Desperately seeking Edward Snowden

The guy famous for telling secrets about U.S. surveillance programs has managed to keep his own whereabouts under wraps.

THE WASHINGTON POSTJuly 6, 2013 

  • NICARAGUA, VENEZUELA WOULD GRANT ASYLUM

    MANAGUA, Nicaragua - Presidents Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela said Friday they were willing to grant asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

    Snowden has asked for asylum in several countries, including Nicaragua and Venezuela.

    "As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live (without) ... persecution from the empire," Maduro said, referring to the United States. He made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela's independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela's offer.

    In Nicaragua, Ortega said he was willing to make the same offer "if circumstances allow it." Ortega didn't say what the right circumstances would be when he spoke about Snowden during a speech in Managua.

    He said the Nicaraguan embassy in Moscow received Snowden's application for asylum and that it is studying the request.

    "We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies," Ortega said.

    The Associated Press

MOSCOW - Every year about 25 million passengers enter Sheremetyevo Airport, and usually they come out again.

Not Edward Snowden.

Somehow he has made himself lost for nearly two weeks in a mile-long transit corridor dotted with six VIP lounges, a 66-room capsule hotel, assorted coffee shops, a Burger King and about 20 duty-free shops selling Jack Daniels, Cuban rum, Russian vodka and red caviar that costs four times as much as it does in the city.

Unless he's across the runway in private Terminal A, in the watchful company of Russian officials.

Everybody wants to find him. Journalists want to interview him. The United States wants to prosecute him. And now, Anna Chapman wants to marry him.

Being a spy herself - she's the alluring Russian redhead who was chucked out of the United States in 2010 along with nine other sleeper agents - the suspicious might wonder if it's what they call in the trade a honey trap, ensnarement by romantic relationship.

"Snowden, will you marry me?!" @ChapmanAnna tweeted this week.

THE EMPTY SEAT

The United States wants Snowden on charges of theft and disclosing classified information in violation of the Espionage Act. Scores of journalists were waiting when his flight from Hong Kong landed in Terminal F on June 23. No sign of him. Others filled seats on Aeroflot to Havana - airport officials said Snowden had a ticket for June 24 - and flew off, taking pictures of his empty seat.

The airport's half dozen buildings cover an area as big as 100 football fields and is set off of a traffic-clogged road 18 miles from the city center. A transit zone, about a mile long, wends its way along the sides of terminals D, E and F, which are connected by a walkway to help arriving passengers board connecting international flights without having to pass through passport control and customs, which requires a visa.

Terminal D, the most modern concourse, has soaring ceilings and a men's room with an age-old Russian smell to it. Tatyana Yudina, at the register of a traditional, lacquered-wood crafts souvenir stand, shrugged at the name Snowden.

Last week journalists staked out a chain called Shokoladnitsa, hoping they would find Snowden drinking a $7 cappuccino or drinking an $11 nonalcoholic mojito with $9 blini and red caviar.

Nyet.

The capsule hotel rents tiny rooms for about $15 an hour, with a four-hour minimum. No one was spotted going in and out Thursday, and the clerk on duty frostily declared that she wasn't allowed to talk with reporters.

WHY ALL THE FUSS?

Russians are a little bemused at all that fuss over surveillance. Many believe the authorities can read their mail at will, listen in to their calls and sprinkle bugs around as they please.

"Wiretapping is so common, so this is not news," said Alina Gorchakova, a 48-year-old account manager who stopped to chat on a city street.

What doesn't seem normal to many is why Snowden decided to reach Ecuador, his original destination, through Russia. Once he arrived here, with his U.S. passport revoked, Ecuador grew less enthusiastic. Russia says he can go anywhere he likes, he only needs a destination and authorized travel documents. So why doesn't he go? Or show his face?

And Svetlana Chibisova, a 45-year-old tour agency manager, found it strange that an American citizen carrying U.S. secrets would travel by way of Russia, where security agencies are very much in control.

"I don't understand what he was thinking," she said. "Is he a little boy with no idea about the consequences?"

Olga Prokopenko, 40, deputy director of a pharmaceutical company, said the Snowden affair sounded like a fairy tale. "How long will he have to stay in the transit zone? What is he eating there and where does he sleep? Has anyone seen him at all? Strange."

"I really wish he could be in some other transit zone," she said, "because you never know what our authorities will do."

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