James Sheffield, Knoxville
As I write this, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is on trial in Fort Meade, Md., facing a slew of charges pertaining to his role in a massive leak of classified government documents. More than 8,000 miles away, former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden faces the possibility of extradition to the United States from Hong Kong, where he sought refuge earlier this month after pulling off one of the most significant leaks of government secrets in U.S. history.
Thanks to Snowden’s noble actions, we now know that President Barack Obama’s administration (and that of George W. Bush’s before him) has sanctioned the widespread surveillance of U.S. citizens under a secret NSA program known as PRISM, whereby companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Verizon have been ordered to turn over information regarding their customers to the intelligence community.
People across the political spectrum are outraged, and rightfully so. Conservatives have unintentionally joined forces with those on the far left (yes, it’s true) and many liberals in chastising the Obama administration for what amounts to one of the worst instances of governmental abuse of power — at least on the domestic front — in many years.
Needless to say, none of these things would have been exposed had it not been for those brave souls who risked spending the rest of their lives in prison so that we could know what our government is up to. In light of this, we should praise these individuals as heroes, not vilify them as traitors. Everyone who is alarmed by executive overreach should be paying close attention to what happens to Manning and others like him and should be praying to whatever god they pray to that our government doesn’t succeed in silencing all future whistle-blowers. We need them, for democracy — if that is in fact what we have — cannot function otherwise.
It has now been a year since I entered this embassy and sought refuge from persecution.
As a result of that decision, I have been able to work in relative safety from a US espionage investigation.
But today, Edward Snowden’s ordeal is just beginning.
Two dangerous runaway processes have taken root in the last decade, with fatal consequences for democracy.
Government secrecy has been expanding on a terrific scale.
Simultaneously, human privacy has been secretly eradicated.
A few weeks ago, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on an ongoing program — involving the Obama administration, the intelligence community and the internet services giants — to spy on everyone in the world.
As if by clockwork, he has been charged with espionage by the Obama administration.
The US government is spying on each and every one of us, but it is Edward Snowden who is charged with espionage for tipping us off.
It is getting to the point where the mark of international distinction and service to humanity is no longer the Nobel Peace Prize, but an espionage indictment from the US Department of Justice.
Edward Snowden is the eighth leaker to be charged with espionage under this president.
Bradley Manning‘s show trial enters its fourth week on Monday.
After a litany of wrongs done to him, the US government is trying to convict him of “aiding the enemy.”
The word “traitor” has been thrown around a lot in recent days.
But who is really the traitor here?
Who was it who promised a generation “hope” and “change,” only to betray those promises with dismal misery and stagnation?
Who took an oath to defend the US constitution, only to feed the invisible beast of secret law devouring it alive from the inside out?
Who is it that promised to preside over The Most Transparent Administration in history, only to crush whistleblower after whistleblower with the bootheel of espionage charges?
Who combined in his executive the powers of judge, jury and executioner, and claimed the jurisdiction of the entire earth on which to exercise those powers?
Who arrogates the power to spy on the entire earth — every single one of us — and when he is caught red handed, explains to us that “we’re going to have to make a choice.”
Who is that person?
Let’s be very careful about who we call “traitor”.
Edward Snowden is one of us.
Bradley Manning is one of us.
They are young, technically minded people from the generation that Barack Obama betrayed.
They are the generation that grew up on the internet, and were shaped by it.
The US government is always going to need intelligence analysts and systems administrators, and they are going to have to hire them from this generation and the ones that follow it.
One day, their generation will run the NSA, the CIA and the FBI.
This isn’t a phenomenon that is going away.
This is inevitable.
And by trying to crush these young whistleblowers with espionage charges, the US government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose.
This isn’t how to fix things.
The only way to fix things is this:
Change the policies.
Stop spying on the world.
Eradicate secret law.
Cease indefinite detention without trial.
Stop assassinating people.
