The Edward Snowden Drama Has Reached Peak Action Movie

Matt Berman
National Journal

If the Edward Snowden saga is a Michael Bay movie that we are all just living in, on Sunday morning it would have passed over the believability abyss. That's when Snowden, the NSA leaker turned America's Most Wanted poster-boy, took a plane out of Hong Kong, en route to Russia, where he landed around 9:15 a.m. EST. Snowden is reportedly headed from there to Havana, Cuba on Monday. Originally, it looked like he was going from there to Caracas, Venezuela. Now, it appears he's off to Ecuador.

Oh, and on the run with Edward Snowden? Diplomatic and legal escorts from WikiLeaks, according to a press release from the organization. WikiLeaks released a profile of Sarah Harrison on Sunday morning, a U.K. citizen who the organization says is acting as Snowden's escort. WikiLeaks, being WikiLeaks, is live-tweeting the adventure:

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange is getting himself back in headlines with his moves to help Snowden. Assange has been living in the Ecudarian embassy in London for over a year, avoiding extradition to Sweden. 

The first seeming plot-hole in today's story: how did Snowden get out of Hong Kong? Especially with all of the pressure that the Obama administration was putting on the government to extradite hm? Hong Kong's governmnet has plugged that hole with a statement:

The U.S. Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the U.S. Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the U.S. Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the U.S. Government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

If that part of the statement doesn't make this point obvious, the government of Hong Kong is not too pleased with the United States:

Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the U.S. Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.

So much for extradition treaties

And just how many more U.S. relationships with how many more countries will Snowden muck up?

Sen. Chuck Schumer, on CNN's State of the Union Sunday morning, told host Candy Crowley that he is "very disappointed" with how Hong Kong handled Snowden, and believed that "the hand of Beijing was involved here." He had harsher words for Russia, saying there'd be "serious consequences" for the U.S.-Russia relationship, and that "allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways." The senator also made the assumption that Vladimir Putin approved Snowden's plane landing in Russia, and called the president "infuriating." 

Sen. Rand Paul, also on State of the Union, had kinder words for Snowden: "I think it's still going to be an open question how this young man's judged." The Kentucky senator and 2016-maybe said that history would look back at the records of both Snowden and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, saying that "Mr. Clapper lied to Congress, in defiance of the law, in the name of security," and that "Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy."

Paul, however, wasn't too thrilled with what Snowden looked to be doing on Sunday morning:

If he cozies up to either the Russian government, the Chinese government, or any of these governments that are perceived still as enemies of ours, I think that that'll be a real problem for him in history.

While the U.S. doesn't actually consider Russia or China to be enemy nations, you can get a pretty decent sense of where this drama could be heading in the coming days.

(Update Monday 7:30 AM): For the latest updates in Monday's extension of the Snowden saga, check out National Journal's Brian Fung here. Starting with: was the flight to Cuba all a ruse?

(Monday 6:45 AM): The "Where Is Edward Snowden and Where Is He Going" story lives for another day. Here's the latest aboard the airplane that Snowden was reportedly supposed to be taking to Cuba this morning:

(Sunday 3:10): U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki issued a statement Sunday afternoon basically confirming reports that the U.S. did revoke Snowden's passport and saying that the U.S. would really prefer it if Snowden was not allowed to get on just any plane out of Russia:

As is routine and consistent with U.S. regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to having their passport revoked. Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status. Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr. Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States. Because of the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on Mr. Snowden's passport specifically.

(1:58): Sen. John McCain took to Twitter Sunday afternoon to pile on China and Russia:

(1:25): WikiLeaks has released an updated press release saying that Snowden "is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks."

Why Ecuador? Another point of some confusion, even with the country's support for Assange. Just last week, Human Rights Watch issued a statement bashing Ecuador's new Communications Law, saying that it "seriously undermines free speech" and "will limit the free expression of journalists and media outlets."

For more on the human rights records of the countries that Snowden is looking at, see this new piece by National Journal's Jill Lawrence.

(12:48): AFP and others are now reporting that Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador:

Ecuador's foreign minister confirms, in Spanish and English:

(12:20): More intrigue!

(12:05): ABC News is reporting on what could be a huge, logic-leap plot hole in the drama that is Snowden:

So, how exactly did Snowden get out of Hong Kong without a valid passport? As ABC's Jon Williams also notes, the lack of a passport shouldn't be a problem for Snowden getting out of Russia, as it sounds like his plan is to stay at the airport and not technically cross through another border.

This is also on top of new speculation that Snowden may not be going to Venezuela after all:

Ecuador is, of course, the country that has been giving political asylum to Julian Assange for the last year, and apparently plans to continue to do so. The Guardian, meanwhile, is reporting some confusion from Ecuador's ambassador in Moscow. Confusion: definitely the word of the day.