Few things have been crystal clear when trying to decipher the backroom dealings and international intrigue behind the Edward Snowden-NSA story, but a new report gives weight to the belief that Snowden's trip to Russia was no spur-of-the-moment accident, nor was his failure to reach Cuba as originally planned.
As we all know by now, after dropping his first NSA leaks Snowden originally split from Hawaii for Hong Kong, where he revealed his identity and made plans to find a safe haven country that would protect him from extradition back to the United States. After a couple of weeks, he moved on to Moscow, in an attempt to eventually reach Ecuador, via Cuba. He went so far as to purchase a ticket on a flight to Havana, but then never got on the board plane. (Unlike a couple of dozen journalists, who then had to take the full flight without him.)
Russian officials have long claimed they had nothing to do with his travel plans, and did not know he was coming, though they did eventually grant him a "temporary" one-year asylum. (It's also believed that Ecuador helped Snowden fly out of Hong Kong, despite a supposedly canceled U.S. passport and no visa.)
However, on Monday, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Snowden met with Russian officials while still in Hong Kong. Not only that, he actually stayed at the Russian consulate for several days (including his 30th birthday.) Kommersant did not confirm why he went to the consulate, citing one source who says he went on his own to seek assistance and another saying he was invited by the Russians. They also suggested he might have been led to the Russians by Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks staffer who helped arrange Snowden's travel and accompanied him to Russia.
The paper then added even more to the tale, by stating that Snowden's failure to reach Havana was not because Russian interference, or the loss of his official status once the U.S. revoked his passport. It was Cubans who kept him from getting on the plane. Kommersant says the Cubans balked under pressure from the U.S., which threatened "undesirable consequences" for any country that took him in. It's hard to imagine what could be more undesirable than the decades-old embarage the Americans already have on its island neighbor.
So if you're having trouble keeping track, that's collusion between the Russians and Snowden, and a bit of coercion between the United States and Cuba. And a lot more unanswered questions about how who is pulling whose strings when diplomacy and spycraft are at work.