Stop invading other countries and sending young Americans off to kill and be killed.
Stop the occupations, and discontinue the secret wars.
The charging of Edward Snowden is intended to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights.
That tactic must not be allowed to work.
The effort to find asylum for Edward Snowden must be intensified.
What brave country will stand up for him, and recognize his service to humanity?
Tell your governments to step forward.
Step forward and stand with Snowden.
The Obama administration has taken a hard line on secrecy and internal security, aggressively prosecuting leakers and using surveillance programs to uncover journalists’ anonymous sources. And according to the McClatchy news agency, a program aimed at preventing leaks could be discouraging whistleblowing by equating it with treason. McClatchy has apparently reviewed documents for the administration-wide Insider Threat Program, which was created in 2011 after Bradley Manning released classified cables to WikiLeaks.
The program is meant to make it easier for agencies to prevent employees from leaking information, asking them to evaluate workers’ trustworthiness and set severe penalties for intentionally breaking security protocol or failing to report a breach. But it also supposedly leaves the actual definition of a threat broad, meaning that almost anything could fall under the program’s jurisdiction. While the administration has attempted to make it easier for would-be whistleblowers to report problems through internal channels, McClatchy says a Defense Department document describes any kind of security breach as a kind of espionage. “Hammer this fact home,” it apparently says, “leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States.”
“ARE THEY CHEERY? ARE THEY LOOKING AT SALON.COM OR THE ONION DURING THEIR LUNCH BREAK?”
The program also directs agencies to monitor their employees, which is standard practice in any high-security area. Frequently, that means watching for high-risk indicators like financial or marital problems, which can provide leverage for blackmailers or foreign intelligence agencies. But some non-intelligence agencies apparently encourage employees to watch each other for potential risk factors, which could fuel mistrust — especially since these factors can be something as innocuous as working at unusual hours.
At worst, it can mean telling employees to be suspicious of anyone who doesn’t seem happy enough. “It’s about people’s profiles, their approach to work, how they interact with management. Are they cheery? Are they looking at Salon.com or The Onion during their lunch break? This is about The Stepford Wives,” complained an anonymous Pentagon official.
The Obama administration has been public about the need for tracking insider threats, and we’ve known for years that there’s a fine line between looking for spies and cracking down on “disgruntled” but trustworthy employees. President Obama and other officials have also been open about the fact that they consider even principled leaking treasonous. These revelations about the Insider Threat Program underscore this, while making it clear that we’ll likely see even bigger crackdowns in the wake of Edward Snowden’s attempt to evade prosecution for espionage.
A red light sits between the military judge and the court security officer. If any information considered “classified” is disclosed in court, either man can press a censor button and the red light will flash.
An audio feed broadcasting the proceedings to a public gallery on a 40-second delay is cut. White noise is fed into the gallery speakers where observers sit behind three panes of soundproof glass, blocking out sound from the courtroom.
Welcome to the Guántanamo military commissions. This week the court has been hearing pretrial motions in the death penalty cases against the five men accused of planning the hijackings of four commercial aircraft in the September 2001 attacks that led to the deaths of 2,976 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Reporters, two sketch artists and non-government organisations watched proceedings from the public gallery this week. Five family members of the 9/11 victims and two New York firefighters injured at the World Trade Center also attended.
The courtroom set-up leads to comical moments. The delay in the audiovisual feed means the gallery can see the judge sitting down in court while his seat remains empty on the television screens for 40 seconds.
Testimony taken from witnesses appearing via a sketchy video-link from the US adds even more comedy, and delays – many, many delays.
The blizzard of acronyms and numerical codes to identify each motion, coupled with rigorous security procedures to be followed in and around the court, turns this US military legal action into a Kafkaesque other world.
There was confusion in court yesterday when defence lawyers claimed the audio feed to the gallery and to the interpreters translating the proceedings for the defendants was cut off briefly. (It later transpired that a prosecution lawyer forgot to press their microphone button when they spoke.)
