Where to go when the US government is after you

by | Sep 5, 2020 | Anonymous Travel, avoid arrest, Fugitive, live anonymously, New Identity, new life, travel anonymously, U.S. Government

This time of year, I’ve heard Namibia is beautiful, especially when the US government is after you.

The US government hasn’t said if it plans to extradite former CIA employee and PRISM leaker Edward Snowden to the United States, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. Snowden is presently hiding in Hong Kong, albeit it is unclear where he is in that large and sophisticated metropolis. If you’re attempting to hide and avoid extradition, Hong Kong isn’t the best place to go; it has an extradition treaty with the US and, despite being legally part of China, is a loyal US friend. Both governments abide by a 1996 extradition deal that allows US citizens living in Hong Kong to be deported if they are suspected of breaking US and Hong Kong laws.

There are exceptions; for example, a fugitive can seek sanctuary in Hong Kong to prevent being deported. Asylum applications in which the applicant is likely to suffer torture or the death penalty in the United States or when the offense is seen as political are welcomed by the Hong Kong authorities. But that’s a long shot. The main stumbling block is that Hong Kong is ostensibly under Chinese rule, and the Chinese have the power to intervene and prevent Snowden’s extradition if they so want. China is one of just a few countries with which the US does not have an extradition treaty; it is one of many countries with which the U.S. Government is not in open conflict. (It should be no surprise that North Korea and Iran do not extradite to the United States.)

On the other hand, Snowden appears to be aware that Hong Kong is not a refugee haven for Americans. “Those who believe I made a mistake by choosing Hong Kong as a place are misinterpreting my goals. I’m not here to avoid justice; I’m here to expose criminality, “He explained in a recent interview with the South China Morning Post. He didn’t explain why he chose Hong Kong over any other city.

That being said, there may come the point when you wish to flee your own country and never return. There will be no condemnation! Maybe judgments if you do something that causes harm to others, but let’s pretend you’re a peaceful breaker of some American law that Americans don’t particularly like, and you have to get out of dodge. Instead, here’s where you should go.


China is one of the strangest cases in extradition law; the US and China have extensive trade and diplomatic relations of varying degrees of friendship. However, the Chinese have allegedly been attempting to hack various parts of the U.S. government for years. In the same South China Morning Post interview, Snowden claimed that the US was repaying the favor. Even still, the two superpowers have no extradition treaties surprising. China may have the best balance of being a friend and an opponent of the United States. It’s developed enough for you to blend in, but it’s also a threat because China is unlikely to ever hand you over to your own country.


After years of civil turmoil and essentially failed communism under Castro, Cuba had significant institutional difficulties. Still, the food is delicious, the architecture is stunning, the weather is perfect, it’s close by, and the government has no desire to collaborate with the US. Despite having an extradition treaty with the United States, Cuba has a long history of hosting fugitives, including radical dissident Assata Shakur, who fled a murder accusation in the United States and has been living in Cuba for decades. What’s the drawback? The thawing of relations between the two countries has resulted in Americans being permitted to visit Cuba (provided they jump through about a million hoops). If the U.S.Government is pursuing you, it might not be such a secure haven for many more years.


Many countries, including several enjoyable ones in Europe, consider US punishments disproportionate and severe. It is written into the extradition treaties of Italy, France, Switzerland, and several other countries that they will not extradite if the death penalty is possible in the United States. Those same countries will not extradite political offenders and are more likely to regard what Snowden committed, for example, as a political crime. (According to this NYTimes piece, Hong Kong does not consider it a political offense.) Even if you aren’t facing the death penalty, most extradition treaties require that the alleged crime be illegal in the United States and the nation where the suspect is hiding, a rule known as dual criminality. Snowden, like the director (and, uh, rapist) Roman Polanski, might have claimed a place like Switzerland that his crime was either not in violation of Swiss rules or that it counts as a political crime and applies for asylum. Most extradition treaties make an exception for suspects who are at risk of torture in their home country, so these countries could be open to an argument that the last prominent American leaker, Bradley Manning, was pretty much undeniably tortured by the U.S.Government—most extradition treaties also make an exception for suspects who are at risk of torture in their home country. The Swiss Alps, which are quite beautiful, are depicted in this photograph.


Russia lacks an extradition treaty with the United States, and its constitution forbids them from returning foreign nationals. A Russian spokeswoman stated that if Snowden requested it, Russia would consider offering him refuge. Someone like Snowden, who is in danger for disclosing information that his government doesn’t want the world to know, is unlikely to want to stay in a country like Russia or China, which are much harsher on traitors, dissidents, and leakers than the United States.


Iceland has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for dissidents; it’s known to be a supporter of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and it’s one of just a few countries with an actual Pirate Party representative. Indeed, an Iceland’s Pirate Party member has urged Snowden to seek asylum in the country. Unfortunately, Iceland’s Pirate Party is a small minority party, and the rest of the country does not appear eager to grant sanctuary to someone wanted by the US. The Washington Post looked into why and discovered that Iceland’s government has recently shifted to the right and may not want to enrage the U.S Government.

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