HAVANA — We’re waiting for you in Havana, Snowden. Are you on your way?
It’s still unclear what happened on Monday, June 24, the day after leaker Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong. That day, Snowden was supposed to board a plane to Havana to then transfer to Ecuador, one of the very few places willing to shield him from the American officials who regard him as a traitor. He even had a boarding pass for the window seat in row F, in economy class. But he never showed up, and his seat stayed empty.
Was Snowden trapped in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport against his will by the Russian security service, curious to see the data he had in his computers? Or was he afraid of flying in a plane that could be grounded while passing over the United States, where American courts were waiting to lock him up in jail for over 30 years? Until the very moment the Aeroflot crew closed the plane’s door, it looked like he was coming: Russian police surrounded Gate 28, patrolling outside and inside the airplane. The crew members on the plane looked tense and upset, as if they were facing a horrible trial. We still don’t know what happened at the last moment, but in the end Snowden stayed in Moscow.
I was on that plane, waiting for him along with several dozen other journalists from international news agencies and TV channels, all of us eager to quiz him about his claims. I wanted to ask Snowden about the evidence he had to prove his claims that the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, despite their governments’ public advocacy for freedom of the Internet, had been spying and stealing tons of personal data from people in their home countries.
For a long time, after we took off, we still could not believe that Snowden was not among us: After all, who knew what disguise he might be using? (This might seem a bit less crazy when you consider that we just saw an American spy wearing a wig last month.) Trapped on the flight for 12 hours, journalists walked around the plane looking into every passenger’s face. Other reporters were already waiting to greet Snowden in Cuba. They looked for him inside and outside Havana’s airport, asking every young blond male if he was Snowden. I’m still hoping to meet up with Snowden here in Havana, though Ecuadorean diplomats now say it may take months to issue him political asylum.
There’s one very specific reason Snowden may be having trouble finding a way out of the Moscow airport’s transit lounge, where he apparently is right now: his papers. Right now the only travel document he has is one of dubious status issued by the Ecuadoreans. After the American authorities canceled his U.S. passport on Monday, no airline wants to sell him another plane ticket. (He apparently managed to buy his ticket for Havana while his passport was still valid.)
There are other theories. “He got frightened that Americans would bring him down on that plane,” says Igor Bunin, a Moscow political analyst. “He’s a huge pain for the Kremlin, a Catch-22. Now that he’s turned into an anti-American government star, Russia can’t kick him out, but keeping him means even a bigger international scandal.” I’d love to ask Snowden about his days and nights in Russia if I ever get the chance to meet him.
My friend Olga Bychkova, a host from radio Echo of Moscow, described a scene she witnessed in the airport’s transit zone on the day of Snowden’s arrival on Sunday. “I saw about 20 Russian officials, supposedly FSB [security service] agents in suits, crowding around somebody in a restricted area of the airport,” Bychkova told me. “The Kremlin pretends they have nothing to do with him being stuck in Moscow, but in reality they’re all over him.”
What’s up Mr. Snowden? Do you really hate reporters? If you’re “a free man,” as President Vladimir Putin says, why hide from crowds of journalists waiting to talk to you in Sheremetyevo airport for three days? WikiLeaks claims that you — the biggest leaker in the history of the National Security Agency — are “in a safe place.” If you’re safe and free, why didn’t you use your ticket last Monday? You would have had a great chance to explain the reasons for renouncing your wealthy life with a beautiful girlfriend. Just imagine: 12 hours in front of the world’s major networks on the flight to Cuba! Russian commentators think that you’re not as free as the Russian leader claims, that somebody did not allow you to fly Monday. “Snowden will fly out of Russia when the Kremlin decides he can go,” says Moscow political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin. “He might not even be in the airport. The safest place would be a GRU [Russian military intelligence] apartment.” That would also explain why no one has seen your face in Moscow yet.
PUTIN by Jedimentat44
It’s always eye catching when Russian leaders and now the Chinese Peoples Daily newspaper, the official organ of the Beijing regime, make straight forward comments about certain U.S. government actions and behavior that precisely hit the mark.
Presently those comments are all connected to Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing of the NSA’s secret surveillance programs, the fallout over the U.S. extradition request to have him sent back to the U.S. to face espionage and theft charges and U.S. government officials making threats to both China and Russia for refusing to have Snowden extradited to the U.S.
Of course, neither China nor Russia have extradition agreements with the U.S., so on the face of it the U.S. is howling in the dark.
