his address to representatives of human rights organizations. He stopped, laughingly acknowledging he’d heard a few of those in the last few days. He was pretty much drowned out. Dispiriting, for those who believe in omens.