Analysis of intelligence
Prior to the interruption, Guántanamo’s former commander, Admiral David Woods, was being questioned by navy commander Walter Ruiz, who represents the alleged money courier to the 9/11 hijackers Mustafa al-Hawsawi, on the collection and analysis of intelligence at the US naval base.
Prosecutors become jumpy when the subject of intelligence is raised in the hearings.
At pretrial hearings in January a mystery censor triggered the alarm when the hearings turned to the secret CIA “black sites” where the 9/11 accused were held until their transfer to Guántanamo for trial in September 2006.
Yesterday, one of the prosecution lawyers, Joanna Baltes, raised concerns about Ruiz’s line of questioning. Ruiz facetiously told the judge that he could use the term “the agency who shall remain nameless,” if it was preferred, referring to the CIA, the constant elephant in this courtroom and the government agency that runs the secretive Camp Seven on the base that holds the so-called high-value detainees including the 9/11 five.
After conferring privately with Baltes and another prosecutor, Ruiz returned to the microphone, somewhat agitated.“I will not be threatened by the prosecution; I will not have that in court,” he said.
The proceedings then broke off for a private session. Any time information deemed potentially “classified” (secret to everyone else) is mentioned, the proceedings move to a private session to decide whether the evidence can be heard in open court. This is called a “505H” hearing.
Yesterday defence lawyers again objected to the accused being excluded from the private hearing but the judge overruled them.
Deciding what is classified or not in a case involving five men who were detained, interrogated and tortured in secret prisons over several years can grind these proceedings down to a snail’s pace. This, along with the five attorneys representing each of the defendants responding to each issue, can prolong already complex hearings.
Pretrial hearings this week were dominated by defence arguments that the accused should be entitled to participate in their defence, that they should not be excluded when the CIA’s “rendition, detention and interrogation programme” was discussed and that the military commissions system was meddling in their sacred attorney-client relationship.
On Monday and Tuesday the defence questioned Admiral Bruce MacDonald, who ran the military tribunals until March, about his lack of experience in death penalty cases and complained that he gave defence lawyers inadequate resources and time to mount a defence and mitigate the capital charges.
The defence also sought confidential reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross on the confinement conditions of the five accused, a move resisted by the humanitarian group on the basis that it would undermine its work.
David Nevin, lawyer for self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Mohammed Sheikh Mohammed, objected to the prosecution’s attempt to exclude the accused from certain pretrial hearings relating to their interrogations.
Mohammed should – under the eighth amendment right to protect against cruel punishment – be allowed to hear classified information if the prosecution was seeking the court’s authority to kill him at the end of his trial, he said.
James Connell, a lawyer for the alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, Ammar Al Baluchi, Mohammed’s nephew, told the court that the rules on classified information blocked him from discussing with his client the FBI’s account of an 2007 interview with him on which much of the evidence against him is based.
‘This is justice’
“The process would have to be a lot different, a lot more inclusive, participatory and transparent before we can trust that whatever comes out of this is justice,” Connell told reporters.
Prosecutors want the trial to start in late 2014 but that could be optimistic. Ruiz said this week that the defence believed it could be between three and five years before the trial starts.
When the military commissions system was changed by legislation in 2009 President Barack Obama said the revised court system would protect “sensitive sources and methods of intelligence-gathering” while upholding America’s “deeply held values” – values that any accused should be entitled to a fair trial.
The tug-of-war between the prosecution and the defence this week in “Gitmo” on pretrial issues reflects the tension between these two conflicting forces.
Did you hear the one about the pimp, the prostitute and the war criminal? It’s a national joke, according to left-wing TD Clare Daly.
Unlike the US in Guantanamo Bay, Ms Daly took no prisoners as she declared war on the G8 “fawn-fest” and everyone involved.