But with regard to the Chinese and Russian comments to the U.S. government about its behavior in the Snowden saga, from here they’ re considered priceless. Here are a few of those priceless gems:
From the Chinese Peoples Daily:
Regarding Snowden, “A young idealist who has exposed the sinister scandals of the U.S. government”.
“Instead of apologizing, Washington is showing off its muscle by attempting to control the whole situation”.
“The voices of a few American politicians and media outlets surrounding the Prism scandal have become truly shrill. Not only do some of them lack the least bit of self reflection but they arrogantly find fault with other countries for no reason at all”.
The United States has gone from a model of human rights to an eavesdropper on personal privacy, the manipulator of the centralized power over the international internet, and the mad invader of other countries networks”.
It was “Snowden’s fearlessness that tore off Washington’s sanctimonious mask” revealing them as “The biggest villain in our age”.
From Russian President Putin:
“Assange and Snowden consider themselves human rights activists and say they are fighting for the spread of information. Ask yourself this: should you hand these people over so they will be put in prison?”
Compare those comments (coming from the authoritarian Chinese and Russian regimes) with these comments from Secretary of State John Kerry who said, “Russia is a repressive country” and few hours later said, “The U.S. is not looking for confrontation”. Ah it sounds a little like “double speak” there John.
Now in no way is this writer so naÃ¯ve to believe Russia and China are not themselves authoritarian regimes that do act with repression regarding their internal affairs.
And there’s no doubt that given the opportunity these two countries will stick it to the U.S. with straight forward critical comments as the Snowden saga has afforded them.
But we’re supposed to be a representative democracy, with a Constitution, follow the rule of law and a government that professes to be “of, by and for the people”.
Well those canards belong aside the hokum of “Manifest Destiny” and Nixon stating “I’m not a crook”, (the former a deceit and fallacious lie we were indoctrinated with during my public school days long ago and the latter spoken from the Oval Office on national T.V. about the cover up in the Watergate scandal).
So regarding the Snowden saga the two “repressive governments” comments are pretty much forthcoming with the truth.
As for the U.S. it’s the same bluster and hubris but what else is new.
Video arrival in Moscow
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has confirmed that his government “has received an asylum request from Edward J Snowden”.
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange this morning welcomed Educador’s decision to assist Mr Snowden.
“I would urge the Government of Ecuador to accept Ed Snowden’s asylum application,” Mr Assange said by telephone from Ecuador’s embassy in London.
“There is deep irony that the Obama Administration is charging the whistleblower who has revealed worldwide spying with the crime of espionage.
“He is clearly being persecuted by the US government for telling us the truth.”
Mr Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow yesterday accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisers. He was met by Ecuadorean diplomats on his arrival at Moscow airport.
It is expected Mr Snowden will depart Moscow later today to fly to Ecuador with a stop-over at Havana, Cuba. He will travel in the company of Ecuadorean diplomats and the Government of Ecuador has issued with travel documents to ensure his safe passage.
The United States government is demanding that Mr Snowden should “not be allowed to proceed further” overseas.
The US State Department has confirmed that the US revoked Mr Snowden’s passport due to “felony arrest warrants” against the former employee of intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
“Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Mr Assange has confirmed WikiLeaks’ involvement in Mr Snowden’s sudden departure from Hong Kong.
In a statement issued last night WikiLeaks said Mr Snowden was “bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks”.
“Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.
“Owing to our own circumstances, WikiLeaks has developed significant expertise in international asylum and extradition law, associated diplomacy and the practicalities in these matters,” Mr Assange told Fairfax Media.
“I have great personal sympathy for Ed Snowden’s position. WikiLeaks absolutely supports his decision to blow the whistle on the mass surveillance of the world’s population by the US government.”
Mr Assange, who has himself spent a year at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has diplomatic asylum, said that he was “thankful to the countries that have been doing the right thing in these matters. WikiLeaks hopes that Ed Snowden’s rights will be protected, including his right to free communication.”
“I am also thankful and proud of the courage of WikiLeaks’ staff and all those who have assisted his exit from Hong Kong.”
Former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and lawyer for Mr Assange said WikiLeaks was “interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person. What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people”.
Mr Assange also criticised the cancelation of Mr Snowden’s passport, saying it was “a clear abuse of state power to cancel a citizen’s practical national identity when they need it most.
“The Australian government attempted to do this to me under US pressure in December 2020, but fortunately the anger of Australian people and media ultimately prevented the Gillard government from cancelling my Australia passport.”
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Patino visited London last week and held lengthy discussions with Mr Assange at Ecuador’s embassy.
