White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

The Obama administration really wants to catch Edward Snowden but the two countries that could make that happen, Russia and China, have zero desire to help. Apparently finding out a foreign government has been effectively spying on everyone in your country puts you in an uncooperative mode.

Despite the indictment and a suspended passport China let Snowden fly out of Hong Kong. This seriously angered the Obama administration and resulted in one of the least diplomatic statements by a press secretary I have ever heard. Jay Carney not only called the Chinese government liars at yesterday’s press briefing but said this would hurt future relations.

On June 21, Hong Kong authorities requested additional information concerning the U.S. charges and evidence.  The U.S. had been in communication with Hong Kong about these inquiries, and we were in the process of responding to the request when we learned that Hong Kong authorities had allowed the fugitive to leave Hong Kong.

With regards to your question about the Chinese government, we are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official.  This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship.

Now that Snowden is possibly in Russia, the Russian government has made it clear they aren’t going to be any more helpful than the Chinese government. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insist that they are not getting involved since Snowden has not technically entered Russian territory by not leaving the airport.

These two incidents highlight one of the problems with the newly revealed NSA programs that doesn’t get talked about much. Just because something is technological possible and potentially legal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It is very likely these programs fail the most basic cost-benefit analysis even without addressing the serious civil liberties issues.

Not only are spending tens of billions of dollars on NSA programs that are supposedly helping to chase only a handful of possible domestic terrorists, but the existence of these programs can cause serious damage to our international standing and economy. We see already how they have hurt international cooperation regarding criminal investigations. It is also possible that the United State’s effectively using American tech companies as arms of our spy agencies will over the long-term result in them losing substantial international business.

Update – Russian President Putin says he will not extradite Snowden to the United States.

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