Snowden: Where Could He Go?

In an interview, Edward Snowden said he'd like to seek asylum in Iceland (above, the view from Reykjavik).
Gavin Hellier/Corbis

Whistleblower Edward Snowden faces a tough road ahead after his heady act of telling the world about the U.S. government's secret surveillance program. Snowden is reportedly still in Hong Kong, but where can he go to escape likely U.S. prosecution?

Russian president Vladimir Putin Tuesday offered his support for an asylum request, one of many countries that do not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Russia gave Wikileaks founder Julian Assange his own TV show, but is also pretty tough on its own whistleblowers.

Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who revealed a corruption scheme involving Russian government officials was arrested and later died in jail after being refused medical attention. His body also showed signs of torture.

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Snowden told the Guardian newspaper that he would like to go to Iceland because “they stood up for people over Internet freedom.”

In 2011, Iceland kicked out two FBI agents who had come to interview member of the Wikileaks group. This year, Iceland’s Supreme Court ordered a domestic credit card agency to continue processing payments by Wikileaks supporters, one of few nations to do so. Iceland also granted citizenship to chess champion Bobby Fischer, who was wanted by U.S. officials for breaking international sanctions against Yugoslavia by playing a chess match there in 1992.

Iceland does have an extradition treaty with the United States, according to Johannes Tomasson, press secretary for Iceland’s Ministry of the Interior. However to seek refuge, Snowden would have to get to the remote island nation first.

"The person seeking political asylum or for whatever reasons must be present in the country and present the necessary documents," Tomasson said from Reykavik.

Could Snowden just jump over the fence at an Icelandic embassy somewhere?

"You would only get some information and consultation," he said. "But he could not start the real application because the person must be in Iceland."

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