Fresh from being branded a “urinating clown” relieving himself on the Seanad by an irate Fianna Fáiler, Enda Kenny was down-graded to brothel-keeper-in-chief by Ms Daly as she laid into the “slobbering” over Michelle Obama and her husband — aka Mr “War Criminal”.
“It is difficult to decide which is worse, the outpourings of President Obama and his wife or the sycophantic fawning over them by the political establishment and sections of the media,” the United Left Alliance TD lamented.
In a lengthy leader’s questions broadside which the pimp — sorry, Taoiseach — branded a “rant”, Ms Daly let rip. Not even self-styled national saint Bono escaped her wrath.
Getting slightly confused about whether Enda was actually pimp or prostitute, Ms Daly declared: “Is it not the case that he has showcased us a nation of pimps prostituting ourselves in return for a pat on the head?
“We were speculating this morning about whether the Taoiseach would deck out the Cabinet in leprechaun hats decorated with stars and stripes to mark our abject humiliation.”
Though she didn’t mentioned the U2 star by name, he was clearly in her sights: “While we had separate and special news bulletins by the state broadcaster to tell us what Michelle Obama and her daughters had for lunch in Dublin, there was very little questioning of the fact that they were having lunch with Mr Tax Exile himself.”
A strange statement from someone who stood solidly by the Dáil’s very own tax cheat, Mick Wallace, to such an extent they could have their own mangled moniker — Click (Clare and Mick) — but Ms Daly was on a roll by this stage.
Turning céad mile fáilte into a hundred thousand digs, the Dublin TD, who describes herself as an internationalist, sounded oddly nationalistic as she took umbridge at Michelle daring to feel Irish: “The statement that Mrs Obama was glad to be home was barely challenged even though ‘home’ is a country she has been in for less than one week and to which her husband has only tenuous links.”
Go home Michelle, Clare does not want you or your husband here.
“Is the US president seeking the hypocrite of the century award?” Ms Daly asked in a question we suspect was rhetorical.
“The reality is that, by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal. This is the man who facilitated a 200% increase in the use of drones which have killed thousands, including hundreds of children,” the TD added in reference to Barack Obama’s call on youngsters in the North to seize the prize of peace.
Buried underneath all the name-calling, Ms Daly was actually trying to make a serious point about the use of Shannon by the US to arm Syrian rebels.
“The Taoiseach said no arms ever came through Shannon Airport. In 2012, some 548 US planes landed in Shannon Airport. How does he know what was on them if they were never examined?” she asked.
Mr Kenny branded the remarks “disgraceful”, but the image lingered of Enda slumped in a seedy Oirish doorway touting for trade with his little leprechaun hat on.
Many people have rallied in support of controversial Independent TD Clare Daly after her extraordinary attack on the visiting U.S. president Barack Obama and his family
Daly didn’t miss any punches on Wednesday morning in the Dail when she hit out at Obama, describing him as the “hypocrite of the century,” and “a war criminal.”
She pointed out while he was in Northern Ireland talking the merits of peace to teenagers there, his administration had increased drone attacks by 200%.
Daly said she was surprised Taoiseach Enda Kenny hadn’t asked his ministers to wear leprechaun hats and carry stars and stripes flags. She said Ireland’s government is “the lapdog of US imperialism.”
Six out of nine posters on The Independent’s forum page devoted to the outburst drew support for Clare.
“I never thought I’d see the day when I agreed with Clare Daly,” ‘Ewan’ wrote.
‘John B. Reid’ posted, “Fair play to Clare Daly for saying the unsayable regarding Ireland’s political and media prostitution of itself in the face of the Obamas. Not to mention the considerable amount of Irish taxpayer money spent (on An Garda Siochana, etc) chaperoning the Obamas’ ostentatious and grotesquely-sized entourage around Dublin and Wicklow.”
“I don’t believe that we should be discourteous to any well-known guests, but we need to maintain some self-respect,” he added.
