Moscow to Caracas -- the Scenic Route

Edward Snowden has finally found countries that will take him in -- if he can just figure out a way to get there first.

After rejections from more than a dozen countries, word came late Friday that three Latin American countries -- Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua -- were prepared to offer Snowden asylum. Good news for the NSA leaker, but as this ABC News article points out, there's one glaring problem: How can Snowden get from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where he's been holed up for nearly two weeks, to the open arms of his new home?

This Passport post from a few weeks back examined flights Snowden could take that didn't involve stops in U.S.-friendly nations. But that was before we knew that the push to bring Snowden back to America would not just prevent him from landing in certain countries -- it would likely bar him from entering their airspaces entirely.

Former CIA analyst Allen Thomson took to Google Earth to answer the question of whether there's a route Snowden might take that would allow him to fly from Moscow to, say, Caracas without crossing, as he puts it jokingly, the airspaces of "los Yanquis and their running dogs." It turns out there is -- call it the scenic route -- and Thomson was kind enough to share it with FP.

"Leave Moscow," he writes. "Fly north to the Barents Sea, thence over to and through the Denmark Strait. Continue south, steering clear of Newfoundland until getting to the east of the Windward Islands. Fly through some convenient gap between islands and continue on to Caracas. Not more than 11,000 km all in all, which is within the range of a number of charter-able commercial aircraft." See the map of his unusual route above.

As Thomson points out, someone would have to foot the bill -- not a cheap prospect. But the route does allow Snowden to avoid the airspaces above the potentially U.S.-friendly states of Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and, of course, Florida -- all of which might be crossed on the commercial flight route from Moscow to Havana to Caracas.

The geopolitics makes sense to us; any aviation experts out there who could speak to whether this is a route that could work? If not, well -- there's still the diplomatic pouch option.

Courtesy Allen Thomson


Muslim Brotherhood Blasts Egypt's Protesters as 'Military Intelligence Operation'

CAIRO -- Gehad el-Haddad, the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood and the son of one of deposed President Mohamed Morsy's top advisors, meets me outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque just as the crowds start to throng in for Friday prayers. He's every bit the young Islamist pol, periodically bounding away to grip and grin with his friends and supporters. We make our way from the mosque to his friend's apartment; amid the tumult in Egypt, Haddad hasn't had the chance to shower in three days. 

Until a few short days ago, Haddad's brand of politics appeared ascendant in Egypt. After massive popular protests spearheaded by the Tamarod ("rebel") movement and a military takeover that ejected Morsy from office, however, Haddad finds himself on the run -- both legally and politically. But he has no plans of taking this setback lying down.

"I think this Tamarod is not just a youth activist thing," he says, as we walk through the cordon of Islamist supporters protecting the protest. "It is a military intelligence operation."

Friday will do much to determine whether the Islamist backlash to the military takeover fizzles or balloons into a mass movement that threatens the stability of the new regime -- and risks plunging the country into violence. The Muslim Brotherhood has called its supporters into the streets after noon prayers for what it has dubbed the "Friday of Rejection" protest. Thousands had gathered outside the Rabaa al-Adaweya mosque, the main pro-Morsy protest site, by 11 a.m., chanting "[Army chief Abdel Fattah] Sisi oh Sisi, Morsy is president" and "down with the military government."

Pro-Morsy marches plan to converge on Rabaa al-Adaweya, while Haddad said that there were plans to march from other mosques toward the Republican Guard headquarters, where Morsy is rumored to be under arrest, should their numbers grow large enough.

To Haddad, the crackdown has all the signs of a move that has been planned for months, and was not a spontaneous reaction to the massive June 30 protests that called for Morsy's ouster. "Blame the Egyptian press -- all these stories about selling the pyramids, about having sex with dead people," he said, citing rumors disparaging to the Brotherhood that appeared over the past year. "They were all rumors to destabilize the Morsy administration."

A resource crisis in Cairo has eased in the past few days, a development that Haddad also described as part of a deeply planned, meticulously orchestrated move to topple Morsy. While Cairo residents railed against long lines to fill up their gas tanks in the lead-up to June 30, "it's been six, seven days now with no petrol shortage, no electricity cuts," Haddad said. "This has been planned long before."

Meanwhile, the Egyptian military continues to round up the top ranks of the Brotherhood's leadership. "[Deputy guide] Khairat al-Shater and the murshid [Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie] are missing, we don't know where they are," said Haddad. Former Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef and Haddad's father, Essam el-Haddad, have also been detained. Haddad said that the new regime was building a case against some Brotherhood leaders for "inciting violence" at clashes at the Cairo University protests, which killed 16, and possessing weapons.

Many Brotherhood leaders who have not yet been arrested have taken up residence at the Rabaa al-Adaweya protest, which they believe the army will not dare to break up with brute force. "We have our news crews, we have our photo teams, stationed at the entrances," Haddad said. "If they try to attack they know we will capture their uniforms and capture their faces and beam it to the entire world within minutes."

The borders of the protest are guarded by ragtag groups of Brotherhood supporters, wielding wooden sticks and head guards that one might wear during a boxing match. At one of the entrances, pro-Morsy protesters had ripped up the sidewalk to build a stone wall. At another entrance, rocks gathered in piles to throw at invaders the previous day had been reassembled into signs: One message read "Down with Sisi's coup."

While the army chief was rumored to have Islamist sympathies, the past week has proven that the Muslim Brotherhood was never as successful at taming the powerful Egyptian military as it claimed to be. Haddad admitted, in retrospect, that Morsy's appointment of Sisi had been a strategic error. "We thought he was a patriotic Egyptian," he said. "But it's the same story as always, they always have dreams for more power."

Ed Giles/Getty Images