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Journalism On Trial as Bradley Manning Case Nears Moment of Truth


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Many of the trial’s crucial issues won’t be hashed out until the sentence phase—and the press and public may be shut out, reports Alexa O’Brien.

Fort Meade, Maryland—As the defense and the prosecution rested their cases in the largest leak trial in American history, the defense argued Monday that the presiding military judge, Col. Denise Lind, should dismiss “aiding the enemy” and other serious charges against Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who uploaded hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and U.S Army reports to the organization WikiLeaks, which published the material online in 2010.

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Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted as he leaves a military court at the end of the first of a three-day motion hearing on June 6, 2012, in Fort Meade, Maryland. (Alex Wong/Getty)

Prosecutors failed to present evidence that Manning had the requisite knowledge that al Qaeda or the enemy used WikiLeaks, argued civilian defense counsel, David Coombs, on Monday. Anything less than actual knowledge would set a dangerous precedent for a free press, he said, because military prosecutors have already stated that they would have charged Manning similarly had the organization beenThe New York Times and not WikiLeaks.

Lind, the chief judge of the U.S. Army’s First Judicial Circuit, ruled Monday that she would allow the prosecution to rebut the defense case that WikiLeaks was a respected journalistic organization at the time of the charged offenses, and that Manning had a “noble motive” to inform the public, as the defense has asserted. Prosecutors intend to recall their lead forensic expert to discuss emails to members of the press as well as WikiLeaks tweets found on digital media belonging to Manning. Prosecutors also intend to call another member of Manning’s brigade to testify that the accused told him in May 2010 that “I would be shocked if you are not telling your kids about me in ten to fifteen years from now.”

Manning, who was arrested in May 2010 and spent an unprecedented 1,101 days in confinement before his trial began last month, is charged with 22 crimes. Despite hisplea to 10 lesser included offenses carrying a sentence of up to 20 years, the government has pressed ahead on 21 of the charged offenses, which include aiding the enemy, espionage, stealing government property, and “wanton publication,” which could leave the 25-year-old facing life plus 149 years in a military prison if convicted.

Manning has opted to be tried by military judge alone, and not a panel of officers and enlisted personnel. After the closing arguments that follow the prosecution’s rebuttal case, Judge Lind will deliberate and announce her findings. Unlike in a federal criminal case where sentencing commences after the completion of a pre-sentencing report, if Manning is convicted, a sentencing case will begin immediately.

During the sentencing case, both defense and the prosecution will present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments about appropriate punishment. The maximum sentences are outlined in the Manual for Courts-Martial and the judge’s previous court rulings.

While probation is not possible for an accused in a military court-martial, the “general convening authority,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the commander of the Military District of Washington, can dismiss Lind’s guilty findings and reduce Manning’s sentence. The general convening authority, however, cannot reverse a finding by Lind of not guilty or increase his sentence.

On Monday, Coombs referenced the testimony of a government witness from the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center, which published a 2008 report on WikiLeaks titled “Wikileaks.org—An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups?” saying, “The US Army did not know if the enemy went to WikiLeaks … but they want to ascribe that knowledge to a junior analyst.”

In a historic elocution in court last week, Prof. Yochai Benkler, co-director of theBerkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, told Lind that “the cost of finding Pfc. Manning guilty of aiding the enemy would impose” too great a burden on the “willingness of people of good conscience but not infinite courage to come forward,” and “would severely undermine the way in which leak-based investigative journalism has worked in the tradition of [the] free press in the United States.”

“[I]f handing materials over to an organization that can be read by anyone with an internet connection, means that you are handing [it] over to the enemy—that essentially means that any leak to a media organization that can be read by any enemy anywhere in the world, becomes automatically aiding the enemy,” saidBenkler. “[T]hat can’t possibly be the claim,” he added.

Benkler testified that WikiLeaks was a new mode of digital journalism that fit into a distributed model of emergent newsgathering and dissemination in the Internet age, what he termed the “networked Fourth Estate.” When asked by the prosecution if “mass document leaking is somewhat inconsistent with journalism,” Benkler responded that analysis of large data sets like the Iraq War Logs provides insight not found in one or two documents containing a “smoking gun.” The Iraq War Logs, he said, provided an alternative, independent count of casualties “based on formal documents that allowed for an analysis that was uncorrelated with the analysis that already came with an understanding of its political consequences.”

Manning was charged with the unauthorized possession and willful communication of an unclassified video of a 2009 U.S. bombing in the Farah province of Afghanistan that killed at least 140 women and children. It was the only offense under the Espionage Act that he did not plead to a lesser included offense. He pleaded not guilty, and WikiLeaks never published such a video.

The Garani-airstrike video is central to the prosecution’s theory of its case connecting Manning to an ongoing federal criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. (Assange, who has spent over a year inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid the prospect of extradition to the U.S., has emerged in recent weeks as a crucial ally to Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who left America before sharing with journalists at The Guardian andWashington Post highly classified documents about the spy agency’s vast collection of information about Americans and others.) But in the second week of the trial, the lead forensic examiner from the Army Computer Crimes Investigative Unit (CCIU)testified that he found “no connection” between Manning and an individual investigated by the FBI for allegedly attempting to decrypt the charged video.

