July 21, 2013

How ironic. In leaking the details of the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance program, Edward Snowden relied on journalists in countries that enjoy a free press. Now Mr. Snowden is seeking asylum in Russia [front page, July 13], a country that — according to Freedom House’s 2013 Global Press Freedom Rankings — is rated 176th of 197 nations, or near rock-bottom of the “Not Free” category.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists counts Russia as the ninth-worst country in its 2013 Impunity Index, which spotlights nations where journalists are slain and their killers go free. It reports that, since 2003, 14 murders of journalists remain unsolved in Russia. Yet Mr. Snowden claimed that “his life would be under threat in the United States” if he returned home.

Mr. Snowden may eventually find refuge in South America, where Bolivia, Ecuador or Venezuela would welcome him. But they stand at 94th, 134th and 168th, respectively, in Freedom House’s rankings, all three nations falling into the “Not Free” or “Partly Free” category.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the NSA’s surveillance program or what changes are needed, the countries where Mr. Snowden has sought refuge lead one to wonder about his credibility as a human rights champion.

Tino Calabia, Chevy Chase