‘Nuthatch 222’ said “she’s was right. spot on. i want to shake clare daly’s hand. stay in politics, clare, puhleeze.”
‘Stewie Griffin‘ provided the most extensive post. “It’s a sunny day in Ireland when a politician is telling the unvarnished truth in public about Ireland’s relationship with the United States,” he wrote. “It’s interesting to see how posters here criticize Clare Daly for being a “mouth”, ‘negative’ and ‘moaning’ because she refers to the fact that Barack Obama is a war criminal and the fact that he is a mammoth hypocrite.”
“Make no mistake: these are facts. Every Tuesday, Obama reviews and approves a list of names of people whom the US war machine has designated as a target for elimination,” wrote Griffin. “Those people, along with anyone in the immediate vicinity, are then destroyed by drones. Obama is therefore directly responsible for the slaughter of innocents. It would come as no surprise if he had signed off on another batch of people to be annihilated whilst staying in Fermanagh.”
“What is wrong with being negative in the face of such outrages? A negative stance with regard to imperial criminality and its facilitators is a positive stance with regard to justice, freedom and peace,” Griffin continued. “The real negativity comes from the slavish halfwits in Ireland who say you should keep your mouth shut in case the tourist industry takes a dive, or in case the Foreign Investment Fairy flits away somewhere else, and from the morons who lick up to Barack Obama and his family apparently because they transmit some sort of political glamour that means you can ignore his criminality and the fact he represents the interests of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.”
LOUGH ERNE, NORTHERN IRELAND (The Borowitz Report)—The G8 summit ended today on a constructive note, with President Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin reaching a broad agreement never to speak to each other again.
“It’s better this way,” said Mr. Obama, frostily standing in the general vicinity of Mr. Putin for the last time ever. “We truly despise each other.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” said Mr. Putin, looking as though he had just smelled something bad. “My hatred of this man knows no bounds.”
According to the agreement, economic coöperation, cyber security, human rights, the war in Syria, and the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s missing Super Bowl ring are among thirty-seven different topics that the two men will never again discuss.
Additionally, at all future summits, if either Mr. Obama or Mr. Putin enters a room the other man will be obligated to leave immediately.
The two men reached agreement on an unprecedented number of points, including never contacting each other via telephone or e-mail and keeping a minimum of five hundred feet away from each other’s residences.
After signing the agreement, the two men shook hands for the final time and scowled bitterly for photographers.
At the end of the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland on Tuesday night, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel will hop on a plane bound for Berlin together. Merkel has already boasted that she will make their meeting an awkward one, promising to ask uncomfortable questions about the Prism affair. The image that comes to my mind is that of a pinscher yapping at a great dane, while the great dane just benignly gazes into the distance.
Of course, the pinscher has every reason to bark its lungs out. Surveillance of worldwide internet communications, as practised by the National Security Agency (NSA) through Prism, is the stuff of Orwellian nightmares. Any democratic system rests on the idea that its citizens can think and act freely – but no individual can act and think freely while being watched. The very fact of being watched means that we act differently. Unsupervised communication between individuals is an essential precondition for a functioning democracy.
There will always be people who dismiss complaints about state surveillance as hysteria. Since 11 September 2001 it has become increasingly easy to discourage those who care about their fundamental rights. Just insist that a new measure will aid the fight against terrorism, and that legitimises it. Particularly in Britain and the US, many people seem surprisingly blase about the idea of the state watching over them.
I despair at such indifference. Germany endured two totalitarian systems in the 20th century. Not just Nazism, but the GDR too, built a dictatorship on the surveillance, registration and selection of individuals. People became objects who were divided into nebulous categories. The fight against terror requires a similar division of civil society according to sex, age, ethnicity, religion and politics. The problem with such machine-led screening methods is not only that it is very hard for people to escape them once they get caught, but that they no longer presume innocence – everyone is now a potential suspect.
