Edward Snowden. Remember him? He leaked a bunch of information about the National Security Agency’s secret program to collect the phone and Internet records of its very own U.S. citizens, among others. Well, poor Ed. For tattling, he has been charged by our government with espionage. Telling everyone that the government spies on its friends around the globe, as well as its enemies, was a no-no. As if our allies don’t already know that we spy on them, just as they spy on us. It tends to keep your friends honest.
It’s not my intention to debate Snowden’s actions, or our government’s. I editorialized on NSA spying on its citizens and our rights to privacy when the story first broke.
Let’s instead think about Edward Snowden. Why would a guy who looks like your high school chemistry lab partner suddenly feel compelled to be a whistle-blower against the most powerful government on the planet? Someone has to be slipping some big checks into his secret Swiss bank account — oh, wait, those aren’t secret now that the Swiss are cooperating with the IRS. Maybe he’s sitting on a big pile of rubles somewhere.
Poor Ed. He was in the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow starting on June 23. Supposedly in the “transit zone,” which is the area a traveler can be in without going through immigration.
Once, when our oldest child was a 9-month-old, we got stuck in Chicago O’Hare for eight hours, because of a snowstorm. Back then, airports didn’t think about the possibility of a baby needing any services. There was no changing table, no fresh fruit to smash up, and, of course, no baby food. There was barely adult food, except for pre-packaged things that were cooked up in toaster ovens. (I guess things haven’t changed much after all! Except now we have microwaves.) There was naturally no place to buy disposable diapers, and we ran out of them after about 6 hours. It would have been a shorter time, but she was existing on breast milk and a ham and Swiss sandwich we “pre-chewed” for her. After the 6 hours, we ripped the dirty part of the diaper out. Well, I did. John wasn’t up to it. I then stuffed the plastic liner with paper towels and toilet paper. Poor thing!
What I’m getting at is that even back when air travel was supposed to be more comfortable and civil, it was a horrendous experience to be stuck in an airport. And now…
So what was our Ed doing in the Moscow airport for a month? In case you haven’t been in an airport lately, things are pretty expensive. For instance, a sandwich that you’d get at Midtown foods for $2.50 will cost you $15 at the airport. Want a soft drink? Fork over a tenner, and we’ll see if we can find you some change. A beer? A Jackson, please. So, assuming Ed isn’t a big eater, food has probably cost him, at a minimum during this period, about $50 a day, or over $2,000 without tips. If he just drinks water. No borscht, either.
How about sleeping? There are no couches to curl up on in the “transit zone” of an airport. On purpose. Even homeless people don’t want to sleep sitting up for long periods of time. The Moscow airport does have a “capsule” hotel. It’s called the Vozdushny Express, and features rooms for rent by the hour or day that are big enough for a bed and have a shower room. Don’t try to sit down or bend over, please, it makes holes in the walls. The hotel’s web site brags, “rooms of ‘V-Express’ Hotel not so much look like capsules as resemble cabins of cruise liner. To stay in such room is unalloyed pleasure — soft lighting, exquisite interior in light colors make you feel lightness and comfort. These rooms include everything that you need for having a rest, recovering your strength and flying in a good mood.” Travelers complain that they are claustrophobic and the light doesn’t allow one to read.
I wonder if Ed was in a “good mood” after staying in a cell for 38 days and paying up to $455 every 24 hours, for a grand total of $17,000? For that, he could have gone to Disney World! Of course, I am assuming that Mr. Snowden was being treated as a normal traveler. Silly me.
Now he has been granted asylum by Russia for the period of a year. I wonder what his job will be in exchange for Russian hospitality? I bet he’s going to have his own little desk at the GRU, which is Russia’s version of our CIA. I sure hope he performs as expected, or he may find himself in a permanent winter wonderland somewhere in Siberia. “Sorry, Comrade Obama, we misplaced your Comrade Snowden!” I did note that his Russian attorney wouldn’t reveal where he was going after he was released.
If I were Ed, I might have come home to face the music. He could get a free ACLU lawyer and live in secluded comfort in one of our prisons, which are most likely far superior to the Russian equivalent. Especially if you like to talk motorcycles and conspiracies.