Whose safe house is Edward Snowden in?


The_Guardian_front_page_10_June_2013Where is Edward Snowden now? No one knows. Do the Russians have him? Or the Chinese (though they would probably be unwilling to take the man responsible for the biggest intelligence breach in recent US history so soon after the summit between Presidents Obama and Xi.) Will he seek asylum in Iceland now that one Icelandic politician has made the offer? Might he chose Ecuador, currently playing host to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange?

The man being described by news organisations around the globe as “America’s Most Wanted” appears to have disappeared off the face of this earth. Or from plain sight at any rate, by checking out of the $330-a-night Mira Hotel on Nathan Road, Hong Kong.

Ewan MacAskill, The Guardian’s Washington bureau chief, who has been writing the paper’s successive scoops based on interviews with Snowden in Hong Kong, says he doesn’t know his whereabouts. All he will say, vaguely but deliberately, is “it is thought he is now in a safe house.”

Whose safe house? For how long? Will he ever re-surface? What is to be Snowden’s fate? Will he be caught and rendered to the US and put on trial? Will he become an iconic martyr or a much-maligned criminal? Is it lese majeste to speak out against the government of your own democratic country?

Whatever happens now, it is particularly touching to read the last words of the last interview he gave Ewan and two others on Sunday before outing himself. (It’s important to remember he could have stayed anonymous and even though some say it was narcissism, a part of me believes that he really did mean what he told the journalists. That he knew the consequences of anonymous leaks and didn’t want his colleagues to have to suffer from them.)

Anyway, before he made himself known to the world and had his life change forever, Snowden quoted Benjamin Franklin: “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Whether or not you agree with Snowden’s actions, there does appear to be a simple moral courage that shines through.