Edward Snowden’s Extradition Request

Screen shot 2013-07-06 at 9.31.58 AMAs I noted last night, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro offered Edward Snowden asylum last night. (The Spanish was “hemos decidido” and “he decidido ofrecerle asilio” which included none of the sense of hypothetical that Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega used.)

The government has released the extradition request they’ve sent to the Venezuelan government.

Perhaps the most interesting detail is the date: July 3. Way back when Maduro was (unless I’ve lost track of his chronology), still in Russia or Belarus, and when Bolivian President Evo Morales was making a big stink about being “kidnapped” in Vienna.

Since that time, Maduro finished his visit in Belarus. Flew (presumably with a refueling stop somewhere and possibly a stop at home) to Cochabamba, Bolivia, where at least 6 South American leaders either were personally or had sent a representative (in addition to Morales and Maduro, the Presidents of Ecuador, Suriname, Argentina, and Uruguay were present, Brazils Dilma Rousseff had sent a representative, as had, according to some reports, Peru and Chile).

Then Maduro returned home in time for Venezuela’s Independence Day celebration, where he issued his statement offering asylum.

It appears that after the US issued the extradition request to Venezuela, they issued an arrest warrant to Ireland.

Now, perhaps the US has real intelligence saying that Snowden remains in Russia. But these are the people who were sure he was on Morales’ plane just a few days ago. And they don’t really seem all too sure about where Snowden is.

Update: This is one of the few stories I’ve seen that affirmatively said Snowden was still in Russia after Maduro’s departure, based on a single Russian security source.

Update: And this has more Russian sources stating he remains stuck in Russia.

38 replies
  1. phred says:

    There are a bunch of things to like about this story, but if I had to choose one, it is the irrefutable proof that our excessive spying apparatus is entirely useless.

    Our nosy spooks, with their obsessed fixation on total information awareness, cannot track down a man who is now globally recognizable. They missed the guys who attacked the Boston marathon. The put-your-3oz-shampoo-in-a-Baggie team haven’t groped their way to a terrorist yet.

    And how much has all of this pitiful charade of pre-crime prevention cost the taxpayers?

    It is time that this corrupt ineptitude started costing people their jobs: Alexander, Clapper, DiFi, Holder, and don’t get me started on Comey…

    It is also time that the US returned to its senses, admits it cannot guarantee perfect safety and return to a rational approach to post-crime law enforcement from its ridiculous and ineffective attempt at pre-crime prevention.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @phred: It’s not entirely useless. But it doesn’t replace good HUMINT or the craftiness to be skeptical of what appears to be true.

  3. Citizen92 says:

    So who’s more desperate to get Snowden in custody? USG or Booz?

    I’ve also read that the Bolivian Presidential Aircraft left from Vnukovo, not Shermetyevo. So how would Snowden have gotten from the twilight zone of the SVO transit area over to another airport?

  4. lefty665 says:

    Suppose the friendly Russians could be dropping a little chatter for us to intercept, then gleefully watching our geniuses over-react? “Where’s Eddie? Oh, he’s over here, wait, he’s over there…” What fun for Putin, it further demeans the US, it gets Snowden out of his hair, and it is cheap. A threefer.

    Drop disinformation and watch us go for the bait. In this case by leaning on Europeans to intervene with Morales plane thus driving Latin American countries to offer Snowden asylum. The bin Laden corollary is “Hit them and they will so over-react they will destroy themselves”.

    Comint makes you vulnerable when the other guys figure out you’re reading their mail.

  5. emptywheel says:

    @Citizen92: Well, we can be all but certain that Snowden was no longer in the twilight zone proper.

    Once you assume he’s out of that, why are we so sure he’s not in Russia proper, in a FSB vehicle traveling from Sheretyevo to the vicinity of Vnukovo?

    Alternately, what are the chances Snowden immediately transfered to a flight to Belarus (though admittedly I’m not sure how that paperwork would work).

    The point is, Russia didn’t want to offer him shelter w/o something to offer us in exchange. But neither did Russia want to turn Snowden over to us. Letting him transfer to Vnukovo is the least an old KGB guy could do.

  6. phred says:

    @emptywheel: Ah well, we will have to respectfully disagree on this point. I have seen no evidence yet that the unconstitutional pre-crime activities of the federal government over the past decade or two have had any proven value at all.