There has been an angry reaction in US government and political circles to news of Mr Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong and arrival in Moscow.
General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency attacked Mr Snowden as “an individual who is not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent”.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham earlier told Fox News: “I hope we’ll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy.”
Congressman and member of the US House of Representatives intelligence committee Peter King said: “I think it is important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.”
The Hong Kong government announced yesterday that Mr Snowden had left the special administrative region of China “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”
The Hong Kong government’s statement also said the documents for Mr Snowden’s extradition submitted by Washington “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.”
“As the [Hong Kong] Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”
When you leak explosive government secrets to the news media, it’s safe to say that you open yourself up to, among other things, harsh criticism.
So it’s hardly a surprise that former vice president Dick Cheney, the hardest of the hardliners, has unloaded on National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, denouncing him as a “traitor” who might be working for China.
But Cheney, who made his remarks over the weekend on Fox News Sunday, was hardly the first to use the epithet. Last week, in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, House Speaker John Boehner said flatly of Snowden: “He’s a traitor.”
And when it comes to the name-calling and the demonizing, former and current public officials such as Cheney and Boehner hardly have a monopoly. Journalists can play that game, too.
Politico columnist Roger Simon wrote a sneering piece headlined “The slacker who came in from the cold” in which he dismissed Snowden as “29 and possessing all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger.”
(An aside: Is it just me or are these constant references to Snowden being 29, as if that somehow discredits him, out of line as well as annoying? Is the idea that someone so young is incapable of doing anything worthwhile? Really?)
To former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, Snowden is merely “a high school dropout who is a military washout.” And rather than go down in history as a significant whistle-blower, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote in a sublimely baffling outburst that he thought Snowden will “go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.”
All of that outrage is perfectly understandable. Acts like Snowden’s arouse powerful passions. To some he is a hero, a principled man whose alarm at the security state’s secret surveillance compelled him to act, despite the consequences to his own life. To others he is, well, a traitor, an irresponsible, self-righteous egomaniac who placed himself above the law and put his country in great peril.
But it’s important that we — the news media and society as a whole — don’t get too caught up in it. While pinning labels on Edward Snowden may be a fine parlor game, it’s not nearly as significant as dealing with the information he revealed.
Even White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says it’s “appropriate” to have a national debate on government information gathering. But we wouldn’t be having one absent Snowden’s disclosures.
Maybe the government is right. Maybe the heightened security the surveillance of all those phone calls and e-mails makes possible is worth the erosion of privacy. But that’s something we as a country need to decide, not the president, whichever president, acting without our knowledge. Remember, even if you trust this particular president and/or his predecessor, there’s no guarantee that someday the White House won’t be occupied by someone you don’t want having access to all that “telephony metadata” and the like. (See Nixon, Richard.)
Even now, it’s not an easy debate to have. The proceedings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are secret. Members of Congress who are briefed on the programs are constrained about what they can say. So are the Silicon Valley powerhouses that have cooperated with the PRISM initiative. On Tuesday, Google asked the surveillance court for permission to be more forthcoming about its role.
But despite the difficulties, a conversation has begun. The federal government has mounted an aggressive defense of the programs and has begun to release information to show that they are working. Some members of Congress seem committed to trying to rein in the excesses, no matter how uphill the struggle. And we’ve only just begun.
That’s where the primary focus should remain, not on whether or not Snowden is a duplicitous spoiled brat.
“Shoot the messenger” has been part of the lexicon for a long time, certainly since Sophocles’ prime, which was way pre-Twitter. It doesn’t just apply to actual old-school messengers and, as is frequently the case in this era, the news media. Ad hominem (and ad feminam) attacks are a time-dishonored way of avoiding uncomfortable subjects by beating up political opponents. And belaboring the appallingly 29-year-old slacker/traitor is a great way to change the subject.
Recently, the American public learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) has conducted, and continues to conduct, wholesale surveillance of U.S. citizens through a secretive data-mining program. The program collects the phone records, email exchanges, and internet histories of tens of millions of Americans who would otherwise have no knowledge of the secret program were it not for the disclosures of recent whistleblowers. The latest of these whistleblowers to come forward is former Booz Allen Hamilton federal contractor employee, Edward Snowden.
As the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) would like to be clear about its position on each of the following points that relate to these significant revelations:
I. SNOWDEN IS A WHISTLEBLOWER.
Snowden disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal. Consequently, he meets the legal definition of a whistleblower, despite statements to the contrary made by numerous government officials and security pundits. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Co), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Ca), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) have also expressed concern about the potential illegality of the secret program. Moreover, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wi) who is one of the original authors of the Patriot Act – the oft-cited justification for this pervasive surveillance – has expressed similar misgiving.