Because of this, Germans have traditionally been more sensitive to assaults on their private sphere. There are fewer CCTV cameras, and Google’s Street View project was met with widespread resistance in 2010: click yourself through a map of Germany and you’ll still find large areas still pixelated. A few weeks ago, Germany published its first post-reunification census – the previous ones in the 1980s were widely boycotted on ethical grounds. But that Germany hasn’t reached the level of the US is not thanks to politicians’ sense of history, but to the so-called “basic law” that anchors our constitution and the federal constitutional court that protects it. One “security law” after the next has been proposed and then rejected by the court for infringing on civil rights.
But being a little more sensible on civil rights issues than other European states will no longer do. On the contrary: with its unique historical background, Germany should be leading the charge against any form of Big Brother system.
Having been raised in East Germany, Merkel especially should know what is at stake here. She experienced in her youth how long-term surveillance can demoralise the human spirit and distort the character of a society.Explaining that to her American counterpart would be a start for Merkel. She should explain to him that there is a lesson for the rest of the world in Germany’s history. In the 21st century, modern technology will take the possibility for total surveillance to a completely new level. Compared with what Prism allows you to do, Stasi activities look like child’s play: the size and speed of the data flow threatens to overwhelm the lawmakers who are meant to control it.
My fear is that Merkel’s protest will be hard to take seriously, and that Obama will notice this. Since 9/11, Merkel’s government has also passed laws that allow the state to virtually x-ray its citizens. Der Spiegel recently reported that Germany’s equivalent of the NSA, the BND, is planning to expand its web monitoring programme over the next five years.
Ultimately, Merkel’s emphatic concern about the Prism affair stems from the fact there will a federal election in Germany in September. It’s a convenient chance to demonstrate a bit of political spine. Once the pinscher’s done with the yapping, the great dane will give her a kindly smile and assure her that everything is happening within the law. After that, the excitement about Prism will soon evaporate, and they in America and we in Europe will continue collecting data.
Data protection is to the communication age what environmental protection was for the age of industrialisation. Back then, we lost decades because we didn’t realise how severe the damage we were causing really was. Let’s try not to make the same mistake twice.
• This article was amended on Tuesday 18 June. Angela Merkel was born in Hamburg, not East Germany, as the seventh paragraph originally stated. She was raised in East Germany.
41 years ago today, the Watergate break-in took place, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. Carl Bernstein, one of the journalists that broke the story, was in Dalkey last night to speak about how it changed America.
TODAY IS THE 41st anniversary of the break-in at the Watergate hotel in Washington.
Last night, the legendary journalist Carl Bernstein, who broke the story with his colleague Bob Woodward, was in Dalkey for the final event of the Dalkey Book Festival. St Patrick’s Church was packed to the rafters with fans who had come to hear the 69-year-old in conversation with David McWilliams.
Bernstein and his colleague Bob Woodward were only junior staffers when they investigated the Watergate scandal story for The Washington Post, which led to numerous government investigations and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Speaking last night, the investigative journalist gave his opinion on a number of issues, from the role of investigative journalism to the Obama presidency.
When asked did he know whether the Watergate story was going to be as big as it was, Bernstein said he did not, but as more information came to light he said he remembered getting a coffee with Woodward at the vending machine just off the newsroom and turning to him and saying:
Oh my God, this president is going to be impeached.
He added that people often asked weren’t they afraid. “Yeah, we were afraid we were going to make a mistake,” he said.
“We are now in the digital age of journalism,” said Bernstein. He was critical about journalists relying on social media for sources and stories, while stating they can be great tools, he said “real reporting is about going to the people, knocking on doors, searching for documentation…”
He was critical of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, stating that “throwing documents” into the newspapers “without giving it context” is not journalism. He criticised how Assange’s actions put many lives ‘at risk’, adding “we have a responsibility as journalists”.
