Suppose you were NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, or fictional international spy Jason Bourne, and the most powerful intelligence agencies on the planet were hunting you.
Where would you go?
This is a farfetched scenario for most of us. That’s why it’s only a thought experiment.
On the other hand, for folks like the founder of Liberty Dollar (a gold/silver-backed private currency), whom the U.S. government has labeled a “domestic terrorist,” it might not be implausible.
Regardless of how likely the scenario, if you do need to escape, a crucial factor in deciding where to go is whether or not the country has an extradition treaty with the U.S.
An extradition treaty is the legal mechanism countries use to pull alleged criminals out of other countries. The terms and conditions vary. Some countries, like France and Brazil, won’t extradite their own citizens, no matter the circumstance.
Generally speaking, for an extradition to succeed, the alleged criminal act can’t be political in nature and must be a crime in both jurisdictions, and the suspect cannot be in danger of receiving the death penalty or torture if transferred.
Absent a formal treaty, extraditing a person is much more difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Countries with No U.S. Extradition Treaty
|Bhutan||Kuwait||São Tomé & Príncipe|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Laos||Saudi Arabia|
|the Central African Republic||the Marshall Islands||Togo|
|Dem. Republic of the Congo||Mongolia||United Arab Emirates|
|Cote d’ Ivoire||Montenegro||Uzbekistan|
The following countries have been known to refuse U.S. extradition requests, despite having treaties: Bolivia, Ecuador, Iceland, Nicaragua, Switzerland, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Escaping to a non-extradition-treaty country does not mean you are home free. It simply puts you at the mercy of your new hosts. You could become a pawn in a larger game and might be traded away for concessions. The political sands are always shifting, and tomorrow’s government may be more accommodating to the U.S.
The CIA could also kidnap you and bring you back to the U.S. without your host government’s consent. Or you might fall within sight of an armed drone. No matter where you go, there is no shortage of ways the U.S. government can hurt you.
While a drone strike is unlikely (for now), the U.S. government would almost certainly cancel your U.S. passport and seize your U.S. bank accounts.
Even so, you can insulate yourself from these tactics by obtaining a second passport.
Second passports are not just for the Edward Snowdens and Jason Bournes of the world. They are completely legal and prudent for anyone who wants freedom from the whims of any one particular government—especially a government that is desperate, bankrupt and totally out of control. Think of it as your “freedom insurance.”