The Cable

U.S. to Putin: Can We Have Snowden, Pretty Please?

After playing bad cop with the Chinese, the United States is now playing good cop with the Kremlin in its global pursuit of NSA leaker Edward Snowden

On Tuesday, in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's declaration that Snowden would not be extradited to the U.S., American officials responded with a flurry of diplomatic pleasantries. "We've seen comments by Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin and we understand that Russia must consider the issues raised by Mr. Snowden's decision to travel there," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. "We agree with President Putin that we do not want this issue to negatively impact our bilateral relations."

Secretary of State John Kerry struck a similarly conciliatory tone during a news conference in Saudi Arabia. "We are not looking for a confrontation," Kerry said Tuesday. "We are not ordering anybody. We are simply requesting under a very normal procedure for the transfer of somebody."

Both Kerry and Hayden insisted that a "clear legal basis" existed to expel Snowden based on the "status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him." But their measured tones contrasted with Monday's fiery condemnations of China and threats to Russia after Snowden fled from Hong Kong to Moscow.

Those remarks saw Kerry vowing that there would be "consequences" if Russia failed to return Snowden. They also saw White House Press Secretary Jay Carney coming down even harder on China.  "This was a deliberate choice by the government to release the fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant," he said. "That decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship ... If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem."

When asked why Kerry and other U.S. officials seems to be cooling down their rhetoric,  State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell pointed out a difference between the Chinese and the Russian predicaments. With Hong Kong, "we had and have a longstanding bilateral extradition treaty," said Ventrell. With Russia, "there's a slightly different situation ... We don't have a formal extradition treaty."

If one were to read between the lines, it would suggest that Washington is at Moscow's mercy to send back Snowden, which makes friendly overtures something of a last resort. Officials have been quick to point out that the U.S. has sent numerous criminals back to Russia at the Kremlin's behest, but that doesn't guarantee reciprocity.

"We do think that he should be expelled and deported to the United States," said Ventrell. "There's a basis for this cooperation. There's been some excellent law enforcement cooperation and we'd like that to continue." When asked why Kerry and other officials seemed to be walking back their rhetoric, Ventrell rejected the characterization. "Our points have been consistent all along."

The Cable

Issa Subpoenas Four as Battle Over Benghazi Escalates

The fight between Republican lawmakers and the State Department has escalated yet again. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa subpoenaed four influential State Department officials on Monday night as a part of his investigation into the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi last year. 

Presumably, the maneuver will subject the officials to an under-oath grilling by committee investigators on a range of details pertaining to last year's terrorist strike. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Issa accused the State Department of "dragging its feet to slow down the Committee's investigations," and announced the subpoena of Eric Boswell, former assistant secretary of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security; Scott Bultrowicz, former principal deputy assistant secretary and director of the Diplomatic Security Service, Bureau of Diplomatic Security; Elizabeth Dibble, former principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; and Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

The officials all led bureaus that came under scrutiny by the Accountability Review Board (ARB), the investigative task force co-chaired by retired Amb. Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen. Their names have also surfaced in past hearings on Benghazi. However, in his letter, Issa made it clear he wasn't blaming them for failing to cooperate with his investigation.

"By its very nature, a subpoena can carry the implication that the witness is being uncooperative," Issa wrote. "In this case, that is an unfortunate and misleading consequence since it is the Department, and not the individuals themselves, that appears to be dictating the timetable. "

The State Department did not immediately comment.

The growing number of Issa-directed subpoenas in recent weeks is a testament to the breakdown of relations between the Oversight Committee and the State Department in this investigation. In May, Issa briefly subpoenaed Pickering for resisting a closed door, transcribed interview with House investigators. Days later, Issa subpoenaed a net of communications from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's top aides.

Issa maintains that the ARB failed to hold higher-level State Department officials accountable for security failures surrounding the attack. Pickering contends that his investigation was thorough and contained numerous substantive criticisms of Foggy Bottom. Both have agreed, in theory, to participating in another public hearing on Benghazi, but it has yet to be scheduled.

"The Committee has a bipartisan interest in holding a public hearing to examine the Accountability Review Board as soon as possible," Issa said. "Based on the interview schedule that my staff laid out in April, it was my expectation that we would have interviewed a half dozen witnesses at this point."

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