Much of the trial, and the pretrial hearings that led up to it, have been conducted inmanaged obscurity. Judge Lind and the U.S. Army denied public access to over 30,000 pages of pretrial court documents in the 18 months preceding the trial, before the U.S. Army released roughly 500 pretrial records on the third day of Manning’s trial.

Even the unofficial contemporaneous transcripts of open sessions provided and published at their own expense by the Freedom of the Press Foundation do not contain the information hidden by the government underneath the black redactions of classified stipulations from eight Department of State witnesses concerning 117 charged cables.

When the director of the counterespionage division at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Dan Lewis, testified in a closed session away from the public earlier this month, aluminum-foil wrap and carpeted poster board covered the courtroom windows to prevent anyone from picking up sound vibrations from his testimony on their surface.

Since the court ruled that motive and actual damage (or “lack of damage”) evidence was not relevant at trial (except to prove circumstantially that Manning was cognizant of the fact that the enemy used the WikiLeaks website), evidence of Manning’s intent and the impact of the leaks will finally be heard by the court at sentencing. It remains to be seen, however, how much of the sentencing phase of this trial will be open to the public, since the government is expected to elicit testimony from 13 classified sentencing witnesses in closed sessions or in classified stipulations for their sentencing case.

In late May, the prosecution noted that three classified damage assessments would be used as evidence at sentencing. Two of the damage assessments from the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA), Information Review Task Force (IRTF), and the Office of the Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX) are known to be in the form of classified summaries.

While an accused has a right to see evidence used against him at trial, military prosecutors did not want Manning to have access to the original damage assessments. The form of the third damage assessment is unknown, but defensestipulated that if the third damage assessment was in its original form, only defense counsel would have access to the original. Manning would not.

The third damage assessment is likely from the Department of State, although prosecutors produced for the defense an FBI impact statement and two CIA damage assessments (including one from its WikiLeaks Task Force during the pretrial.

One month after Manning was arrested in Iraq in 2010, then–Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the director of the DIA, Ronald Burgess, to assemble an IRTF to lead a comprehensive review of the documents allegedly disclosed to WikiLeaks in order to “make determinations about whether or not any TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures] [had] been exposed, and whether or not any adjustments need[ed] to be made, in light of that exposure,” according to then–Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

The task force—led by counterintelligence expert Brig. Gen. Robert Carr— was made up of 80 people including intelligence analysts and counterintelligence experts from the DIA; U.S. Pacific Command; U.S. Central Command; and the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, which is responsible for managing the ongoing Department of Defense investigation into WikiLeaks. Other interagency partners included the FBI and the Army Criminal Investigation Command. Carr will testify for the prosecution at sentencing in a closed session or classified stipulation, as will two other individuals from the DIA: Col. Julian Chestnut and John Kirchhofer, who holds the civilian rank of defense intelligence senior level for counterintelligence and human intelligence.

In mid-summer 2010 the Department of State began working with the IRTF to “review any purported State material in the release and provide an assessment, as well as a summary of the overall effect the WikiLeaks release could have on relations with the host country,” said Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary for management at the Department of State, when he testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in March 2011.

By the end of the summer of 2010, the IRTF had gone through 70,000 documentsalready published by WikiLeaks. According to an early pretrial defense filing, the IRTF concluded “that all the information allegedly leaked was either dated, represented low-level opinions, or was commonly understood and known due to previous public disclosures.”

At that time, Gates wrote a letter to the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, stating that the initial assessment of the IRTF “in no way discount[ed] the risk to national security; however, the review to date ha[d] not revealed any sensitive source and methods comprised by this exposure.”

Last week, the defense tried to establish through Benkler’s testimony that “overwrought” and “shrill” rhetoric by government officials in the wake of the WikiLeaks releases was responsible for driving the enemy to the WikiLeaks website. The government’s response, said Coombs, is what changed WikiLeaks from being a “legitimate journalistic organization” to a “terrorist organization.”

ONCIX, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, together with the Information Security Oversight Office, which is responsible for oversight of the government-wide classification system, led a separate review of how federal agencies handled classified information in the wake of the 2010 WikiLeaks disclosures.

The ONCIX damage assessment was the result of a November 2010 memo by Jacob Lew, director of the Executive Office of Management and Budget, titled “WikiLeaks Mishandling of Classified Info.” The memo was addressed to the heads of every federal agency requiring that they assemble mitigations teams to conduct internal reviews of “security practices with respect to the protection of  classified information” at their agencies.

subsequent questionnaire required these mitigation teams to audit among other items whether agencies “capture evidence of pre-employment and/or post-employment activities or participation in on-line media data mining sites like WikiLeaks or Open Leaks.”