    Unless of course the goal has been to create a citizenry that views the constitution as quaint, out-of-date, and disposable.

  7. Phoenix Woman says:

    @phred: It would also help if we didn’t befriend the most retrograde countries and movements on earth in order to uphold the Washington Consensus and the oncological form of capitalism.

  8. lefty665 says:

    @emptywheel: Craftiness for sure.

    Our history with HUMINT is that it’s done more harm than good from OSS onward, despite all the propaganda from the bully boys at CIA.

  9. Citizen92 says:

    @ EW

    Having spent time in the SVO transit zone (today’s Terminal F, but back then Terminal 2) I can unequivocally say that place was populated with copious shady characters.

  10. orionATL says:


    collecting and storing all communications from and between americans is clearly a clumsy act of desperation by a befuddled and inept security bureaucracy that does not know how to solve the problems of security arising from a ragtag group of religious fanatics, some criminal gangs, and some private and state hackers.

    were it up to me, i would shut off the telecom taps and all others post haste – like tommorrow.

    i would split the nsa into its military component, a civilian component for internet protection and access, and a criminal section sent to the fbi to reside there.

    then i would say to the newly diassembled bureaucracies, ” o.k., boys, now sit down and figure out how to your job cleverly, efficiently, effectively, ’cause you ain’t never again going to get pallet-loads of dollars to build a monument to befuddlemeny and inefficiency like the one we just tore down.

    never again.

    after that, a congressional act freezing funding for any executive department or office that fails to rigidly enforce the protections offfered citizens by the bill of rights, or

    that fails to promptly honor foia requests and protect whistleblowers from executive dept retaliation.

    will i take the physical physical and political risks associated with such a change?

    damn right i will.

    i trust the ineptitude of the relgious fanatics, criminal gangs, and hackers more than i trust the ineptitude and “good intentions” of our american security bureaucrats shielded from view by classification schemes.

  11. orionATL says:

    i have it on good authority just deliverd, that the american ambassador to the united nations has just appeared there and issued an arrest warrant for edwatd frank snowden to each one of the 191 other member nations.

    when asked about this, president obama declined comment saying, “i’m not going to scramble any more eggs for that boy.”

    secretary of state john kerry said this was being done “out of an abundance of caution”, explaining that “inclusineness” was very important in the american security community. “we don’t wany anyone to feel left out”, he said.

  12. hcgorman says:

    This country of ours has become a pretty scary place. I personally hope that Snowden is out of Russia and that Russia is just playing games with us pretending like he is still there.

  13. lefty665 says:

    @orionATL: While I share some of your emotions, there are several things in your comment to take exception to:

    However else NSA might be characterized, “befuddled and inept” ain’t among ’em.

    “were it up to me, i would shut off the telecom taps and all others post haste – like tommorrow.” That is awfully close to Henry Stimson’s “Gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail”. Gotta be careful what you wish for. Willful ignorance of what our foreign adversaries are saying is not healthy. How to collect foreign and reject domestic communications/data is another question (ThinThread would have been a good start).

    NSA’s core mission has always been military and national security interests, until recently pointed externally, and security for communications/data, both military and national security.

    While in DoD, the agency has always had a career civilian deputy director as the operating head. The generals and admirals have rotated tours as Director. Recent Directors Hayden and Alexander have changed the balance to the military directors, and to contractors (see Bamford “The Shadow Factory”). That appears to have been mostly opportunism in response to civilian directives from the Executive Branch.

    Internet protection from foreign state/terrorist attacks is cyberwar, a military function. Do you really want a governmental operation, civilian or military, controlling internet access? Once that authority is granted, enabling, prohibiting, inspecting is a simple policy choice away.

    I am not aware that NSA has a dedicated criminal section, although they do appear to be doing something with criminal communications they run across (Dimon, Blankfein??). More importantly, they should be in the foreign INT/SEC business exclusively. Leave the FBI to its own “befuddled and inept” devices. Do not enhance their capability for domestic spying by giving them tools that should be pointed out, not in.

    For 60 years NSA’s success has largely depended on having the biggest installation of the most capable computers in the world. That capability costs money, lots of money. Starving the beast has its own consequences. See Henry Stimson.

    What has changed is that NSAs focus has been turned from external to internal. We are now all suspected terrorists all of the time. That decision came from the President. Duhbya explicitly ordered the NSA to spy on US citizens in 2002. Obama has expanded that spying while giving it the veneer of law. The change back to a democratic path from a potentially totalitarian one has to come from the top. As it stands we are only a policy change away from UStasiland.

