I’m leaving, on a jet plane–Edward’s excellent spy adventure

24 Jun

I’m leaving, on a jet plane: Edward’s excellent spy adventure

A young whistleblower named Ed

Was wanted by agents, so fled.

Abbetted by hackers

He’s off to Caracas

For Snowden, red’s better than dead!

From the limerick Tweeting Mick Twister

The true life drama of spies, hacks, and bafoonery

The true life drama of spies, hacks, and bafoonery

By Nate Thayer

June 24, 2013

It is a journalists worst nightmare.

Tricked by international spies into boarding an eleven and one half hour booze-less flight the wrong halfway across the planet to an isolated communist island while the man you are trailing gives you the slip, once again, and heads the opposite direction.

Now the fourth estate knows how the spook poohbahs in Washington feel.

Between chuckling, one has to sympathize with the planeload of what now is certainly a clutch of very, very cranky reporters.

It turns out that, to add really rather unnecessarily to the humiliation, there was no alcohol served during the 11 and ½ hour flight to Havana. “Starting from Feb 10, 2010, the sale of alcohol is suspended on flights to/from Havana, Bangkok, Shanghai, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Yuzhno-Sahalinsk, and Khabarovsk,” reads a message on Aeroflot’s website.

Where the fuck is Edwardo?

Where the fuck is Edwardo?

But the wacky real life spy spoof doesn’t end—and didn’t begin–there.

There is, in fact, no confirmed evidence that Our Man Snowden was ever even in Moscow.

Snowden has never actually been spotted in Moscow, and there is no evidence that he ever arrived in Russia in the first place.

In fact, there has not been a confirmed sighting of Snowden since he was in Hong Kong.

No passengers saw him arrive at the Hong Kong airport. No one saw him board the plane to Moscow. None of the passengers on the Hong Kong to Moscow Aeroflot flight said he was on board that flight when interviewed deplaning in Moscow.

He has not been sighted at the Moscow airport or in Moscow at all.

So let us recap this: no one saw him leave Hong Kong; no one saw him board the Aeroflot flight to Russia; no one saw him on the plane from Hong Kong to Russia; no one saw him deplane in Moscow; and no one has seen him in Moscow.

Which one is the spy? And which one are the sleuth reporters?

Which one is the spy? And which one are the sleuth reporters?

And it is confirmed by the two dozen reporters now hurtling at 30,000 feet towards Cuba that Snowden was definitely not on board Aeroflot flight 150 to Havana either.

“Standing next to Edward Snowden's seat on flight to Cuba. He ain't here,” tweeted the Moscow Associated Press reporter Max Seddon forlornly tweeting this photo of Snowden's empty seat 17A, before the flight had reached cruising altitude.

“Standing next to Edward Snowden’s seat on flight to Cuba. He ain’t here,” tweeted the Moscow Associated Press reporter Max Seddon forlornly tweeting this photo of Snowden’s empty seat 17A, before the flight had reached cruising altitude.

This only gets more entertaining.

After making mucky mucks from a host of governments look like Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau, Snowden set his sights on highlighting what clowns we journalists are when we are performing under the harsh glare of scrutiny.

The Washington spooks have hardly emerged from this kerfuffle looking good.

After all, they hired a high school dropout computer geek working third shift as a security guard with a girlfriend who teaches pole dancing, gave him top secret clearance and access to a trove of rather sensitive documents which he proceeded to download and deliver to the living room of most everybody on the planet.

get smart11

In the first everyman spy scandal in recent memory, Ed surfaced in a Hong Kong hotel where for three weeks he gave television interviews and live online chats a few kilometers from the American embassy.

The spooks from the world’s only superpower must have been apoplectic, powerless to do much else but twiddle their thumbs and sputter in limp protest.

Then he gives China the slip.

Beijing isn’t living up to its reputation of the behemoth all-knowing power it reputes itself to be.

The rogue, uncontrollable likes of Snowden arousing a dormant citizenry make the architects of Tiananmen very nervous, and Beijing exhaled in relief when they shushed him on a plane to anywhere else but there.

waldo departure

So Snowden then purportedly boards a commercial flight to Moscow under his own name with a mysterious blonde British bombshell.