The WikiLeaks Mitigation Team at the Department of State was one of the working groups established in response to then–OMB Director Jack Lew’s directives in November 2010 and January 2011. That team reported to Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, who is also expected to testify for the prosecution in a closed session or classified stipulation during the sentencing phase of Manning’s trial. Kennedy is the original classification authority for the 117 charged diplomatic cables, and Diplomatic Security Services that partnered with the Departments of Defense and Justice in the investigation of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Manning report directly to him.

The director of Counterintelligence and Consular Support in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) was responsible for authoring the August 2011 Department of State “draft” damage assessment. In June 2012, Assistant Secretary for INR Catherine Brown testified that she edited the Department of State damage assessment and reported directly to Kennedy.

The government’s response, the defense argued, is what changed WikiLeaks from being a ‘legitimate journalistic organization’ to a ‘terroristic organization.’

The author of the Department of State damage assessment is also the agency’sprimary liaison with the FBI, a partner in the ongoing multiagency investigation of WikiLeaks.

It was Kennedy who testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in March 2011 about what steps the Department of State took in response to the WikiLeaks publication of diplomatic cables. Kennedy alsotestified to Congress in late November and early December of 2010.

A congressional official, who was briefed by the Department of State at that time, told Reuters that “the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers.”

Reuters reported that internal reviews said that the release of diplomatic cables and “tens of thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan” had “caused only limited damage to U.S. interests abroad, despite the Obama administration’s public statements to the contrary.”

“We were told [the impact of WikiLeaks revelations] was embarrassing but not damaging,” a congressional aide told Reuters.

In addition to Kennedy, Ambassador Michael Kozak, whose bureau was responsible for standing up the WikiLeaks Persons at Risk Group, will also testify in a closed session or by classified stipulation, as will Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Dibble and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs John Feeley.

 

 

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Since January 2011, Alexa O’Brien has covered the WikiLeaks release of US State Department Cables, JTF memoranda known as the ‘GTMO files’,  revolutions across Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen, as well as the prosecution of Bradley Manning and the US investigation into WikiLeaks. She has interviewed a preeminent US foreign policy expert on the Cambodia cables, and published hours of interviews with former GTMO guards, detainees, defense lawyers, and human rights activists, as well as WikiLeaks media partners: Andy Worthington, a GTMO historian and author, and Atanas Tchobanov, the Balkanleaks’ spokesman and co-editor of Bivol.bg.

As a result of her work covering the Global War on Terror; the 2011 revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa; and her extramural activities helping to organize the original occupation of Wall Street in New York and five other American cities on September 17, 2011, the U.S. Government and private security contractors attempted to falsely link her and a campaign finance reform group, which she helped found to Al Qaeda and ‘cyber-terrorists’.

She subsequently became party to a lawsuit brought against the Obama administration for Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act FY2012 with author Chris Hedges and five other plaintiffs. Section 1021(b)(2) allows for the indefinite detention without trial or charges of anyone, who by mere suspicion alone are deemed by the Executive to be terrorist sympathizers.

Her testimony and submissions were central to U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest’s ruling granting a permanent injunction on Section 1021(b)(2). In June, the 2nd Circuit is expected to rule on the Department of Justice’s midnight appeal of Forrest’s September 2012 injunction.

For a year and a half, she has produced the only available pre-trial transcripts of Manning’s secret prosecution. She has provided some of only analysis available on his case, a forensically reconstructed appellate exhibit list, witness profiles, and a searchable database of the available court record.

Because of her familiarity with the proceedings and investigative work, she has been able to ‘un-redact’ a selection of court documents.

She was awarded a generous grant by the Freedom of the Press Foundation for her work covering Bradley Manning’s trial, and her work there was shortlisted for the 2013 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.

 

For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at editorial@thedailybeast.com.

Speak Out In praise of whistleblowers


The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” — Patrick Henry

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Star Publisher H. Brandt Ayers’ recent ad hominem attack on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange is unworthy of a paper that advertises itself as an advocate for the defenseless. Whether Edward Snowden, Manning and Assange chose to reveal state secrets because they experienced dysfunctional childhoods is irrelevant. Most adults suffer damage in childhood from their imperfect parents. These men understood what the establishment media doesn’t: that secrecy is anathema to freedom. 

Assange is not an American citizen but Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, acting as true patriots, were faced with a dilemma: When does duty to a higher law necessitate disobeying lesser laws, the higher law here embodied in fulfilling an oath to serve and protect the Constitution? Perhaps if the mainstream media were truly a free press and the government not dominated by Stasi-like freaks, such actions would be unnecessary.

If only we had more men like these, we might rescue this country from fascism. Perhaps only men and women who experienced dysfunctional childhoods should be allowed in government. The “best of the best” diploma-toting, “normal” apparatchiks who run things now don’t seem very responsible, honest or conscientious. After all, as government hacks and sycophants are wont to say, if you don’t have anything to hide why would you mind if I know everything about you?

