In last week’s opening statement, I discussed the Christmas statement by Edward Snowden. I talked about how there have been discussions on how much surveillance is too much since a New York times article in 2005 and how that discussion will likely continue for the next 25-50 years and how Edward Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia after leaking documents from the NSA, has done very little to change the trajectory of that discussion.
I want to follow up that with one important note. As I was airing this show on December 29th and December 30th, two terrorist suicide bombings were carried out in Volgograd Russia. These attacks were carried out by Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed emir of the northern Caucasus and a Chechen terrorist leader. Umarov had announced he would disrupt the Sochi winter Olympics and these bombings were part of that effort.
The Economist noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the attacks in his new Year’s speech. Putin said quote “We will remain confident, tough and consistent in our fight to destroy the terrorists completely”
I hope the absurdity of the position Putin and Snowden now find themselves in is clear. Putin offered Asylum to Snowden after Snowden’s leaks with the implied suggestion that the US Intelligence community is going too far in its fight against terrorism. This is all going on as Russia, who has one of the most aggressive intelligence and spying apparatuses in the world, struggles to deal with its own terrorism problem in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics. The irony is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut it.
Of course, as my friend and fellow Pundit Rachel Marsden said to me, Russia’s offer of asylum to Snowden was never about principle. It was about two things. An attempt to have Russia’s intelligence services get their hands on whatever documents and other classified information Snowden might have on him, and a PR move that Russia could trot out anytime they wanted to embarrass or irritate the United States or prevent the US from engaging Russia on Russia’s many human rights issues.
But for Russia, there is no escaping the irony of sheltering Snowden while struggling to deal with their own terrorism issue.