When the Edward Snowden story broke I found it very difficult to believe that he’d punched out with gigs of NSA secrets and absolutely no exit plan. It increasingly looks like he’s done exactly that. Bourne movies, narcissism, and a terribly simplistic world-view seem to have lead Edward Snowden to believe that a cache of secret files and access to a reporter would allow him to challenge a superpower and subvert the international order. So far, things aren’t exactly going his way.
Snowden may look back on his recent rejection of Vladimir Putin’s invitation (if you can call it that) with regret as his options narrow. Sure, it’s an absolutely terrible offer but this is what you get when you give the goods away for free and repeatedly hammer home the fact that you’re an untrustworthy attention-seeking simpleton. Sure the secrets and temporary public relations points are attractive to America’s opponents but who wants to be responsible for the care and feeding of Edward Snowden for the next few decades? World leaders and their advisors know that eventually Snowden will grow unhappy with their support, especially as the spotlight fades, and he will turn on them. He will eventually become their problem. This is not so attractive. He is essentially the most annoying teenager in the world. Nobody wants to live with him.
For Edward Snowden to find refuge he will have to demonstrate that he can be a team player. He will have to put his desire for the spotlight aside. He will have to take orders from those responsible for his support and security. He will not get to call the shots. He will have to be a puppet not a superstar. He will have to realize that he has profoundly screwed himself out of options, put his ego firmly in check, and take what he can get. How likely is that? Not very.
The world has a short attention span and it is resistant to change. You can’t grab it by the balls and hold on forever leveraging just a hard drive and naive idealism. This is a fantasy propagated by Assange – a guy who is, at best, doomed to a life on Ecuador’s futon. It seems clear that Edward Snowden has yet to realize this. His only refuge is in the arms of the powerful and in the intelligence structures he rejects. The fantasy is coming to an end – like it or not.