  14. What Constitution? says:

    @orionATL: Well said, but calling the current “security apparatus” a “clumsy act of desperation by a befuddled and inept security bureaucracy that does not know how to solve the problems of security arising from a ragtag group of religious fanatics” doesn’t explain how it got that way and why it is remaining that way. For that, somebody has to answer the question “what if you could have done something, but you didn’t, and now there’s been a Terraist Attack oh my oh my oh my!”

    This is the pathetic “political calculus” behind every action taken, every unconstitutional “emergency measure”, every congressional abdication, every judicial rubberstamp. And it’s just as plainly the basis for dismissal of the solutions you here propose. That’s disgusting, but tell me it’s not plainly true — take that crass and cowardly premise, supervise it by an executive structure that anticipates and openly predicts aggregation of power in the absence of the exercise of checks and balances, and mix in an elite business structure able to postulate “safety” measures that also happen to be profitable beyond their wildest dreams, and you’ll get exactly what we’ve now got every damn time.

    Unless, of course, somehow somebody rethinks the premise. You know, like, oh, actually reflects upon whether the amount of money being spent is justified by practical results; or, oh, whether the programs in place either are being operated constitutionally, let alone have been written constitutionally, and whether our government’s actions are advancing the legitimate interests of the United States. How? Why? Start with somebody — maybe even a President — acknowledging what the Presidential Oath of Office actually and quintessentially requires, and acting accordingly. That’s how to justify actually asking whether any of what has been wrought post-9/11 ought to remain in place as the policy of the United States of America and, if so, under what conditions.

  15. beowulf says:

    The best means of transport for Snowden would be the Russian military.
    It depends on how Putin would want to play it (he truly is the prince of trolls, somehow running a 1 man good cop, bad cop routine.

    The good cop bet is run silent, run deep. Put Snowden on one of the Russian Navy’s two dozen or or operational nuclear subs and no one will know where he is until the boat steams into Venezuela’s port of La Guira. The bad cop bet would be flying Snowden on a nuclear-capable Blackjack bomber directly from Russia to Venezuela.

    in September 10, 2008 at a strategic air base in Saratov, around 1000 km south of Moscow, Dmitry Kostyunin, deputy commander of the Russian Air Force’s long range bomber division, held a secret briefing for his elite crews. After the briefing, two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic bombers took off on a mission that was known only to a select few. As usual, NATO aircraft shadowed the aircraft over Norway and Iceland, but soon realised they couldn’t keep up.

    It was anything but usual, as the Blackjacks flew non-stop for over 15 hours, in the process setting a world record by accepting 25 tonnes of fuel during aerial refuelling. Finally, late in the night the Russian jets landed at the Libertador air base in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez personally welcomed them. “The Yankee hegemony is finished,” he said on national television.

  16. orionATL says:


    i am sure you are right, lefty.

    nonetheless, when you have isolated cases of terrorism, well identified drug gangs whose business grows by the year, and hackers who are irritating as hell bit hardly lethal,

    and, to (allegedly) deal with these, you take the simple, obvious solution of collecting every communinication made in the u.s.and large parts of the developed world, you are not being imaginative or clever in your problem solving. you are relying on main strength and awkwardness.

    you are also violating a constitutional prescription against search and seizure and, potentially, against speech.

    finally, you are setting up social machinery that is a totalitarian ruler’s dream.

    if the u.s. needs protection from electronic warfare, stuff a part of nsa back into dod and let them do their job from there, absent our communications records.

  17. orionATL says:

    @What Constitution?:

    “…calling the current “security apparatus” a “clumsy act of desperation by a befuddled and inept security bureaucracy that does not know how to solve the problems of security arising from a ragtag group of religious fanatics” doesn’t explain how it got that way and why it is remaining that way…”

    that is isindeed the case.

    “… For that, somebody has to answer the question “what if you could have done something, but you didn’t, and now there’s been a Terraist Attack oh my oh my oh my!”

    This is the pathetic “political calculus” behind every action taken, every unconstitutional “emergency measure”, every congressional abdication, every judicial rubberstamp…”

    and this is exactly the motive.

    as presently constructed beginning in 2002, our security apparatus is, in fact, a political security blanket for our presidential and congression leadership.

