When Rep. Peter King of New York yesterday referred to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as "a defector," he seemed to be channeling the political lexicon of 1983, not 2013 — much less 1984. Or maybe he was being prescient. Reports this morning indicate that Russia would consider a request by Snowden to seek asylum in that country.
The Guardian quotes Valdimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov: "If such an appeal is given, it will be considered." There's more:
Peskov's comments on potential asylum opened the floodgates on support for Snowden. Robert Shlegel, an influential MP with the ruling United Russia party, said: "That would be a good idea."
Alexey Pushkov, the head of the Duma's international affairs committee and a vocal US critic, took to Twitter to say: "By promising asylum to Snowden, Moscow has taken upon itself the protection of those persecuted for political reasons. There will be hysterics in the US. They only recognise this right for themselves."
Is there some political point-scoring at play? Clearly. As The Guardian notes, Russian media didn't spend much time railing against the actions of the NSA, actions that are almost certainly similar to what that country's government does through its SORM program. The paper points out that Russia also embraced Wikileaks' Julian Assange, offering him a show on the Russia Today network. Assange didn't return the courtesy, telling CNN that Snowden should head to Latin America for refuge. (Assange, speaking from London, also mentioned that he and Snowden had been in "indirect communication," perhaps via CNN.)