WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

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The Tug-Of-War Of International Extradition

Edward Snowden, the man who admits leaking National Security Agency secrets, is publicly weighing his options for seeking asylum since turning up in Hong Kong. Most U.S. allies resist sheltering those who flee U.S. criminal prosecution, but countries like Iceland, Ecuador and France have been notable exceptions. We examine how recent cases are adding new twists to international extradition agreements, and find out how political currents affect those seeking safe haven.

A Brief History Of Famous & Infamous U.S. Extraditions

The source behind leaked details of a massive government surveillance program, an American named Edward Snowden, has taken refuge in Hong Kong, and many are curious as to his -- and the U.S. government's -- next move.

The United States has a varied history of successful extraditions. For example, chess master Bobby Fischer died before he could be extradited from Iceland, while former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited to the U.S. last month on a charge of money laundering.

Extradition is the legal process by which one country surrenders a fugitive to another country where that person is suspected or convicted of a crime. It can be a complicated procedure, often with geopolitical implications for both the receiving and transferring governments.

This map shows where some headline makers have sought asylum. Scroll down to see the information in list form. Green indicates the person was not or has not been extradited; Red is a successful extradition (as of June 17, 2013).

View A Brief History Of U.S. Extraditions in a larger map

Successful Extraditions

Who: John McAfee
Why: The anti-virus software mogul is a “person of interest” in the death of his neighbor.
Sheltered in: Belize and Guatemala
Successfully extradited? Yes.

Who: Eric Justin Toth
Why: The former D.C. elementary school teacher who replaced Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list is accused of producing child pornography.
Sheltered in: Nicaragua
Successfully extradited? Yes.

Who: Morton Sobell (deceased)
Why: A conspirator of convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Sobell was tried and convicted on espionage charges in 1951.
Sheltered in: Mexico
Successfully extradited? Yes.

Who: Alfonso Portillo
Why: The former president of Guatemala faces charges of laundering $70 million in Guatemalan funds through U.S. banks.
Sheltered in: Guatemala
Successfully extradited? Yes.

Unsuccessful Extraditions

Who: Julian Assange
Why: The WikiLeaks founder is wanted on allegations of sexual misconduct.
Sheltering in: Ecuadorian embassy in London
Successfully extradited? No.

Who: Roman Polanski
Why: The Oscar-winning filmmaker faces sentencing on a charge of having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Sheltering in: France
Successfully extradited? No.

Who: Kim Dotcom
Why: The founder of file-sharing website Megaupload is wanted by the FBI on piracy charges.
Sheltering in: New Zealand
Successfully extradited? No.

Who: Michael and Linda Mastro
Why: The Seattle real estate magnates were indicted on charges of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.
Sheltering in: France
Successfully extradited? No.

Who: Edward Snowden
Why: The former NSA contractor disclosed details of classified National Security Agency surveillance programs.
Sheltering in: Hong Kong
Successfully extradited? No.

Who: Assata Shakur a.k.a. Joanne Chesimard
Why: The convicted murderer and prison escapee became the first woman ever to be named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list in 2013.
Sheltering in: Cuba
Successfully extradited? No.

Who: Bobby Fischer (deceased)
Why: The chess legend was wanted by U.S. authorities for playing a chess match in Yugoslavia in defiance of international sanctions in 1992.
Sheltered in: Iceland
Successfully extradited? No.

Who: Gary McKinnon
Why: The hacker is accused of breaking into computers at NASA and the Pentagon.
Sheltered in: Great Britain
Successfully extradited? No.

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