And then there is Mother Russia, run by a scrum of ten cent thugs who have as much commitment to the free flow of information as did KAOS, the nemesis of Get Smart, who flexed their flaccid political muscles and, still delusional in their self-view that anyone takes them seriously, strutted about with the fantasy of having pulled a fast one on the other team. “Our old adversary Maxwell Smart has fallen into our trap. He does not realize that he is walking into great danger. I shall destroy the rest of his potato crop, then I will attack his broccoli, his rhubarb!”

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Despite purportedly being at the Moscow airport transit lounge, Snowden managed a pretty fair impression of holding his nose while passing through Russia on his way to South America.

While Edward Snowden is not aboard the plane that departed Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for Havana Monday, two dozen reporters most assuredly are, staring at unoccupied seat 17A, for which Snowden was reported to have a ticket.

Some of the culinary delicacies available on Aeroflot Moscow to Havana. Unfortunately alcohol has been suspended because of previously unruly behaviour by passengers taking that route

Some of the culinary delicacies available on Aeroflot Moscow to Havana. Unfortunately alcohol has been suspended because of previously unruly behaviour by passengers taking that route

menu_37Russia Today correspondent Egor Piskunov, reporting from the now airborne flight to Havana, said the number of reporters boarding the plane was “astonishing.”

“Mr. Snowden has so far not been seen, but something out of the ordinary is definitely happening, judging by the security and the amount of media,” said Piskunov from the plane.

Hong Kong authorities released a statement on Sunday confirming Snowden’s “legal” and “voluntary” departure.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that President Putin had no knowledge of Snowden’s itinerary or whereabouts. “Overall, we have no information about him,” he told Interfax news agency on Monday.

The Ecuadorian ambassador to Russia arrived at the Moscow airport and went inside the transit zone.

“On Sunday the Ecuador ambassador to Russia paid a visit to a VIP lounge at the airport. He didn’t comment on whom he was meeting, but it’s very likely that it was Mr. Snowden,” Piskunov told RT.

Reuter’s Moscow correspondent Miriam Elder at the Sheremetyevo airport tweeted:

“Ecuadorian ambassador inside Sheremtyevo airport rather confused.

Reporter: ‘Do you know where he is?’

Ambassador: ‘We thought you did?’”

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, speaking from Hanoi, said it was considering an asylum request but did not know where Snowden was either. “I cannot give you information about that. We are in contact with the Russian government, but this specific information about this precise situation of Edward Snowden, we cannot give it to you right now, because we don’t have it.”

Someone did identify Moscow CCTV footage of someone who looked like Snowden, but it turned out to be someone else.

Reporters on the trail of Snowden at Moscow airport

Reporters on the trail of Snowden at Moscow airport. Journalists show picture of Snowden to passengers of flight from Hong Kong trying to find out if Snowden was aboard the plane (Photo:Reuters)

Meanwhile, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange said: ¨We are aware of where Edward Snowden is. He is in a safe place and his spirits are high.¨

In Moscow Snowden was reported to have been in hiding in a broom closet, the airport transit lounge, the VIP lounge, an airport transit mini hotel, a 4 diamond hotel, and an econo-lodge, depending on which media one cited.

Some sources said he spent Sunday night at Terminal F at Moscow airport. Another source at Aeroflot was quoted by Interfax news agency saying Snowden had checked into the V-Express Capsule Hotel in the airport’s transit area.

The Free Press at work bringing truth to power, sorta

The Free Press at work bringing truth to power, sorta

Scrums of reporters staked out a hotel in the transit zone of the airport where Mr. Snowden was said to have stayed Sunday night.

But on Monday night Moscow time another source at the hotel told Russia Today that Snowden had never checked in or out of the hotel.

An Aeroflot official told journalists that Snowden spent Sunday night in the Vozdushni Express hotel in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

But on Monday morning, hotel staff said that no one named Snowden was staying there.

Edwardo at the airport

Edwardo at the airport

Then Russian news agencies reported that Snowden was booked on a Monday flight to Cuba, and a scrum of journalists bought tickets on the flight. Aeroflot officials were quoted as saying Snowden reserved two tickets on Aeroflot flight #150, coach seats 17A and 17C bound for Cuba.

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But Nikolay Solkolov, an Aeroflot gate employee, told reporters still on the ground in Moscow as the plane taxied down the Moscow runway, that Snowden was not on board.

