After Khalid el-Masri, Details Like Snowden’s Middle Name Matter

Anonymous (heh) DOJ officials have taken to the press to whine that Hong Kong delayed turning over Edward Joseph Snowden because the US got his true middle name, James, wrong (and once left it at “J”).

They scoffed at the middle name mixup. The initial provisional arrest warrant request only listed his name as Edward J Snowden, a senior U.S. law enforcement said.

“Is this the best they got?” the senior U.S. law enforcement official said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Mr. Snowden’s photo and videos were widely disseminated in the media. And when Hong Kong officials called the Justice Department to notify that he had left their territory, there was no doubt of his identity, the spokeswoman said.

“That Hong Kong would ask for more information about his identity demonstrates that it was simply trying to create a pretext for not acting on the provisional arrest request,” the spokeswoman said.

Back when my official ID read “Marcy” instead of my legal name, it caused all amounts of headache and delay getting on planes; I had to go through a tedious process to change it. And airlines now insist on my full middle name.

I’m not sure why DOJ thinks Snowden should be any different than every other American flier whose name must be correct before getting on a plane.

And in an international context, there’s an even bigger reason why any country would be crazy to hand over a person if the US couldn’t get his name right. German citizen Khalid el-Masri was kidnapped and tortured in Afghanistan for four years months [I regret this error] because the US government mistook him for a guy named Khalid al-Masri.

There was no telling who Hong Kong might have unintentionally turned over to an American black hole.

Once upon a time, sure, other countries might have been able to take us at our word on something like this. But not only do we insist on even higher accuracy from their citizens when they come to the US than the US does from me and my legal name, but the US has a history of torturing people for years based on misidentification.

We’re simply not trustworthy on that front anymore.

11 replies
  1. harpie says:

    Marcy Typo? “Afghanistan for four years“? ACLU:

    El-Masri was detained from December 31, 2003 through May 28, 2004 in Macedonia and Afghanistan where he was held in the CIA prison known as the “Salt Pit.”

  2. orionATL says:


    what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    amazingly, the morons in doj/fbi never seemed to understand that their behavior could turn on them and bite them in the ass.

    they have exibited amazing arrogance of power for nearly a decade – made worse by having weak attorneys-general in charge of the goose house.

  3. cymack says:

    OT—One can learn so much by occasionally using an un-adblocked, non-noscripted computer:

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    Such minds these people have!

  4. LeMoyne says:

    The mixed up middle name appears to be the icing on a mud pie. From the South China Morning Post here is a list of failures in the US extradition attempt:
    Snowden’s middle name was given in three different forms.
    Snowden’s passport number was never provided.
    Two of the three charges were not placed in the context of the extradition treaty.
    The theft of public gov’t information (3d charge) is not a crime in Hong Kong.
    No evidence was provided to back up the allegations.

    The issue of the Espionage Act charges being a political charge would have been an additional hurdle after the five failures above.

    There is much one could infer or speculate based on this total fail of an extradition attempt. I will stick to just one that arises with each disclosure in the NSA affair:

    Clearly the Obama administration and the USG in general have completely lost track of the Fourth Amendment and the related principles of law that date back to the Magna Carta.

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    No evidence = no probable cause + no particular name for the person == no warrant shall issue, It’s that simple and really it is quite sad that this is almost unnoticed in the coverage. Thanks for noticing.

  5. x174 says:

    these are the people that steal information from everyone on the planet.

    they don’t know how to handle information.

    i believe that this particular episode should be raised high up in importance to show how careless and sloppy they are in their handling of information.

    information relevant to the proper identification for legal purposes.

    these buffoons should be called out, and hard; and taken out for their own gross incompetence.

    think “brazil,” the first scene when a typo misspells Archibald Tuttle so that it reads Archibald Buttle

  6. orionATL says:


    thanks for this.

    it is the first detailed list of errors i have seen.

    our own press, in their typical curry-favor fashion, are investigating little while avidly repeating official claptrap spouting from the u.s. gov.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    What a hoot. Spelling matters, not that one could tell by the way the world’s lone superpower maintains what it calls its no-fly list, replete with its mismatched Smiths, Kennedys, Jangs and Mohammeds.

    Hong Kong, of course, is a former British colony. Among the ranks of European residents and tourists, anglicized names such as Swire, Jardine and Matheson abound. Snowden is a familiar English name. So, too, are its variants, such as Snowdon. There is an earl of the latter spelling, who was once married to the rebellious younger sister of the present Queen; there was once a Viscount Snowden, to name two.

    It would have been a gross miscarriage of justice to arrest and detain the wrong Mr. Snowden, regardless of how much Mr. Obama may want him. The Hong Kong government was duty bound to be meticulous, even if doing so was partly owing to Beijing (which controls HK’s foreign affairs) not being of one mind with Washington over what to do about someone who blew the whistle on NSA listening in on the world’s telecoms traffic. After all, Hong Kong only held the next thirty years of Edward Snowden’s life in its hands.

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