Zakaria: Snowden situation unique
June 26th, 2013
10:56 AM ET

Zakaria: Snowden situation unique

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a "free man" biding his time in a Moscow airport, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. But should Barack Obama have taken the opportunity during a key speech the same day to ask Russia to send Snowden back to the United States? Fareed offers his take on the Situation Room.

If the president would have, for example, opened up his speech over at Georgetown University and said, I'm going to talk about climate change in a moment, but first, I just want to [offer] a direct appeal to Russia to send Snowden back to the United States, it obviously would escalate this situation, because the president has a lot more at stake then.

I think the danger is that if the president makes a public appeal like that and it doesn't work, you really do look bad. You lose credibility.

So I think the White House is probably calculating exactly how much pressure they can put. They started out very tough with the Russians, thinking that they might even kind of push them into doing something. And it became very clear the Russians weren't willing to do that. So they're now playing nicer. They're saying, look, can't you help us?

The U.S. has extradited a number of people. But this is a unique situation. This is a situation in which the person that we're talking about has revealed that the United States is engaging in massive surveillance programs of many, many foreign countries and governments. So from the point of view of those foreign countries and governments, it is, of course, a very complicated issue. I bet you that if you were to poll public opinion in Russia or China, they would support what their governments are doing right now.

Can the president sweeten the pot, if you will – give the Russians something that they've wanted from the United States for a long time and try to make a deal along those lines?

You know, part of what's happened here is that the asymmetry of power has become so great. During the Cold War, we spied a lot on them, they spied a lot on us. They would catch one of ours, we'd exchange them.

We have developed, ever since the end of the Cold War and after 9/11, this massive surveillance capacity that dwarfs anything any of these guys have. And so it's not clear what they have that, you know, what could we give them? We tower over them and they resent it. The Chinese resent it. The Russians resent it. So they look upon this as such wonderful P.R. that I don't know what we could give them in return.

I think there are things in a more general sense. The Russians want the relaxation of Jackson-Vanik, which is about grain exports from Russia, which a Cold War relic. There are probably other trade-related issues. But that would be a kind of an unusual tie. Typically in espionage, you've done a like for like, an apples for apples swap, except that we now do stuff that nobody else does, so I don't quite know what we could offer them.

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Topics: Russia • United States

soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. Robert Van Meter

    I say RUN EDWARD RUN. Before they torture him . Americans are blood hungry. We kill people all over the world and all the government has to do is say "security is at risk" and people without knowing the facts would FRY HIM...I think they love the thought of it. We massacred a whole continent of Native Peoples and now are moving on to Muslims. I feel Edward saw something so screwed up he had to say something and THERE IS NO WAY he could have come to the government. They know EXACTLY what they are doing. America is on the road to ruin and I am not sure there are enough intelligent people in our country to stop it. I live in the South and these people are the angriest, most hateful , and most ignorant people I have ever seen. It's UNREAL. They LOVE the Death penalty and LOVE killing muslims based on false lies they are told.

    June 26, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Thank you, Robert. I couldn't have said it better! This country is indeed engulfed in this right-wing lynch mob mentality and that's why they call ours a sick society!

      June 26, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        Now Snowden is holed up at an airport near Moscow. Is it what he wants? He had miscalculated the Ecuador's president Rafael Correa's readiness to grant him political asylum. He oversaw that Ecuador's preferential trade treaty expires on 30 June and the country could lose up to $400 mn a year in its exports to the US, should it let Snowden take refuge in Ecuador. Therefore Correa is telling the world that it would take weeks and months for them to decide on Snowden's request.

        June 27, 2013 at 8:59 am |
      • j. von hettlingen

        The Kremlin wants the jailed Russian arms dealer Victor Bout back. He was sentenced last year to 25 years in New York. But it wouldn't make the request and would wait for Washington to take the first step.
        The question is, is it worth it? Snowden can't go anywhere he wants. To live a life on the run and to be in countries he wouldn't have chosen in the first place is an agony. One day the US will get him.

        June 27, 2013 at 9:08 am |
      • Andrey

        Snowden is an infantile liberal: he has thrown a tantrum without planning anything and thinking what consequences could be. Putin has no need for the brat!
        And US can keep that POS Victor whatever for the rest of his sorry life: not only for 25 years! If he knew any secrets Americans wanted: they already have them or these secrets are useless: they all have very short shelf-life these days!