II. SNOWDEN IS THE SUBJECT OF CLASSIC WHISTLEBLOWER RETALIATION.
Derogatory characterizations of Snowden‘s personal character by government officials do not negate his whistleblower status. On the contrary, such attacks are classic acts of predatory reprisal used against whistleblowers in the wake of their revelations.Snowden’s personal life, his motives and his whereabouts have all been called into question by government officials and pundits engaged in the reflexive response of institutional apologists. The guilty habitually seek to discredit the whistleblower by shifting the spotlight from the dissent to the dissenter. Historically, this pattern of abuse is clear from behavior towards whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Felt, Frank Serpico, Jeffrey Wigand, Jesselyn Radack, and recent NSA whistleblower Tom Drake.
III. THE ISSUE IS THE MESSAGE AND NOT THE MESSENGER.
As a matter of course, whistleblowers are discredited, but what truly matters is the disclosure itself. Snowden’s revelations have sparked a public debate about the balance between privacy and security – a debate that President Obama now claims to welcome. Until Snowden’s disclosures, however, the government had suppressed the facts that would make any serious debate possible.
IV. PERVASIVE SURVEILLANCE DOES NOT MEET THE STANDARD FOR CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.
Many have condemned Snowden for disclosing classified information, but documents are classified if they reveal sources or methods of intelligence-gathering used to protect the United States from its enemies. Domestic surveillance that is pervasive and secret is only a valid method of intelligence gathering if the country’s enemies include most of its own population. Moreover, under the governing Executive Order it is not legal to classify documents in order to cover up possible misconduct.
V. THE PUBLIC HAS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO KNOW.
In a democracy, it is simply not acceptable to discover widespread government surveillance only after a whistleblower’s revelations. Because of Snowden’s disclosures we now know that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper deliberately misled the Senate Intelligence Committee when he stated on March 12, 2013 that the NSA did not purposefully collect any type of data from millions of Americans. Regardless of the justification for this policy, the public has a Constitutional right to know about these actions.
Unfortunately, the responsibility has fallen on whistleblowers to inform the public about critical policy issues – from warrantless wiretapping to torture. Whistleblowers remain the regulator of last resort.
VI. THERE IS A CLEAR HISTORY OF REPRISAL AGAINST NSA WHISTLEBLOWERS.
By communicating with the press, Snowden used the safest channel available to him to inform the public of wrongdoing. Nonetheless, government officials have been critical of him for not using internal agency channels – the same channels that have repeatedly failed to protect whistleblowers from reprisal in the past. In many cases, the critics are the exact officials who acted to exclude national security employees and contractors from the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012.
Prior to Snowden’s disclosures, NSA whistleblowers Tom Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe, all clients of GAP, used internal mechanisms – including the NSA chain of command, Congressional committees, and the Department of Defense Inspector General – to report the massive waste and privacy violations of earlier incarnations of the NSA’s data collection program. Ultimately, the use of these internal channels served only to expose Binney, Drake and Wiebe to years-long criminal investigations and even FBI raids on their homes. As one example, consider that Tom Drake was subjected to a professionally and financially devastating prosecution under the Espionage Act. Despite a case against him that ultimately collapsed, Drake was labeled an “enemy of the state” and his career ruined.
VII. WE ARE WITNESSING THE CRIMINALIZATION OF WHISTLEBLOWING.
During the last decade, the legal rights for whistleblowers have expanded for many federal workers and contractors, with the one exception of employees within the intelligence community. The rights of these employees have significantly contracted. The Obama administration has conducted an unprecedented campaign against national security whistleblowers, bringing more Espionage Act indictments than all previous administrations combined.
Moreover, at the behest of the House Intelligence Committee, strengthened whistleblower protections for national security workers were stripped from major pieces of legislation such as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (for federal employees) and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (for federal contractors). If those protections existed today, Snowden’s disclosures would have stood a greater chance of being addressed effectively from within the organization.
The actions already taken against Snowden are a punitive continuation of what has become a “War on Whistleblowers.” Through a series of retaliatory measures, the federal government targets federal employees who speak out against gross waste, illegality, or fraud, rather than prosecuting individuals engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors. So far as we know, not one person from the NSA has yet to suffer any consequences for ordering, justifying or participating in the NSA’s domestic spying operation.
