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Whither Snowden? whistleblower's whereabouts a guessing game

Snowden blog airport
No Snowden:  packs of disappointed reporters line up for a glimpse of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, in Sheremetyevo airport this week.  Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

He’s noodling around in Hong Kong. He’s basking on the beach in Ecuador. He’s wandering a Moscow airport, like a younger, blonder redo of  The Terminal's Tom Hanks.

When it comes to America’s most wanted whistleblower, Edward Snowden, nothing, it seems, is out of the question as the news spins on hour by hour. In the latest turn, Russia’s foreign minister said he had never crossed the border, while President Vladimir Putin maintained he was in a Moscow airport transit zone. 

Where is he really? Here are a few ideas.

Beijing: in this made-in-Washington version, Snowden is a long term Chinese operative who couldn’t wait to be repatriated to his spiritual home. That would put the seal on the U.S. charge of treason, and end the whining from those Frappuccino-sipping freedom of expression types.

Of course, Snowden hasn’t done himself any favours by telling reporters about American cyber-attacks on China – or that he deliberately took a job with contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in order to get access to worldwide lists of what the National Security Agency hacked.

Moscow: in the Hollywood version, a hapless Snowden is in an old KGB holding cell in Sheremetyevo airport, being done over by Russian spooks armed with advanced truth drugs and videocams.

Upbeat ending: he escapes with the aid of a beautiful Russian cosmonaut who handily flies him to the moon.

Downbeat ending: he spills the secrets, drinks some polonium tea, and dies. Moscow informs Washington the problem is solved. All’s well that ends well – except for Snowden.

Cuba: in the Graham Greene version, Snowden disguises himself as a journalist, joins the hack hunting pack on the Moscow-to-Cuba flight, and slides into a life of threadbare freelancing, recycling tidbits from seedy Havana bars and downloading masses of American conspiracy theory websites for Castro’s secret service.

Ecuador: in the truth-or-fiction version, Snowden is lionized as a Quito hero until he reads up on the media crackdown laws, sends an open letter to President Rafael Correa and winds up in jail. Correa refuses to extradite him because he disapproves of Washington’s authoritarian stand on freedom of expression.

Mumbai: in the Bollywood version, Snowden is smuggled onto an India-bound plane with a counterfeit passport, takes a top job with a high tech company and supervises the outsourcing of every remaining IT job in North America. And he even learns to dance!

Olivia Ward has covered conflict, politics and human rights from the former Soviet Union to South Asia and the Middle East. Her latest World Weekly story was on Big Data: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. 



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