        So if Americans need Snowden they can come and get him themselves. In Russia they say "Do not spit in the well": it's a pity Obama did not know what it was about! Now he is thirsty but that well is not available for him!

        June 27, 2013 at 10:31 am |
      • Paul

        Hate of anything such as losing an election, is hate of oneself for telling it happen. I am sorry for you loss, but the stench of loser really makes me ill. Got go.

        June 27, 2013 at 11:17 am |
      • Paul

        And please, in the next election, quit with the clown routine, you are making the country look bad.

        June 27, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • Tom

        Someone needs to proof these articles before they are posted. I have found about three grammatic error "because the president has a lot more at stake then. " (you can't end a sentence like that) -AND- "And so it's not clear what they have that, you know, what could we give them?" (that sentence is so bad, CNN needs an editor)

        June 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
      • mike g

        you're a re- turd.. "This country is indeed engulfed in this right-wing lynch mob mentality and that's why they call ours a sick society!" right wing again? is that the only thing you know? I disagree with the NSA program, as well the IRS problem, the Libya problem, the DOJ problem, the corrupt AG problem, the obummercare problem, the $100 million vacation for the prez to africa while he spends out of control and blames repubs... Dems want to spend us into the ground and anything other than that point of view is right wing or racist...

        black prez, black AG, black supreme court justice, black congressmen, black senators, black federal judges... yep sounds like a racist country to me.... we need to be OUT of everyone elses country and biz.... lock down entry into this country until we know EVERYONE here, coming and going.... change jail/prison time to hard labor camps....

        its not a left right thing its a we the people vs politicians thing and they play US against each other for thier gain.

        June 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
      • 1968billsfan

        "Uh,,,,, it is the leftist liberal Mr. Obama who is trying to pressure Russia (no quid pro quo for giving up on defensive ballistic missiles in eastern Europe?) and bully Ecuador) to get Snowden and punish those who revealed the spying on Americans.

        June 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
      • Keith

        @Joseph – you do realize that the tea party has been one of Snowden's strongest supports? And GOP senator Rand Paul has been the most vocal in blaming the US government instead of scapegoating Snowden while Dems like Pelosi, Feinstein, Franken, etc have called Snowden a criminal (well Pelosi and Feinstein did while Franken just said the Obama govt did nothing wrong)

        June 30, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
      • Praveen

        well said Robert and Joseph. I call it MOBOCRACY, it is a disease that is spreading across most major democracies. I am from India and I see the same happening there as well – when the majority of people stereotype certain sections there isn't much a government would do to fix it.

        June 30, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Bill

      Are you seriously bringing up the slaughter of Indians 150 years later? There are actual real enemies of the US–not just "blood hungry" Americans. You can take out the old cat of nine tails whip, and go to it on yourself. Obviously, you are on a guilt trip.

      June 27, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • TomGI

      Wow you sure have a lot to say. Too bad it's all baloney.

      June 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • Ted

      Run Snowden Run – all the way to Siberia.

      June 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • chin

      How stupid Snowden!!! so what ? trying to save American people ?. He can't even save himself

      June 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
      • Ysrael YAHUDAH

        They are warning the "American" people telling us to wake up to whats going on around you.

        June 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • f4xtrafn

      I know the facts. Fry him!

      June 28, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • Adalberto Cervantes Rodriguez

      have this stuff in my body

      How to protect yourself against implanted devices for IT connectivity? You have to know like other chip or electronic device, they are not working properly if you use magnetism, water or other solutions like cream, or electricity, this external factor among others the materials use to have like cold, hot, so weather conditions like atmospheric pression , definitely will impact the well function of the devices implanted in a body.

      Buy massage electronic devices, magnetos, use the power connector of the computer, mobile phone with water, they will work among others. Certain part of your body will be hot because of the attack, use the magnetos, they will be warm also. Use a hat with magnetic structure; they use the magnetic material where they are selling material

      Body knows that you have something that it is not part of your body, you will feel like an insect bite without a trace, but suddenly the touch of your hand and a pump will find something, here they are, use a needled disinfected try to extract them. You have to do it because in spite it can protect someone also it can produce sicknesses, heart attacks, trucks, a lot of pain, swelling of the legs , headaches, difficulty to pup, among others.