It is the opinion of GAP that recent events suggest the full might of the Department of Justice will be leveled at Snowden, including an indictment under the Espionage Act, while those who stretched their interpretation of the Patriot Act to encompass the private lives of millions of Americans will simply continue working.
VIII. IN THE SURVEILLANCE STATE, THE ENEMY IS THE WHISTLEBLOWER.
If every action has an opposite and equal reaction, the whistleblower is that reaction within the surveillance state. Dragnet electronic surveillance is a high-tech revival of tactics used to attack the civil rights movement and political enemies of the Nixon administration. Whistleblowers famously alerted the public to past government overreach, while helping to defend both national security and civil liberties.
In contrast, secrecy, retaliation and intimidation undermine our Constitutional rights and weaken our democratic processes more swiftly, more surely, and more corrosively than the acts of terror from which they purport to protect us.
Contact: Bea Edwards, Executive Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 155
Contact: Louis Clark, President
Phone: 202. 457.0034, ext. 129
Contact: Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137
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
Edward Snowden – NSA Whistleblower Comes Forward: Daily Whistleblower News – Government Accountability Project
Another groundbreaking story from The Guardian over the weekend revealed the identity of the whistleblower behind the recent NSA surveillance disclosures to be a young, former technical assistant for the CIA and current defense contractor employee who – until very recently – lived a comfortable life with his girlfriend in Hawaii. Years of working on the technical side of surveillance for the world’s most pervasive spy organizations led to increasing disillusionment for 29 year-old Edward Snowden. Witnessing the unethical practices employed by CIA operatives while stationed in Geneva and playing his own role in the NSA’s vast stockpiling of American and foreign citizens’ information, collected through the PRISM program, drove Snowden toward his decision. Already having fled the country to Hong Kong where he is currently pent up in a hotel room, Snowden is fully aware of the Obama administration’s ferocious stance on whistleblowers and is prepared for full pursuit and prosecution.
In this video interview with The Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who has reported the series of disclosures from the NSA/PRISM whistleblower, Snowden describes exactly what compelled him to bring knowledge of the NSA surveillance program into the public realm. He illustrates the extremely invasive authority that the agency can and does use to spy on everyone. A transcript of Greenwald’s interview can be found here. Snowden emphasizes the non-democratic and secret practices of the NSA that go far beyond public consciousness saying, “The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”
Daniel Ellsberg, the father of modern whistleblowing responsible for the Pentagon Papers disclosure, has called Snowden’s leak the most important in American history – even more so than Ellsberg’s own disclosure 40 years ago. Snowden’s actions come at an incredibly precarious time for American privacy and the upholding of the constitution. Ellsberg makes clear that since 9/11, American citizens have experienced a revocation of their rights and a neglect of their societal roles in the democracy, and this move by Snowden serves to bring some of the democratic power back to the public to which it originally belonged.
Key Quote (Washington Post): The Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit that advances “corporate and government accountability by protecting whistleblowers,” has a broader, “composite” definition drawn from “state, federal and international cases”:
An employee who discloses information that s/he reasonably believes is evidence of illegality, gross waste or fraud, mismanagement, abuse of power, general wrongdoing, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Typically, whistleblowers speak out to parties that can influence and rectify the situation. These parties include the media, organizational managers, hotlines, or Congressional members/staff, to name a few.
Jesselyn Radack, director of the national security and human rights program at the Government Accountability Project, says that “source” is the “most neutral term” and doesn’t much like “leaker.” “There’s a derogatory implication to it,” says Radack, who says she’s represented hundreds of whistleblowers.
“I see [Snowden] as a classic whistleblower,” she says. “He is revealing massive abuse and illegality by … the biggest spy agency in the nation and in the world, for that matter.” In some quarters, Radack might encounter some pushback on that last point.
(Reuters): Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department lawyer who represents whistleblowers, said she expected prosecutors would “try to indict him as soon as possible” with “voluminous” Espionage Act charges followed by Interpol warrants for his arrest. But she said Snowden fit the profile and legal definition of a whistleblower and should be entitled to protection under a federal law passed to protect people who reveal waste and abuse.
“He said very clearly in statements that he’s given that he was doing this to serve a public purpose,” Radack said
(The Guardian): But Snowden drew support from civil liberty activists and organisations. Jesselyn Radack, a former justice department attorney who represents whistleblowers, told Reuters: “As a whistleblower myself, this is one of the most significant leakers in my lifetime and in US history.”
Radack said she hoped the case could become “a watershed moment that could change the war on whistleblowers and the broader war on information in our country”.