Dan Hayes
Piedmont

Read more: Anniston Star – Speak Out In praise of whistleblowers

via Anniston Star – Speak Out In praise of whistleblowers.

Manning awaits judge’s word on “aiding the enemy”


A military judge will rule on Thursday whether to drop some charges against Bradley Manning, the US soldier who has admitting giving a massive cache of secret documents to WikiLeaks.

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FORT MEADE, United States/Maryland: A military judge will rule on Thursday whether to drop some charges against Bradley Manning, the US soldier who has admitting giving a massive cache of secret documents to WikiLeaks.

As the espionage trial enters its final stage, Manning’s defence lawyer, David Coombs, renewed his request on Monday for the judge to toss out several counts – including the most serious charge that the soldier “aided the enemy” – on grounds the prosecution has failed to provide incriminating evidence.

Apart from the aiding the enemy count, the defence has asked Judge Denise Lind to toss out charges that Manning committed computer fraud by allegedly exceeding his authorized access and that he allegedly stole government property in his document dump.

The former intelligence analyst in Iraq already has pleaded guilty to ten lesser offenses, acknowledging that he passed hundreds of thousands of military intelligence reports and State Department diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of classified files in American history.

But the trial is focused on whether Manning broke rules governing the use of his computer, violated the Espionage Act by leaking sensitive information that could harm US national security and had the intention of assisting Al-Qaeda through his disclosures.

Coombs said the government has not offered “any evidence” to show that Manning knew the leaked files could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda militants.

To say that “he should have known” was not sufficient, Coombs said.

“There should have been something more than simply that,” he said.

The judge has said the government must prove Manning had “actual knowledge” that his leak would aid the enemy, either directly or indirectly.

At Monday’s proceedings, Coombs sought to counter the government’s allegation that Manning committed computer fraud by downloading classified documents using a program known as Wget.

The defence says Manning already had access to the data he downloaded because of his job as an intelligence analyst and that he used the Wget program simply to speed up the download.

Manning, 25, faces a possible life sentence on the aiding the enemy charge and a total of more than 140 years if found guilty on all counts.

The prosecution rested its case after five weeks and the defence presented its case in three days of testimony last week.

The judge also is due to rule on the scope of the prosecution’s planned “rebuttal” to the evidence put forward by the defence.

Manning has become a folk hero to his supporters who see him as a crusading whistle-blower trying to expose the excesses of US foreign policy.

But his critics say Manning betrayed his soldier’s oath and portray him as a reckless traitor who undermined US diplomacy and endangered lives with his leak.

via Manning awaits judge’s word on “aiding the enemy” – Channel NewsAsia.

Suspicions Growing Over Death of Journalist Probing NSA and CIA Abuses


Weeks after the fiery death of investigative journalist Michael Hastings, who was probing abuses by the CIA and NSA and had recently informed others that he was being investigated by federal authorities, suspicions about his mysterious car crash are still swirling around the Internet. While police officially ruled the death an “accident,” serious questions are still surfacing — even in the establishment media and among prominent officials. Based on e-mails Hastings sent out shortly before he died about working on a “big story” and needing to go “off the radar,” it has become clear that he was worried, too.

Hastings, who wrote for Rolling Stone, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and other publications, was probably best known for his award-winning 2010 article “The Runaway General.” The piece helped bring down U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Despite his establishment credentials and what analysts called his “Democrat-friendly” reporting, Hastings had become extremely alarmed about the “surveillance state” and other troubling developments in recent months. His last published story: “Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans.”

When the Obama administration was exposed spying on journalists earlier this year, the investigative reporter blasted what he referred to as the president’s “war” on journalism. “The Obama administration has clearly declared war on the press. It has declared war on investigative journalists — our sources,” he said during a recent TV interview, blasting the administration’s lawless behavior, obsession with secrecy, and vicious persecution of whistleblowers. Beyond simple criticism, though, Hastings openly said it was time for journalists to fight back.

“I think the only recourse to this kind of behavior by the government is to say back to the government, ‘we declare war on you,’ and from this point forward, we should no longer — the media as a whole — cooperate in any manner with the government,” he continued. “We should withdraw all our cooperation and we should publish everything we know, because it’s a free press, it’s not a free-except-for-when-the-government-tells-me-to-do-it press, and we’ve been way too easygoing with these guys.”

Less than 24 hours before his death, Hastings made it crystal clear that he was concerned about his own well-being. In an e-mail sent to numerous contacts and his employer, for example, Hastings noted: “The Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates.’” He also said that if authorities show up, it “may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.” The subject line read: “FBI investigation re: NSA.” Perhaps most alarming of all, the e-mail concluded with this: “Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.”

While some friends and family members are reportedly too frightened to speak out, at least one recipient of the e-mail has gone public. Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who became friends with Hastings while the journalist was embedded with his unit in Afghanistan in 2008, told KTLA that the “very panicked” message “alarmed me very much.” According to Biggs, “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me.”

