[gha] World Citizen passport and Snowden

  • From: Wadlowz@xxxxxxx
  • To: gha@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2013 09:31:56 -0400 (EDT)

A World Citizen Passport and Snowden’s  Catch 22 
Rene  Wadlow* 

The fate of Edward J. Snowden still held (as of this writing)  in the 
transit area of Moscow’s airport  has nearly overshadowed the debate on the 
methods and extent of the National  Security Agency’s surveillance and 
of information which Snowden made  public.  Each day brings more  
information about the degree of cooperation among the Silicon  Valley firms and 
intelligence services and between the US intelligence  services and those of 
other countries such as Germany and England. 
Living in the transit area at the airport for several weeks and  
potentially longer was not Snowden’s plan when he left Hong  Kong.  As I had 
blocked  in the same transit area for three days in 1977 under the mistaken 
impression  that I would be given a Soviet visa at the airport, unless things 
have improved  greatly since the end of the USSR, it is not the sort of place 
where one wants  to stay for a long time: a third class motel with an armed 
guard at each  floor. 
He thought that he could travel to Moscow and then Havana and on to 
Ecuador, Nicaragua or Venezuela. However, before  Snowden could make a Havana 
connection, the US government revoked  his passport, and Ecuador withdrew the  
safe-conduct pass he had used to leave Hong  Kong saying it had been issued by 
a consular official in contravention of  Ecuadorean law.  Without a travel  
document or a Russian visa, Snowden has no way to travel outside the 
transit  area even to the Embassies of Ecuador or Nicaragua or Venezuela which 
 considered by diplomatic convention as being the territory of that 
particular  state. 
The degree of US pressure was  evident when France, Italy, Portugal and 
Spain refused to allow  Bolivian President Evo Morales’ official jet to overfly 
their territory on its  way from Moscow to La  Paz after a rumour, no  
doubt planted by US agents, that Snowden might be aboard.  Morales’ plane 
ultimately landed in Vienna, Austria for 13 hours until  Spanish officials were 
satisfied that Snowden was not onboard. Why it took 13  hours to check all the 
hiding places on a small jet has not been explained, but  the move no doubt 
discourages any commercial lines no matter what over-flight  agreements 
they have.  
Snowden’s presence in the Moscow airport transit  area has attracted too 
much attention for the Russian police to look the other  way while Snowden was 
taken to a Latin American embassy.  It is not clear that anyone wants to  
repeat the experience of Ecuador which has allowed  WiliLeaks’ Julien Assage 
to live in its London Embassy for over a  year. 
To break out of Snowden’s “Catch 22” situation of no passport-to  
travel-no travel- no asylum – a world citizen passport has been issued to  
by Garry Davis — “World Citizen N° 1” — as he was called in January 1949  
when the Registry of World Citizens was created.  One of the ironies of the 
world citizen  movement is that it has always used the symbols of a 
nation-state — a flag, an  identity card, a passport — to symbolize a loyalty 
to the 
welfare of the  Planet.  The philosophy behind the  identity cards and 
passports is that of world law — that is, international law  as applied to the 
individual.  “All  human beings are entitled to the enjoyment of political, 
civil, economic, and  social rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration 
of Human Rights and  various treaties and covenants adopted in furtherance 
of that  declaration.” 
In practice, some people have crossed frontiers with world citizen  
passports and world citizen identity cards and often had the passport stamped  
an official stamp. It is not sure that the frontier officials knew what  
they were stamping or were very aware of cosmopolitan ideals. It is likely 
that  most officials don’t want long lines of people waiting at frontier posts 
or  filling transit areas at airports.  Article 13(2) of the Universal 
Declarations sets out the right to leave  and return to one’s country, though 
does not speak of the right to travel to  other countries. 
It may be that Mr Putin would be happy to have the whole Snowden story go  
away.  While I have never thought of  Mr Putin as a “world citizen” type, 
let us hope that he allows the airport  officials to stamp the world citizen 
passport as a recognition of the growing  cosmopolitan spirit. 
The world passport and the pulling by Ecuador of its safe-conduct pass  
brings to mind an event I knew but had not thought about until a recent  New 
York Times  article highlighted the efforts of  Aristides de Sousa Mendes who 
was consul of Portugal in Bordeaux when Germany  invaded France in 1940.  
France already had a good  number of refugees from Germany, Central Europe, 
Republican Spain  as well as French, particularly Jews who feared what Nazi 
policy in France might bring.  De Sousa Mendes and his staff working  day and 
night issued 30,000 visas so people could go to Portugal and then  beyond. 
It took a couple of months before the Fascist government in Lisbon  
realized what was going on, recalled de Sousa Mendes, fired him and informed 
Spanish government of Franco not to recognize the visas issued in France.  De 
Sousa Mendes died in poverty, but his  travel documents had saved many 
The world citizen passport is not a governmental document the way de  Sousa 
Mendes’ were, but world citizen passports and identity cards are a symbol  
of a “higher law” than that of States.  Let us hope that some Russian 
officials are in tune with the higher  law. 
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World  Citizens 

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