  18. orionATL says:


    “..if the u.s. needs protection from electronic warfare, stuff a part of nsa back into dod and let them do their job from there, absent our communications records…”

    our electronic security needs extend well beyond just the internet and the government and corporate computers attached to it. in particular they extend to the specialized computers and other control equipment that control the operation of all manner of vital services in a highly complex modern society.

    what we did to the iranian centrifuges with the stuxnet virus can be done to the specilized computers that we use to control our electric grid, communications network, water routing and supplies, transportation systems, chemical manufactures, for starters.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A basic component to successful statecraft, spying and martial arts is deception.  Mr. Putin is well-versed in all three, Mr. Obama in possibly one of them.  Russia’s statements about the location, handling and disposition of Mr. Snowden are not likely to leave bread crumbs on the path to Mr. Snowden.  Nor will the governments of Latin America, which have been treated as if they were the USG’s private property, starting a hundred years before Gen. Smedley Butler spent his youth fighting for American corporate power in the Caribbean, the Philippines and China.
    Mr. Snowden’s fate is important, but he would be the first to remind us that it is our fate we should be paying more attention to.

  20. lefty665 says:

    @orionATL: Agree. Parts of Homeland Security and most of the FBI have been bozos, but NSA has not.

    The Executive branch, Duhbya and BO, turned NSAs legitimate national defense tools inward to gut the Bill of Rights. The remedy can come from the President, or if he is unwilling, from Congress. If neither of those remedies work, the people have the right to assemble and the obligation to petition elected officials to help them see the error of their ways.

    40% of the Egyptian population turned out to make change. If 1/10th that number, 4% of Americans got off their butts and to D.C. to petition that would make change that we can believe in.

    The .4% we got during the Vietnam era was enough to change war policy. We assembled and petitioned. We helped Slippery Dick understand that he had erred, that he needed to change policy. He did. BO can too.

  21. orionATL says:

    lefty @23 
    “… The Executive branch, Duhbya and BO, turned NSAs legitimate national defense tools inward to gut the Bill of Rights. The remedy can come from the President, or if he is unwilling, from Congress. If neither of those remedies work, the people have the right to assemble and the obligation to petition elected officials to help them see the error of their ways. ..”
    this sums matters up nicely.
    the analogy with the egyptians should embarass us all. they are just coming out of 50 years of dictatorship while  we have become too damned complacent about our freedoms. 

  22. joanneleon says:

    In recent years, I remember reading a very good article about how this country collects so much intelligence that we can’t make good use of it, and that there is no way that humans can analyze all of it properly and find the needle in the haystack.  So what we’re doing now is making a much bigger haystack.  I remember the article saying that whenever they do a post mortem analysis of intel failures, they find that things were missed. And inevitably the solution put forward is to create yet another set of summary analyses or reports, which really just adds to the problem.  I think it’s clear that a big effort has been made recently to use computers to do the data mining, to replace the human analysis, and some people are saying that in order to be able to do good analysis, bigger amounts of data are needed, to form a better picture or perhaps better sample sizes.  I don’t know if I buy it, at all.  I wonder how much effort is really being put into making sense out of all of this data.  I think it’s going to be used to target and control specific people, and after that the use of the data for profit is inevitable.  Hell, it might even be used for revenue at some point, selling off our data in secret revenue programs.  Maybe that’s too far out there, but all you have to do is think about what you might do if you had access to all of it.  It’s inevitable that it will be abused and used for money and power.  Everything always ends up going in that direction.  It’s so hard to draw the line between the private and the public anymore.

  23. rosalind says:

    (omg. the EW Twitterverse AND our edit buttons back?  xmas come early this year. W00t!!!!)

  24. x174 says:

    i like the way that the Russian security source stated the dilemma:
    “Snowden will not fly out until he gets formal asylum because his passport has been cancelled.”
    similar to “I will not eat turkey until thanksgiving”; it is thanksgiving; i am having turkey.
    one thing is certain: if Snowden has already found asylum in another country, it seems unwise to inform the illegal beast of his actual whereabouts. 

  25. orionATL says:

    [email protected]  
    (reply button isn’t working right)
    then there may well be demands from lawyers in civil and criminal suits to have the gov’t go back in the stacks and find phone records or conversations relevant to the suits,
    just as forensic law is using dna analysis today to free prisoners wrongly convicted.