Biggs has spoken to Fox News and other major media outlets as well, saying Hastings was working on “the biggest story yet” about the CIA and that Hastings’ wife vowed to “take down whoever did this.” Apparently Hastings “drove like a grandma.” In an extended interview with radio host Alex Jones, Biggs also said he knew Hastings was receiving “death threats” from military brass. The retired staff sergeant added that he was extremely suspicious about his friend’s death and vowed to do everything in his power to find out what happened.

Heavy-hitters from the government sector have expressed concerns, too. Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke, for example, told The Huffington Post in late June that the deadly car crash was “consistent with a car cyber-attack.” Intelligence agencies for major powers — including the U.S. government — almost certainly know how to remotely seize control of a car, he added.

“What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag,” Clarke continued. “You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard…. So if there were a cyber-attack on the car — and I’m not saying there was — I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.”

So far, the FBI has denied that it was investigating Hastings. However, on June 19, the day after the mysterious crash, WikiLeaks released what has been interpreted as a bomb-shell to some analysts monitoring the investigation. “Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him,” the whistleblowing organization said through its official Twitter account, sparking worldwide press coverage. The allegation has not been independently confirmed.

According to the official investigation of the crash, Hastings ran a red light and was driving over 100 miles per hour in his brand-new Mercedes in the early morning when he suddenly crashed into a tree, causing his car to burst into a bizarre fiery inferno. The engine was found more than 150 feet from the wreck. Local news outlets in California, meanwhile, are reporting that the police report is still not publicly available and that officials have been ordered not to comment on the case. The crash itself has also been ringing alarm bells among experts and analysts.

On San Diego 6 News, national security reporter Kimberly Dvorak, for example, recently took to the air and talked about her conversations with sources surrounding the crash after spending a day in Los Angeles investigating. Noting that the police report was not available, she said law enforcement and fire department officials refused to comment, with some saying they had been instructed not to say anything. “That kind of stands out; we look at the NSA, the government says if you have nothing to hide, don’t worry,” she said.

Military officials, meanwhile, told Dvorak that the fire was “extremely hot” and “not something we normally see,” the reporter continued. The fact that the engine was between 150 and 250 feet behind the car was also strange, according to university physics professors she spoke with — it should have been in front, if anything. Another interesting fact highlighted in the report: There were no skid marks at the accident scene.

Mercedes, she added, insists that their cars do not blow up. In fact, the company has a reputation for building some of the safest cars in the world, but Mercedes has not yet been contacted by authorities, according to a statement. Citing a 2010 study from a California university, Dvorak also noted that it is possible to “hack into the car system and operate the accelerator, the brakes, windshield wipers, light, steering,” and more using a simple iPad.

Car experts have also expressed skepticism about the official narrative. “I’m here to state that I’ve seen dozens of cars hit walls and stuff at high speeds and the number of them that I have observed to eject their powertrains and immediately catch massive fire is, um, ah, zero,” noted Jack Baruth, editor of The Truth About Cars. “Modern cars are very good at not catching fire in accidents. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is an evolutionary design from a company known for sweating the safety details over and above the Euro NCAP requirements, should be leading the pack in the not-catching-on-fire category.”

“Nor is the C-Class known for sudden veering out of control into trees and whatnot,” continued Baruth, who has a professional racing license as well. “Mr. Hastings’ aggressively Democrat-friendly storytelling has the Internet already considering the idea that his death was engineered somehow. I can’t say it’s totally unlikely. As noted above, the reported (and videotaped) behavior of the C250 was not in line with what we’d expect.”

It would not be the first time that a prominent journalist taking on the establishment has died under suspicious circumstances. Conservative-leaning alternative-media giant Andrew Breitbart, for example, promised to reveal information that would destroy the Obama machine. Shortly before the highly anticipated release, the 43-year-old died of “heart failure.” Two months later, the county coroner who conducted Breitbart’s autopsy was poisoned. Before that, investigative journalist Gary Webb, who exposed CIA cocaine trafficking, supposedly “committed suicide” with two bullets to the head after publicly expressing his concerns that he would be killed. The list could go on.

Of course, it is now common knowledge that the administration believes it can extra-judicially murder anyone — including Americans — whom Obama claims is a threat to the “Homeland.” No charges or trial are required, and indeed, the president has already openly murdered Americans like Anwar al Awlaki and his young son without even charging them with a crime — let alone securing a conviction by a jury in a court of law. Whether Hastings was murdered remains uncertain, but there is little doubt that the circumstances of his death were extremely suspicious.

Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at anewman@thenewamerican.com.

via Suspicions Growing Over Death of Journalist Probing NSA and CIA Abuses.

Why Are Leakors Investigated or Punished Without Reason?


There are very critical issues missing from news reports about the U.S. government’s protection of so called classified information and its pursuit of that data’s leakors.

Who classified the data; why; and how is that classification valid?

Scores of news reports have focused on so called classified information leaked out in thousands of documents by WikiLeaks, its agents and entirely separately by Edward Snowden, who exposed the National Security Agency’s massive domestic surveillance program.