      You have to do it yourself, because if someone attacks, they have the mechanism even to get in the hospital you are, to have you harmed, so do not do anything risky, especially if you alone, ask someone be with you all the time, do not ask for ambulance, go you self to the ER. In the first place, you were sedated, and a Chinese inserted the methodic device like acupuncture technique, of course there is another way to send you to a mental hospital, thinking that nobody believes you. Do not be panic, if you know to drive, have money, and start traveling long distances.

      They need at least two days to make it work the implanted devices in your body, the first one is to implant them in your body, the second one is calibrate the devices in your body, it can identify your sicknesses in all over your body, everything.

      Be out of the spectrum of the internet signals, they are using against you, identify if only they are using blackberries, mobile phones, personal computers near your job, or everywhere you go, including your house. It is that the case, it is good because it means that first they have to find you, it is easy for them because you might have chips in both ear, do not be panic. The harmful way of attacking you, it is using a satellite, they have a lot of power and connectivity everywhere, they can see you in third dimension like to have a doctor near you but it is really a butcher.

      Try to find more about the devices and how to destroy them, they are like nails, it seems they can see through your body in detail, they are like little transparent plastic material, and they are others like a hair, but they can be burn, do it.

      Do not allow surgeries over you in Sparrow Hospital using Androit and Google technology, they will know where are you all the time, and they will attack your central system with a complex microsurgery, starting in your ear to your brain. The implanted devices might have connectivity even with sophisticated equipment use at the Hospital.

      June 29, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • Paul

      Anyone can solve the worlds problems. Thanks all you smart people for making it such a wonderful place. Credit where credit is due, huh.

      June 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • whatever dude

      The us hasn't even started playing dirty yet, wait till we offer to send Dennis rodman over to negotiate with the Russians.

      July 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  2. Robert Van Meter

    And CNN doesn't REPORT, they PRINT talking points...

    June 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
  3. kgb agent

    How many Russians (esp. post-Cold War ones) have gone to the US and spilled secrets of their governments to the US government and were hailed as "heroes" in the Western press? Of course, Snowden did not spill to those governments, he spilled to the entire world. Still, what is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander.

    June 26, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  4. JAL

    Show Moscow that we are done worrying about this. We are moving on to bigger and better things.

    June 26, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Andrey

      So what about some self-respect: did you forget what that word means? All you are concerned about how it will look from Moscow: and that is ridiculous. I thought you have got some moral compass and a beacon of freedom to navigate: but all you have are China, Russia and the rest of the world you consider your mortal enemies and measure yourself against what they think of you. They think you are the Evil Empire: so stop worrying!

      June 27, 2013 at 10:38 am |
      • JAL

        Well put. Thanks.

        June 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  5. karthick

    God bless america!
    this world is growing faster and smarter than America

    June 27, 2013 at 2:20 am |
  6. LeopoldK

    History does not favor the man who says that he towers over his enemies, and that resentment is their sole motive.

    June 27, 2013 at 5:19 am |
  7. Mike H.

    "If you were to poll public opinion in Russia or China, they would support what their governments are doing right now."
    It's not only the Russians and the Chinese, the fact is most people around the world think the U.S. is the world bully.

    June 27, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Canada

      I agree, The states needs to be humbled a bit.

      June 28, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • JCF

      Agree 100% it's about time the US keeps it's nose out of everyone's business but that won't happen anytime soon. We tell everyone how they should run their country but we can't even run our own.

      June 28, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  8. us_1776

    Fareed, the criminal here is YOUR OWN GOVT !!!

    The level of domestic spying that is going on within the US govt far surpasses anything that was done in Nazi Germany.


    June 27, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Maersk

      You must not have known that he is just an Indian whose expertise is fingering his own azz.

      June 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  9. WimR

    The idea that China should be pressed to extradite a man who subsequently will be charged with spying for China makes me believe that the State Department has lost contact with reality.

    June 27, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Maersk

      Especially when they had accused the Chinese for hacking their azz and stealing their cherry for the last few years.

      June 27, 2013 at 6:46 pm |
    • Ekram

      I agree with you. Its mind boggling to hear American politicians bad mouthing both Russia and China up to this very last second and then expect from these same countries to handover Snowden back to them! Why would they cooperate if they caught you (due to Snowden's leaks) hacking their internet and snooping on phone calls? Are we really that naïve or simply stupid?