  26. john francis lee says:

    ‘ … Bolivian President Evo Morales was making a big stink about being “kidnapped” in Vienna. … ‘

    Why is it necesary to show such disrespect for Evo Morales? Oh yeah, he’s an Indian.

    Now if Air Force One had been refused transit through EU airspace and Barack the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate slash Serial Assassin ‘detained’ … what would have been the response then?

    Not only do military power and the demonstrated will to use it at the drop of a hat matter … there’re the only things that matters in Obama’s Brave New World.

  27. orionATL says:

    sink your teeth into this and into the american spying transgressions against trade or economic delegations of our european allies, and then tell me that the nsa is about terrorism and meeting national security needs:


    it is not.

    nor is it about cyber warfare.

    it is about spying on economies, businesses, production facilities of competitors.

    “terrorism”, it turns out, is not the front for cyberwarfare, it is the front for an american-constructed technological monstrosity built for the purpose of spying on competitors of american businesses in order to gather detailed information about the manufacturing and trade of competitor nations, hence the spying on brazil and european nations.

    india can reasonably expect to have been a target like brazil.

    electronic imperialism!

    and we imagined the death star was the nightmare.

  28. emptywheel says:

    @rosalind: And then gone again. We’re working on it. Well, not me. I found an angel. But it appears we can’t have BOTH the edit buttons AND the reply button yet.

  29. lefty665 says:

    @orionATL: From the CIA’s Chief Technology Officer in March: “It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human generated information”…”we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.”

    Beef Hollow Rd. lights up in a couple of months. It will hold all the communications in the world, hold onto it almost forever, and make it available for search or predictive analysis. These guys are ambitious and they have the means (our tax dollars or Chinese credit card, take your pick) to accomplish their goals.

    William Binney noted last year “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state”. But he underestimated, it’s a global state.

    Remember too, as a Duhbya appointee, BO’s nominee for FBI Director approved torture for detainees and infinite detention for an American citizen. When can we say we’ve had enough “Change we can believe in”?


  30. FrankProbst says:

    As I posted earlier, my initial response to Snowden revealing himself was that he clearly hadn’t thought through what was going to happen next. I’m starting to think that he was actually WAY ahead of the game. He knows how all the high-tech spying is done. He’s been working with Glenn Greenwald, who has been living in quasi-exile in Brazil, because he can’t bring his partner to the US (until the recent Supreme Court ruling) and who likely knows quite a bit about political asylum requests. I think he knew EXACTLY what was going to happen next. The US is obviously willing to risk serious diplomatic incidents to get their hands on him. And Putin seems to be having such a good time with this that it’s hard for me to believe that Snowden is still in Russia. I think false breadcrumbs are being thrown all over the place, and that that’s entirely the point. “Who watches the watchmen?” was the question that Snowden wanted us to ask ourselves.

  31. Bill Michtom says:

    @orionATL: “Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

    We’re not there, yet.

  32. C Woodrome says:

    So everybody cares where who what when and what but nobody knows anything. But they are all stupid, Knowing nothing and Wanting to do nothing!
    I feel completely sorry for Edward Snowden. He is being made to suffer for some stupid little mistake. Also no matter where he goes things are not going to get better . I wish there was a way we can all chip in and help the guy. That’s my personal opinion…

  33. beowulf says:


    Reportedly Venezuala and Nicaragua haven’t yet received a reply from Snowden to their asylum offers and have now (again, “reportedly”) given a Monday deadline for a response. Oh yeah, and House Intel Committee Chair Mike Rogers told CNN, “the US should look at trade agreements with the nations that are offering asylum “to send a very clear message that we won’t put up with this kind of behavior”.”

    Riddle me this, does the US Marshals Service put out press releases when and where someone has gone into the Witness Security Program? If the US Govt is threatening to sanction any country giving Snowden asylum, why would anyone make it easy for Washington by announcing he’s now living on their soil?

    A country could grant asylum to Snowden without announcing the offer or Snowden’s acceptance. I still think Russia is his best bolthole but even if he goes elsewhere, he could be carrying a valid Russian (or any number of other nations) passport with a new identity and paper trail. If the US Marshals can pull this off, I’m thinking the ex-KGB crew at FSB can do the same. At some point, the Russians can stage Snowden’s Eddie and the Cruisers style disappearance/fake death to open up that terminal for other uses. But until then, there’s no reason for Snowden to ever (officially) leave the airport.

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