Earlier this week the United Nations General Assembly passed a strong general resolution, introduced by the governments of Brazil and Germany, affirming “the right to privacy in the digital age”.
It didn’t mention the U.S. National Security Agency, but it was obviously inspired by what Edward Snowden revealed about the extent of the NSA’s worldwide surveillance. I think the governments of Brazil and Germany should show their appreciation by offering Snowden asylum.
Snowden is in a precarious position in Russia. He was granted permission to stay in that country for a year, of which about nine months remain. President Vladimir Putin said in an interview that he wouldn’t tolerate a Russian who revealed information about the secret Russian security agencies, and that the only reason he permits Snowden to remain in Russia is that there is no extradition treaty with the United States. If the United States signed such a treaty, and handed over certain Russian fugitives that Putin wants, he would hand over Snowden without hesitation.
Why are Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Germany’s Angela Merkel and other national leaders unwilling to give Snowden refuge? One obvious reason is that they fear to displease the U.S. government. Another might be that they, too, don’t want to set a precedent that would encourage Snowdens in their own countries.