Those news reports generally discuss the kind of information disclosed. But, no government agent is quoted as specifically justifying why the data became secret in the first place or who decided it should be so classified.

If leakors of so called classified information are to be charged with crimes or heavily criticized in the news media, that information is crucial to protect the accused. As well, the public needs to be assured that those classifying information as secret have not done so simply to cover up their own mistakes or the government’s crucial and intentional errors.

Federal prosecutors are in the midst of a court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst on a charge of aiding the enemy for sending thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. They are still pursuing Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for his role in widely publishing such documents.

Now, according to news reports, federal authorities are separately investigating Snowden, a 29-year-old defense contractor, for leaking documents and data about the classified domestic surveillance program to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post.

Missing from most daily news reports on the leaks of secrecy issues headlined for months worldwide is this crucial issue. Where is the U.S. government’s proof that the hordes of data at the center of these controversies is properly classified? Where is the valid explanation that each and every one of the documents in question has any information that needs a security classification? And, is there any motivation to cover up data embarrassing to the government, its hired security companies or their employees by simply classifying it?

Here is but one big area of doubt created in the title of a detailed article inside George Washington University’s version of the National Security Archive: “Systematic Overclassification of Defense Information Poses Challenge for President Obama’s Security Review.” The article discloses reams of overclassified data in decades of government documents.http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb281/index.htm

It points out that: Pentagon classification authorities are treating classified historical documents as if they contain today’s secrets, rather than decades-old information that has not been secret for many years.

Here is the legal definition of secret data: USC – 834 – “Classified information” defined:. the term “classified information” means information which, for reasons of national security, is specifically designated by a United States Government agency for limited or restricted dissemination or distribution.

It would seem logical and simply fair that every single classified document needs accountability and identification from the source or sources classifying it. They need to reveal exactly why it is or was classified, and why that so called classification is valid or still valid. Even legally classified documents need to be constantly monitored to assure their top secret, secret and confidential classifications are still valid today.

via OpEdNews – Article: Why Are Leakors Investigated or Punished Without Reason?.

Edward Snowden offered asylum by Venezuelan president


Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro said on Friday he had decided to offer asylum to former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has petitioned several countries to avoid capture by Washington.

“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Maduro told a televised military parade marking Venezuela‘s independence day.

The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport.

WikiLeaks said on Friday that Snowden had applied to six more nations for asylum, bringing to about 20 the number of countries he has asked for protection from US espionage charges.

Maduro said Venezuela was ready to offer him sanctuary, and that the details Snowden had revealed of a US spy program had exposed the nefarious schemes of the US “empire”.

“He has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the US spying on the whole world,” Maduro said.

“Who is the guilty one? A young man … who denounces war plans, or the US government which launches bombs and arms the terrorist Syrian opposition against the people and legitimate president Bashar al-Assad?”

“Who is the terrorist? Who is the global delinquent?”

Russia has shown signs of growing impatience over Snowden’s stay in Moscow. Its deputy foreign minister said on Thursday that Snowden had not sought asylum in that country and needed to choose a place to go.

Moscow has made clear that the longer he stays, the greater the risk of the diplomatic standoff over his fate causing lasting damage to relations with Washington.

Earlier on Friday, Nicaragua said it had received an asylum request from Snowden and could accept the bid “if circumstances permit”, president Daniel Ortega said.

“We are an open country, respectful of the right of asylum, and it’s clear that if circumstances permit, we would gladly receive Snowden and give him asylum in Nicaragua,” Ortega said during a speech in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua.

Ortega, an ally of Venezuelan president Maduro, did not elaborate on the conditions that would allow him to offer asylum to Snowden, who has been at the eye of a diplomatic storm since leaking high-level US intelligence data last month.

Options have been narrowing for Snowden as he seeks a country to shelter him from US espionage charges.

A one-time cold war adversary of the United States, Ortega belongs to a bloc of leftist leaders in Latin America that have frequently taken up antagonistic positions with Washington.

Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, has benefited greatly from financial support from Venezuela, and Ortega was a staunch ally of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez.

via Edward Snowden offered asylum by Venezuelan president | World news | guardian.co.uk.

Latin America rallies behind Bolivia after ‘humiliation’ by Europe


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Latin American leaders slammed European governments for diverting Bolivian President Evo Morales‘ plane on rumours it was carrying a wanted former US spy agency contractor, and announced an emergency summit in a new diplomatic twist to the Edward Snowden saga.

Heads of state from countries including Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay were planning to gather in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in a show of solidarity. The detour was a “humiliation” for the region, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said.

Morales, who was greeted by cheering supporters throwing flowers and waving flags when he arrived at the La Paz airport, blamed his delay on the US and its “servants” in Europe whom he said are trying to “intimidate the people and social groups”.

“This is an open provocation to the continent, not just the president,” Morales said.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was “surprised and amazed” that European governments obstructed Morales’ travel after they condemned the US over Snowden’s allegations that it was spying on allies.