Woodward and Bernstein’s infamous source on the Watergate story, Deep Throat, was protected by them for many years. His identity as the former Federal Bureau of Investigation Associate Director Mark Felt was only revealed in 2005. Bernstein said:
We were smart enough not to even tell either of our now ex wives who Deep Throat was – we kept that secret for over 30 years.
When asked did he think something like Watergate could happen again, Bernstein said: “I would be amazed if a president was willing to conduct a criminal presidency again.”
Speaking about American politics, Bernstein said that the current US President Barack Obama has had many failings over his term in office, stating that he seems to be a reactionary president, acting very late when it comes to situations like Syria.
“It takes Clinton calling him a wuss [for him] to then outline his policy,” he said, adding “he is a very reactive president instead of leading first”.
Bernstein is also an expert on Hillary Clinton, having written her biography in 2007. When asked did he think she will run for the presidency, he said: “She should run for the presidency, if she is healthy”.
However, he added: “She hasn’t had a day off since 1990.”
Read: What was Watergate? Here are 14 facts that explain everything>
Read: After 40 years, the ‘what ifs’ of Watergate scandal are still tantalising>
With president at G8, Michelle Obama enjoys Irish links
DUBLIN (Reuters) – With the U.S. president locked in high-level meetings at a secluded hotel in Northern Ireland, first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters took the chance to investigate theirIrish roots. After arriving in Belfast with her husband …
Irish Prime Minister Says Faith Should Not Affect One’s Public Service
The pro-abortion Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who drew protests for delivering the commencement address and receiving an honorary degree from Boston College, has said that personal faith should play no part in legislation, reports the Irish Examiner.
G8 leaders enjoy Comber spuds and Irish coffees at working dinner
The new season Comber, or Comber early as it’s sometimes called, is regarded as the king of the potato crop in Northern Ireland thanks to the climate in which it’s grown, sheltered by the Mournes and the Ards Peninsula. It’s also harvested earlier than …
The Irish DO drink more than everyone else, with single-sex schools, cricket …
A map by researchers from the University College Dublin shows how much the averageIrish student drinks a year, by county. Students from counties shown in blue drink in excess of 351 units of alcohol a year. Students in Monagh, Donegal, Tiperrary and …
See all stories on this topic »
Parliament Committee, Irish delegation discuss cooperation
Petra News Agency
Amman, June 17(Petra)– Head of the Arab and International Affairs Parliamentary Committee, MP Talal Al-Sharif, met with an Irish Parliamentary delegation on Monday to promote friendly ties between the two countries in various aspects, particularly the …
See all stories on this topic »
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are young male models of heroism, duty and self-sacrifice like the Hardy Boys or Tom Swift once were, in an earlier era. They’re the Horatio Whistleblowers of our time.
They weren’t motivated to release secret material by any ideology or mentor. Their motives were naive, moral and direct. In Manning’s statement at his court martial, he said he came in contact with material on the Iran and Afghanistan wars showing how counterproductive they were and thought Americans should have it to think about, too. “For me it’s all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean . . . I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me . . . to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live . . . As I hoped, others were just as troubled — if not more. . .”
This isn’t a traitor or ideologue, his simple good citizen quality couldn’t be starker. He also used his own judgment on the risks of releasing the material. That’s extraordinary in the sense that he just thought for himself, as a citizen in a truly democratic society would; he didn’t want to do damage but felt he could make those difficult choices based on his own good sense and intentions.
Snowden, in his video interview from Hong Kong, said his greatest fear was that nothing would change after his revelations. He’s clearly aware that most Americans — at least in response to a rigged poll question — are OK with the current “balance” between privacy and security. But he’s content to defer to the results of a genuinely informed public debate; he is also citizenly and naive, as if he’s inside a 1930s Frank Capra film like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
If you, too, yearn for a more participatory, “citizen” democracy — instead of just voting and leaving the rest to elected reps who get to know and decide everything that matters — you might ask: what could be done to produce more citizens like these? Part of the answer surely lies in the public educational system, though not in the directions it’s heading in the U.S. right now.
