Everyone on the planet knows where Edward “Lightfingers” Snowden is. And everyone knows where he can go. Venezuela and Bolivia will give him asylum. Nicaragua? Not so much. Daniel Ortega weasel-worded his asylum offer. As an aging revolutionary, Ortega can’t allow himself to fall behind lesser men. But Ortega knows well what it is like to tangle with the ire of the USA. He does not want it again, and benefits too much from trade. (And Edward Snowden would do well to put himself in a larger country that is not quite so easily penetrated.)
But all that aside, will Snowden be able to get to any of his asylums?
The USA is the 800 lb gorilla on the world stage. If the USA scrambled fighters to force down a passenger aircraft, the world would object, (though the prime minister of England would pop up and defend it – as might Australia’s PM). But it would only be words. What are they going to do? Sanction the USA? Certainly not if nobody died.
Ordinary commercial pilots would obey and land. Of course, a pilot with nerve could simply ignore the demand, daring them to shoot down the plane. And even this president would probably think thrice about actually doing that. Putin could see to it that the pilots were military men quite happy to play that particular game of chicken. In fact, I rather think Putin would hugely enjoy watching that live on his own private feed. What could be more entertaining than to watch US fighter jets being flipped the bird? Put that on national TV in Russia, with cheerful Russian pilots grinning and telling our boys to go fuck themselves with their own missiles and all of Russia would be in Putin’s hands – at least for a few weeks.
A pilot flying a charter aircraft holding only Snowden, crew and an attorney, might not be so sure his plane would not get shot down. Shooting them out of the sky would result in reparations, sturm and drang. But again, the prime minister of England could be counted on to stand up and yell for the USA. The best prevention for that would be a live satellite feed from the plane to the entire world. Assassination committed live on camera is a different thing from one not recorded, with only the evidence of a debris field that quickly sank to show that it happened. Should Russia have a diplomat on board, or some such, it would change the calculus in Snowden’s favor, and put steel in the spines of the pilots.
So the logical thing is to send a team to attempt to board the aircraft in flight. I am sure that teams are being trained for this now. Very high risk. And very difficult to do. They would have to land themselves on the plane, anchor themselves to it with quick bolts – then cut a hole in such a way that the integrity of the plane was not compromised, barge in and make their way to the cockpit and take over the controls. Could it be done? Yes it could. And the guys who pulled that off? Heroes. Set for life.
That would play very well on global television! Every network would pay a mint to get the rights to carry it. What the US Air Force (or maybe Navy – I’m sure the SEALS are fighting hard for it) should do is televise it, live. The world could see it all, from the inside, and from the outside.
Snowden, my dear. Make sure that everything is properly done. This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.
I still think that Snowden’s best deal is to take asylum in Russia and shut up. At this point, what does he have to add to his files? Others have already taken over. He isn’t necessary anymore. He doesn’t really matter. Even capturing him and trying him is kind of a waste of time and resources.