Donald Lambro

Fugitive Edward Snowden, wanted on charges of espionage against his own country, is caught in a trap of his own making.

He finds himself stranded at an airport in Moscow where he's been promised political asylum by Russian President Vladimir Putin who says he will never turn Snowden over to the United States to stand trial on criminal charges of exposing national security secrets to our enemies.

"Russia has never given up anyone to anybody and does not plan to," Putin said this week.

But the former Soviet KGB agent's offer of a safe haven comes with one condition. "If he wants to stay here... he must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips," he told reporters at a gas exporters' conference in Moscow on Monday.

It sounds more than strange from the lips of a man who ruthlessly rules Russia with an iron hand, crushing his political opponents, jailing people who dare to criticize his autocratic government that has led his country back into a dark era of political corruption, skullduggery and fear.

It is more than likely that the Russians have debriefed and interrogated Snowden by now, and no doubt made him enticing offers of asylum that they hoped he could not refuse. Many secrets are still hidden in his laptop, but can anyone really believe Putin's intelligence apparatchiks have not seen them?

There are those who suspect that Snowden is or was a Russian agent who sought jobs in the CIA and the secret National Security Agency that ran PRISM, the telecom surveillance program he exposed to the world.

Putin flatly denied that again Monday. "As for Mr. Snowden, he is not our agent and he is not working with us," he insisted. Sure.

Snowden has been in Moscow for nine days in a transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, plotting his next move, even as he declares that he would not accept any demand by Putin or anyone else that he stop revealing more secrets about U.S. intelligence activities.

U.S. intelligence officials here believe that Snowden has a large cache of information about American surveillance programs that he intends to reveal over the coming weeks and months in an effort to further damage U.S. security on the international stage.

In a letter to Ecuador's President Rafael Correa seen by the Reuters news agency Monday, Snowden complains he is being wrongly persecuted by the U.S. for revealing its surveillance methods, but says he will not be silenced.

"I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest," he wrote in a bizarre, delusional, far left manifesto of his larger, longterm goals.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.