      June 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  10. Lyles

    I move to offer Snowden a public deal for a very public trial and have him moved back here by the local authorities then kept in a nonfederal jail or prison for his public trial. Weather he agrees or not is up to him but it would limit the power of the Feds to "sweep him under the rug"

    June 27, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  11. wood

    The USA will be stepped under other countries if Obama is not same strong as Putin.

    June 27, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Andrey

      Obama can not be strong: because he is nowhere close the high moral grounds and he knows this. With him helping al-Qaeda internationally while spying on his own citizens and keeping people captive without due trial for years: he is a criminal even by US own law!

      June 27, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  12. svann

    We dont have an extradition treaty with Russia because we refused to sign one.

    June 27, 2013 at 11:24 am |
  13. MiamiC

    One has to agree with Snowden that nobody wants to live in 1984. And our legislature and our last two presidents did betray our trust (again!) by letting this monstrous information sponge get out of hand. Still, our leaders were acting on our behalf, whereas Snowden, at best, acted to satisfy his own ego or to get back at his unresponsive bosses. He could have worked legitimately, even anonymously, with any number of national organizations that address citizens' rights. Instead he went to our nation's enemies to deal with them, in secret. His paladins, China, Russia, Cuba, Ecuador won't think twice about using this opportunity to take a swipe not at Obama but at us. Snowden betrayed us, we don't need him back for anything, he can stay at the Moscow airport. I will, though, confess that since Snowden, I have upped the security in my laptop and have stopped using the well known "leaking sites" (Google et al), as well as dramatically curtailed my internet shopping. I hate the idea of computer guys like Snowden romping all over the details of my life.

    June 27, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  14. RC

    Fareed Zakaria, and all of CNN, is a joke. –Reaping the benefits of a nation structured to benefit government and big corporations.

    June 27, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  15. SeeThruIt2

    An extradition treaty would require another country to send him back just because WE say he violated one of OUR laws.

    In cases past where extraditions took place without a treaty, it's probably because the offender is accused of a crime that is also against that nation's law (ie. murder).

    June 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • bryanfred

      Actually it has to be considered a crime in both countries. But more to the point, the Russians and Chinese probably want to know as much as possible about NSA activities and this guy is probably as informed about its goings-on than just about anyone else they could lay hands on. Frankly if I were Snowden I'd be worried the Russians would come grab me from the airport (or wherever he is) and interrogate me.

      June 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
      • KM

        Yes, fear Russians! We are wild barbarians. We grab, push, squeeze, torment...

        Вo anyone remember here why Nixon was moved out from the WH?

        June 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
      • KM

        Yes, fear Russians! We are wild barbarians. We grab, push, squeeze, torment...

        Do anyone remember here why Nixon was moved out from the WH?

        June 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  16. D Mulrooney

    how about Victor Bolt???

    June 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  17. Tom

    the bad grammar in this article made my head hurt.

    June 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Ekram

      Tom, these postings do not always meant to be grammatically correct. Its good that everyone can write in good English but then English is not everybody's first language. Plus, its all about getting across your point of view to other participants so long you are able to understand so don't let this grammar thing bother you!

      June 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
    • DB

      – quit whining, everybody isn't as smart or perfect as you. I think most people get their idea across .

      June 27, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • not so

      Your head hurts????? It's KILLING me!!!!

      June 28, 2013 at 3:04 am |
    • not so

      Try starting with a capital letter next time!

      June 28, 2013 at 3:05 am |
    • TopView20

      Then stop playing with it.

      June 28, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  18. Jerry

    HE has no credibility to begin with! Américans are finally starting to wake up to his continues and disrespectful lying.

    REALLY "Forward" América!

    June 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  19. Chicago Rich

    Nations act much like children and I think similar psychology as if dealing with a smart but sneaky child might be most appropriate to train that sneaky child to do the right thing in the future. I don't think you offer up a carrot in this case up front. You do provide a stick if what you believe is right is not done, even if to do that costs you as well, and if the child does the right thing on a regular basis you provide the carrots, again even if there is cost to you to do so. To get results you must be consistent and predictable over the long term.

    June 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Andrey

      So hit yourself with a stick if you like: it will look childish, you might be right there!