Such behaviour puts at risk dialogue between South America and Europe, she said.

Failure to allow Morales’ plane to fly through airspace of the European countries threatened the security of the people on board, Russia said. The actions of authorities in France, Spain and Portugal was “hardly friendly,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

The international wrangle linked to Snowden took a further twist yesterday when a British private surveillance company denied that it was behind the bugging of the embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living for over a year.

WikiLeaks is trying to assist Snowden, who is believed to be stranded at an airport in Moscow and seeking asylum in a variety of countries including Ecuador.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Wednesday made the allegation against the Surveillance Group.

The Surveillance Group’s chief executive Timothy Young rejected Patino’s allegation as “completely untrue”.

“The Surveillance Group does not and has never been engaged in any activities of this nature,” Young said.

Patino described the Surveillance Group as “one of the biggest private investigation and undercover surveillance companies in the United Kingdom”.

On its website, the company says its clients include British law enforcement, other government bodies and financial institutions.

Surveillance experts have described the bugging device that Ecuador says was hidden behind a plug socket in its London embassy as rudimentary and unlikely to have been the work of the British police or security services.

Yesterday, France said it was rejecting a request for political asylum from Snowden, the Interior Ministry said in a statement in Paris.

via Latin America rallies behind Bolivia after ‘humiliation’ by Europe | South China Morning Post.

With Snowden believed to be stuck at a Moscow airport, mysteries about his case abound


“Putin said Monday that Snowden could stay in Russia on condition he stop leaking U.S. secrets. Putin’s spokesman later said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after learning the terms”

MOSCOW — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow on an Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong on June 23, according to the airline, but he has been out of the public eye and his circumstances and plans are murky. Snowden is believed to have remained in the airport’s transit zone, caught in legal limbo after his U.S. passport was annulled by Washington. Here is a look at some of the mysteries surrounding the case of the world’s most famous fugitive.

WHY DID SNOWDEN LEAVE HONG KONG?

The Hong Kong government was believed to be trying to persuade Snowden to leave in order to remove a major irritant in relations with the United States. And Snowden apparently feared that the government could hold him in custody if he stayed and fought a U.S. extradition request.

Albert Ho, a local legislator, said he inquired on behalf of Snowden whether he could remain free pending the outcome or leave Hong Kong if he chose to do so. Ho said officials never got back to him with an answer, but an intermediary who claimed to represent the government sent a message to Snowden saying he was free to leave — and should do so.

WHY RUSSIA?

President Vladimir Putin relishes defying the United States, accusing Washington of trying to dominate global affairs. When Snowden was still in hiding in Hong Kong, Putin’s spokesman said Russia would consider granting him asylum if he asked for it.

Snowden could have seen Russia as a safe haven that would not send him to the U.S. under any circumstances. Putin so far has met his expectations, bluntly rejecting Washington’s expulsion request.

WHERE IS SNOWDEN NOW?

Putin says Snowden remains in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and hasn’t crossed the Russian border, a statement repeated by other Russian officials. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa told the AP that the country’s ambassador had seen Snowden once in Moscow. Hordes of journalists have besieged the airport, including a nearby hotel that has a wing for transit passengers, but none has seen Snowden or talked to him since his arrival and there have been no photographs of him.

Some security experts have speculated that Snowden could be in the hands of Russian intelligence agencies eager to learn the secrets he possesses. Putin has flatly denied that Russia’s special services have debriefed Snowden.

WHAT IS SNOWDEN’S RELATIONSHIP WITH WIKILEAKS?

Snowden didn’t turn to the secret-spilling website to warn the world of the NSA’s massive surveillance program, saying he wanted to deal with journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be made public and what should be held back.

But it didn’t take long for WikiLeaks to adopt Snowden and his cause, jumping in to offer its assistance as a kind of renegade travel agency. WikiLeaks’ role as Snowden’s unofficial handler doesn’t sit well with some, including Snowden’s father, who has expressed frustration that the organization may not be giving his son the best advice.

WHO IS WITH HIM?

WikiLeaks says its legal adviser Sarah Harrison is with Snowden, “escorting him at all times.” Harrison has been equally elusive. WikiLeaks said that on Sunday she delivered Snowden’s request for asylum to 21 countries, including Russia, to the Russian consulate at the Moscow airport.

HOW DID HE GET STUCK?

WikiLeaks initially said Snowden was bound for Ecuador, where he has requested asylum. He booked an Aeroflot flight to Cuba — presumably as a transfer point — the day after his arrival in Moscow, but he didn’t show up and his seat remained empty. The U.S. annulment of Snowden’s passport, which has made it impossible for him to legally cross the Russian border or board a plane, could have been a reason behind the change in plans.

He also could have been concerned that the U.S. would force the plane to land while flying over U.S. airspace or felt uncertain about his final destination.

WHO MIGHT OFFER HIM SHELTER?

Putin said Monday that Snowden could stay in Russia on condition he stop leaking U.S. secrets. Putin’s spokesman later said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after learning the terms.