The main trend there is standardized tests. Prepping for them crowds everything else out, depresses students and teachers and has no relation to nurturing thought that leads toward brave acts of citizenship. Another current is privatizing public schools into “charter” schools, using public funds which go to corporations with no inherent motive for instilling a democratic mindset that generates embarrassing leaks. It’s also possible that the rising load of student debt there is meant, as Noam Chomsky recently suggested, to discourage the young from getting too much education. All these trends exist here.
I’m not naive about the public system. It’s always been a conduit for official ideology but it has one excellent thing going for it: it’s public. Everyone has a right to be there solely by being a citizen or resident. Kids can draw democratic conclusions from that, and from the mix they may encounter.
There are however no straight lines to noble citizenship. Both Snowden and Manning had patchy schooling. Snowden dropped out and got high-school equivalency at community college. Manning spent years at school in Wales before returning to the U.S. (I don’t see any evidence, btw, of gender confusion in him, as has been implied; he’s clear on being gay though he’s distressed by reactions of others to his sexuality, much as he was perplexed by his country’s behaviour in the wars that motivated his disclosures.)
Still, it’s interesting to compare Barack Obama’s schooling. He had some early hard knocks in Indonesia but from Grade 5 on, went to an elite Hawaii private school. He attended private universities like Columbia and Harvard Law. His kids are in private schools that don’t waste time on standardized tests. He knows more about the real world than most leaders, but his formal training implies a view of democracy that says: Elect us because we know better than you what’s best for everyone. It’s the opposite of the think-for-yourself citizen democracy embodied in the young geeks now in jail or on the run.
This article was first published in the Toronto Star
Plans have also been drawn up for special courts and extra detention cells at locations in the republic, including counties Donegal and Monaghan, should disorder break out.
And despite UK authorities revealing the cost of the operation to its public purse, Irish taxpayers have been told they will have to wait until afterwards for details of the policing bill.
Garda Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny, who is in charge of the border counties, said the force is in close contact with security services in a number of countries as well as international agencies Interpol and Europol.
Daily intelligence briefings are being held on both home-grown and overseas threats.
“For an event of this magnitude, the what-ifs list is endless,” he said.
So, in so far as we can, plans will take account of worst case and best case scenarios
Garda Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny
Asst Commissioner Kenny said there are contingency plans to respond to a “mix” of threats, which includes the risk of local dissident republicans using the occasion for global publicity.
But the Garda chief said they had no estimate of numbers of protesters expected into the country at this stage. A large protest is expected in Dublin.
Surveillance of ports and airports across the republic and the movement of people throughout the island will form a major part of the security operation.
Eight temporary border checkpoints are to be manned by Garda units backed up by the Irish Army, alongside rolling checkpoints by mobile patrols.
Asst Commissioner Kenny warned people living along the border and others travelling across it to expect disruption in the run up to and during the summit.
The Garda has also been working with the Courts Service about the possibility of special sittings and custody arrangements, should public disorder break out or in the event of an attack.
Another 3,600 officers from forces around the UK will be drafted in for what is expected to be the biggest ever carried operation carried out by the PSNI.
As part of the huge security operation around the high profile event, a seven-mile stretch of Lough Erne is being closed down completely across three days while the Loughshore Road, Enniskillen, is closed until 26 June.
Authorities in the UK have already revealed they expect the event to cost around £50m.
Asst Commissioner Kenny said the Garda was still in the latter stages of planning and final costs, overseen by the Department of Justice and other Government departments, are not available for taxpayers in the Irish Republic.
“It is a fluid, moving plan. The finer detail of the plan is only coming to light in the latter stages of it, because the countries are voicing their requirements now.”
The Garda chief said the force would give a detailed account of costs after the event.
“Our spending and costs are being challenged on an ongoing basis,” he said.