Where Is Edward Snowden? The List of Countries Where He Can Flee the U.S. Government


If the United States government wants to arrest you, which city in the world should you hide in?

If you are Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency employee who leaked classified information about the U.S. government's surveillance of internet communications, the answer to that question is Hong Kong. Snowden plans to stay at an undisclosed location in the city and fight the U.S. government's efforts at extradition. He chose to stay in Hong Kong because he wants to fight the U.S. government in Hong Kong's courts.

However, if Snowden wanted to completely escape the grip of the American government, he should have chosen a different country. There are plenty of governments that could probably protect him, but the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China isn't one of them.

In 1996, the U.S. and Hong Kong came to a bilateral extradition agreement which would allow the U.S. to extradite Snowden if he committed offenses that broke the law in both countries, and those offenses were punishable by a year or more in jail. Snowden did break the law of both nations – by releasing "official secrets."

Snowden might request political asylum in Hong Kong and delay the extradition process, but chances are that he will eventually be sent back to the United States. If he wanted to be certain of his asylum, he should have chosen a country that doesn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S. on the books.

In recent years, the U.S. has created or strengthened extradition treaties with an increasing number of countries, including France, Luxembourg, and Romania. However, even in countries with extradition treaties, lengthy court cases can make the extradition process take years.

But there are still some countries where you don't have to worry about extradition at all. Some of those places, like Somalia, North Korea, and Syria, might be slightly risky. Sure, they have no obligation to send you back to the United States, but they also don't have the best track record in terms of human rights protections. Instead, you might want to try Andorra, a tiny and obscure mountain town near France that is often used as a tax haven by the wealthy.

If you are more interested in a tropical environment, Madagascar would be a good choice. It also has no extradition treaty with the United States, and might be a bit cheaper in terms of cost of living than Andorra. However, the political situation there is still unstable, and there have been some recent spikes in violent crime.

Other options include the beautiful landscapes of Croatia, the steppes of Kazakhstan, or the peaceful quiet of Bhutan.

If you're still unsure, check the government's list of countries that have extradition treaties with the United States. Snowden is probably reading it too.