“He is not there,” Mr. Sokolov said. “I was waiting myself.”

A reporter heard a conversation between a police officer asking one of the ground crew if all passengers with reservations were on board. “Minus five,” was the reply.

A few tourists boarded the plane accompanied by a large number of journalists tracking the phantom Snowden on his global odyssey which is alleged to have taken a new twist Sunday when he was said to have fled Hong Kong as the full weight of the U.S. government was bearing down on him.

“He has eluded a pack of journalists at a Moscow airport, and officials from Russia as well as Ecuador… they do not know where he is,” the Ria Novosti news agency wrote Monday.

comparison

“Snowden did not leave on the Aeroflot flight to Havana and is still in the transit zone,” an airport security source told Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

Meanwhile, the reporters on board Aeroflot #150 had figured as much out.

“Standing next to Edward Snowden’s seat on flight to Cuba. He ain’t here,” tweeted the Moscow Associated Press reporter Max Seddon forlornly with a photo of the empty seat, before the flight had reached cruising altitude.

Snowden's empty seat 17A as seen at 30,000 feet by reporter stuck on flight to Havana and no story

Snowden’s empty seat 17A as seen at 30,000 feet by reporter stuck on flight to Havana and no story (Reuters photo)

Then there is the matter of the fact the two dozen journalists en route to Cuba will not be able to depart the island for three days, as is mandated for all tourist visitors to Cuba.

They undoubtedly will be found at Ernest Hemingway’s two favored haunts, El Floridita (The daiquiris) and La Bodeguita del Medio (the mojitos), drinking heavily and muttering.

I highly recommend both places.

Spencer Tracy, Ernest Hemingway and Margaret Gelhorn at the Floridita bar in Havana

Spencer Tracy, Ernest Hemingway and Margaret Gelhorn at the Floridita bar in Havana

And for accommodations I suggest the Hotel Ambos Mundos, with views of old Havana and Havana harbor, where Hemingway stayed in room 511 between 1932 and 1939. Hemingway rented the room for $1.50 per night, where he began writing For Whom the Bell Tolls.

La Floridita features the Special Hemingway Daiquiri, called a Papa Doble. Hemingway holds the record, drinking 16 sugar-free double-rum daiquiris one night. At the end of the bar in a corner is a life-size bronze statue of Hemingway sitting at his favorite barstool. La Floridita was frequented also by Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos and Graham Greene, who wrote Our Man in Havana. Later, Noël Coward and Alec Guinness were regulars while filming the movie version of Our Man In Havana.

Hemingway at el Floridita

Hemingway at el Floridita

The walls of La Bodeguita Del Medio are adorned with personal messages from Brigitte Bardot, Errol Flynn, Nat King Cole, and Hemingway.

“My mojito in La Bodeguita. My daiquiri in La Floridita,” reads Hemingway’s message written on butcher paper.

KUBA-2010-673-1024x602

I think the hacks deserve to have both, all expenses paid by the home office, of course.

6 Responses to “I’m leaving, on a jet plane–Edward’s excellent spy adventure”

  1. yellowbrickbooks June 25, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    Terrific piece. Wonderful romp. Leaves everything else I’ve read about Edward in the dust.
    Thanks!

    Like

    • Nate Thayer June 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

      Thanks yellowbrickbooks: Given one cannot flee fast or far enough without reading something regarding the first spy caper that the world masses can personally identify with, that is a very nice compliment. Thanks for the generous words. Nate

      Like

  2. Richard Linnett June 25, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Nate, you out-gonzo all the gonzo wannabes! Love it when you’re on an ironic tear…

    Like

    • Nate Thayer June 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

      Thanks Richard: I am confident HST would have been all over this story like white on rice. It is begging to be employed to cut down several institutions from their silly perches–spooks and hacks at the front of the line…..

      Like

  3. Lala Mamedov July 30, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    I am reading this piece a month after it was published, when some of the details of this strange affair are clearer, and some even murkier. I do have to agree with the previous commenters – this is the best written (and illustrated) article on the subject. Delectable journalistic treat.

    Like

    • Nate Thayer July 30, 2013 at 6:21 am #

      Thanks Lala: I have an inkling you know a thing or two about these matters, so even more appreciated.

      Like

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