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Limits of US Power. Lessons from Edward Snowden

By Jacob

The NSA intelligence analyst who leaked the NSA's spying on Americans is now playing a diplomatic hide-and-seek game with the most powerful government on earth. Well, the US used to be the bull dog in the room that always had its way with the smaller ones. China and Russia are now saying, not any more.

Recently, the US has made several high profile charges against China for hacking US government and private computers. Although China has always complained that it has been a victim of several US hacking attempts on Chinese networks, those counter claims never materialized. At least the US made sure they never by consistently bringing up China's human rights records and central control of communication networks by the Chinese government.

China and Russia seemed bent on embarrassing the US and taking home a diplomatic victory by using  Snowden and providing a save passage to wherever he so chooses to. Once upon a time, the US could plough its way and force a country like China to detain a fugitive. It seems China is subtly telling the US that that era is far gone.

Currently, Russia and China have left the Obama administration guessing about the whereabouts of Snowden. Some reports say he left China for Russia and the Chinese seem to corroborate that. What do the Russians say? “Snowden is not on Russian soil yet”.

Only recently did Vladimir Putin come forcefully and pointedly portraying the limits of American power by indicating that Snowden would not be extradited to the US as he has not committed any crime on Russian soil. These were followed by days of rancorous exchanges from the Russian foreign minister and several spokespersons from China said the United States accusations that China aided Snowden to leave Hongkong where groundless and baseless.

Those are pretty harsh words considering that the Chinese president was in the US a few months ago where he received a warm visit from Obama. China is clearly telling the US that there no reciprocity as the US had given the impression that China condoned and encouraged widespread hacking against public and private entities in the US

The American bully pulpit effort followed with threats of consequences if the governments in which Snowden might make a transit do not detain him and extradite him to the US seems to have backfired with several of these countries China, Russia and Ecuador daring the US.

Snowden seems to have provided a treasure load of intel to the Chinese about the extensive hacking capabilities of the NSA. China is hardly a nation that espouses freedom of choice. Instead it strongly curtails efforts by human rights activists to express their anger against the actions of Chinese government that stymy political discourse.

It is yet to be seen what Snowden would truly accomplish by disseminating all the intel about US intelligence activities and how the NSA gleans information from international networks.

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