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Don’t get too settled in, Mr. Snowden

  • 2013-08-08
  • By Steven G. Traylor

Greetings Mr. Snowden, welcome to Moscow. I trust you will enjoy your brief stay in Europe’s largest city, and you have a chance to take in all the wonderful cultural and historic offerings the great city has at your disposal.

The reason I write this is to tell you that soon it will be time for you to leave!

Edward, as you know, you have achieved a certain international notoriety that has made you famous for your efforts as a whistle blower (as you describe yourself); but the political reality of your situation is much different. I am afraid you are living - temporarily - under a sense of false hope.

Understandably, no one likes being cooped up in an international transit waiting area while legal issues related to a passport and visa and the like are dealt with. But you have survived that ordeal for the last month and a half and you are now “free” to travel in Russia.

Sir, I want to warn you, Russia is not the U.S. in laws, culture, and mentality that you are used to – and you cannot apply your previous experience of “how things work” or where you come from to Russia. Russia is unique in its own way, and for now, you are “safe.” But the applied pressure by the U.S. will continue to haunt you, and eventually, for reasons you will be unaware of, your temporary visa could be rejected at any time, and you arrested for a “visa violation.”

Since your departure from Sheremetyevo airport two events have taken place that could have a negative impact on your situation. First was the story on NSA’s “other top secret program” known as Xkeyscore, published in The Guardian by your friend - and future biographer - Glenn Greewald The conventional wisdom on this, and has been stated by your Russian attorney, is that “this is information that has come out before you entered Russia.” It makes no difference. YOU agreed publicly to cease “'harming our ally” (the U.S.), about future revelations that President Vladimir Putin said “was a condition of your visa” stay in Russia.

Second, from media reports, you may have a job offer while in Russia. Congratulation on this score, but be warned: your job offer may be a direct challenge to the Russian authorities that seek to treat social media sites differently than U.S. law treats domestic social sites. Your potential ‘Job Description’ could be a challenge to the Kremlin. Keep in mind the following.

Recently international singing stars Madona and Lady Gaga have been accused of violating the terms of their 2012 visas into Russia. It seems they were given “cultural-exchange visas” while on Russian territory and some governmental bodies now want to sue them for “visa violations.” These visas “do not grant their bearers the right to engage in any commercial activity” according to published press reports. If Madona (and Lady Gaga) were not controversial while in Russia, no one would care.

American energy executive Bob Dudley, formally CEO of JV oil major TNK-BP, left Russia in 2008 when his visa was not renewed amid a dispute with his oligarch partners. The technical reason here, “his contact had expired” (thus no reason to renew his visa), was the reasoning for this situation. The dispute was resolved amicably when BP eventually surrendered operational and management control of the venture.

Mr. Snowden. You are on shaky ground being in a country that has only over the last 20 years emerged from a citizen controlled society into a somewhat open society. You are yourself famous and a celebrity. Thus, the special attention that you are now getting, from housing, personal security, and VIP attention. Potentially, your protectors may come to be your jailers.

Remember this: Russia has so many laws, I believe somewhere out there, there is a law that will not only grant you a temporary visa for a year, but cancel your temporary visa – as the political whims of Russian authorities change. For now, Russia will not “extradite” you. The U.S. simply wants you “returned” and will provide you a passport for that reason, as you know.

Finally, there is a name that you should be aware of, if you do not already know it. Victor Bout. Victor is currently serving some 25 years in a U.S. prison for arms trafficking. Mr. Bout is (was) also a proxy for Russian foreign policy – in the under-world of international trade. Russia would like very much for him to return to his mother country, and be re-united with his family.

Enjoy your stay in Moscow, Edward, but be careful. Your time is limited, I believe as a “free man.” Think South America. Start learning Spanish instead of Russian.