      June 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  20. Olaf Big

    We are towering over Russia with that massive surveillance we built after 09/11 and they resent us? Keep in mind that there is no independent proof that this "massive surveillance" is effective, or that it helped prevent any attacks. It seems to me that Russians are pretty self-sufficient taking care of their security concerns and simply don't need whatever comes up in that "massive surveillance". Remember, they warned us to have a closer look at Boston marathon bomber, not the other way round, and we didn't anyway. So there is some evidence that this "massive surveilance" is ineffective and no evidence to the contrary.

    June 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Andrey

      You surveillance thing reminds me how my math teacher in junior high used to say: "If you do not know what to do: do whatever you can!". It used to give better results then: school is not as complicated, in a real life it is better to have an idea of what you do and what you want to achieve.

      June 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  21. Harold Smith

    Go Snowden! Thank you for exposing the NSA tyranny of dictator Obama.

    June 27, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Maersk

      Isn't it kind of funny that all of a sudden your uncle stopped accusing the Chinese for hacking his azz ans stealing his cherry?

      June 27, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  22. wood

    May be this is best solution for Obama right now. Hope that Obama is able to be strong in the future. Wondering why the USA choose Kerry as a secretary of state and Hagel as a secretary of Defense ? They are too weak.

    June 27, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  23. Majid Monfaredian

    Well Fareed,
    It doesn't look like you know much! Why even bother writing this article?

    June 27, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Maersk

      He should start writing how him and his fellow Indians finger their azz instead.

      June 27, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  24. Jose Luna

    Nobody in this country or the world for that matter, believe anything this administration has to say. Except for the apologists.

    June 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  25. Jeff Stockwell

    Offer the Russians Latakia. They would very much like a Mediterranean port for their oil, power, and prestige. Either all Syrians come together to under a democratic leadership, or they brake apart in the peace deal of the decade. A part for each ethnic group, or in half between Sunni and Shia. The Russians are the only ones who can talk to Assad. His life, his family, and his cohort for peace in Syria.

    June 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  26. Grafted Olive Branch

    I do believe that the American experiment is the last best hope of mankind on this earth. But unfortunately, I also believe that mankind will eventually prove that he can not govern himself.

    June 27, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • DB

      – you have to be kidding, the US is a very poor example of a country who get along with themselves and is governed fairly . I can think of many examples where the population does get along well, and doesn't owe trillions to the Chinese. Countries can do their own thing successfully without being a bully and paranoid with the rest of the nations. try Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Australia for a start.

      June 27, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Andrey

      Your delusions are so extreme that they could not be a result of brain-washing that all Americans are subjected from early age, but rather a sign of a brain defect: I recommend to return it to the manufacturer for replacement.

      June 28, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Frye

      American Experiment?

      It was the French Revolution that started it all.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |

    Russia is our enemy to offer appeasment shows weakness.

    June 27, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Andrey

      The only friends you have got are those that you rent: they are all gone the nest day you delay your monthly dues! It is actually a sign of decency not to be among them: thank you!

      June 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • not so call others your enemy shows weakness.......

      Enemies don't simply appear, you make them!

      June 28, 2013 at 2:20 am |
    • not so

      Russia COULD be our friends(again), if we just didn't have a**h0les like you here.

      June 28, 2013 at 2:58 am |
  28. Ted

    Obama and Kerry managed to embarrass themselves to our chief opponents – China and Russia for no good reason.

    June 27, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  29. Nodack

    All countries are spying on other countries. Russia, China, UK, US, etc. have been spying on each other forever. Sometimes spies get caught. Snowden was just a traitor and now he has to look for another country to hide in for the rest of his life. China and Russian would just use him to get what they wanted like a chess piece. Did he think that China and Russia weren't in the spy business? I think he is just an idjut.

    June 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Andrey

      So what in your opinion China and Russia would want from Snowden? He is pretty much nobody knowing nothing of a value for them: all his information could be a secret only for brain-washed Americans, not for anybody else!

      June 28, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  30. Justin

    America is turning into a veiled totalitarism state. And those who scream traitor to Snowden are just not seeing it.

    Most folks will never come to admit it, but when you have lived long enough, you could see it and compare us to what old soviet use to be. Many will scream at my statement, that's because they've only read the history books and are not looking at the present as it was felt at the time then and as it is felt now. Enjoy your Big MACs!!! They're delicious, aren't they? 🙂

    June 27, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
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