Ecuador, which has sheltered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its embassy in London for more than a year, has given mixed signals about offering him shelter.

Bolivia, whose president attended a summit of gas exporters in Moscow this week, has been seen as a possible safe haven. The plane carrying President Evo Morales home from Moscow was rerouted and delayed in Austria. Bolivia says it is because of suspicions Snowden was on board, though Bolivian and Austrian officials both say Snowden was not on the plane.

Another potential option is Venezuela, whose president attended the same energy summit in Moscow and made a stopover in neighboring Belarus on Wednesday.

ARE THERE MORE LEAKS COMING?

It’s quite possible. Snowden said his work as an NSA systems analyst allowed him to take in a huge range of material, and U.S. officials have given conflicting assessments of how much information he may have had access to. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she had been told Snowden had perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents.

Assange has promised more leaks, saying measures have been taken to prevent anyone from blocking publication of more NSA documents in Snowden’s possession.

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist whose work has been central to breaking the story, suggested media organizations involved already had all the material Snowden wanted to make public. Greenwald indicated it was up to the newspapers what to publish and when.

Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.

via With Snowden believed to be stuck at a Moscow airport, mysteries about his case abound.

Snowden applies for political asylum in Russia


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Vladimir Putin has for the first time floated the idea of United States whistleblower Edward Snowden remaining in Russia, hours after the fugitive applied for political asylum in the country.

Mr Snowden applied for asylum at the consular office at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport at 10:30pm last Sunday evening through his WikiLeaks handler, Sarah Harrison, a consular official said.

“The UK citizen Sarah Harrison passed on a request by Edward Snowden to be granted political asylum,” said Kim Shevchenko, of the airport’s consular department. He said he then called the foreign ministry, who sent a courier an hour later to pick up the request.

He declined to say where Ms Harrison or Mr Snowden, who have not been seen since landing in Sheremetyevo last week, were staying. “She didn’t say and I didn’t ask,” he said.

‘Our American partners’

In a move likely to enrage the US, Mr Putin said yesterday: “If he wants to go somewhere and someone will take him, go ahead. If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his work aimed at bringing harm to our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my mouth.”

Mr Snowden has been in the airport since June 23rd, after flying in from Hong Kong, from where he leaked secret documents detailing US National Security Agency surveillance programmes.

Stripped of his US passport, he has been stuck in limbo since.

His attempts to get political asylum in Ecuador, whose London embassy is sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, appear to have dried up amid intense US lobbying and reported disagreements within the Ecuadorean government.

Snowden met Russian diplomats yesterday morning and handed them a list of 15 countries to which he would like to apply for political asylum, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an unnamed source in the foreign ministry.

Mr Putin appeared to leave himself some latitude, noting Mr Snowden would be unlikely to meet his conditions for staying in Russia.

“Considering that he considers himself a human rights activist and a fighter for human rights, he probably doesn’t plan to stop this work, so he should choose a host country and head there,” Mr Putin said.

“When this will happen I, unfortunately, do not know.”

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of gas exporting countries, he reiterated that Russia would not extradite Mr Snowden to the US.

“Russia never gives anyone up and doesn’t plan to give anyone up. And no one has ever given us anyone.”

‘Snowden is not our agent’

For the second time Mr Putin, unprompted, insisted Mr Snowden was not working with Russia’s secret services. “Mr Snowden is not our agent, never was and isn’t today. Our special services have never worked with him and are not working with him.”

Russia maintains one of the world’s most developed intelligence mechanisms and is widely believed to engage in snooping on its own citizens.

Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan president, is in Moscow for the two-day gas conference and it was believed he and Mr Putin would discuss Mr Snowden’s fate.

Mr Putin’s foreign policy advisor, Yury Ushakov, said the two had not discussed Mr Snowden yet.

A campaign calling for Mr Snowden to stay in Russia has gathered momentum since he first arrived in Moscow. Yesterday morning, several MPs and influential Russians floated the idea during a meeting of the Public Chamber, a body that advises the Kremlin.

“It’s not right that Snowden is sitting in this terminal like in a prison,” said Sergei Markov, a former MP with close ties to the Kremlin.

“Unlike prison, he can’t even go out and breathe fresh air. On humanitarian grounds, I think he should be presented with a way to enter Russian territory.”

– (Guardian service)

via Snowden applies for political asylum in Russia – US News | Latest US News Headlines | The Irish Times – Tue, Jul 02, 2013.

The No-Show – By Anna Nemtsova


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.

via The No-Show – By Anna Nemtsova | Foreign Policy.

White House ‘Insider Threat’ program reportedly equates whistleblowing with spying | The Verge


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.

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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.

via White House ‘Insider Threat’ program reportedly equates whistleblowing with spying | The Verge.

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange pushes Snowden bid for Ecuador asylum


WikiLeaks has brokered an offer of political asylum in Ecuador for United States intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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.

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“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.”

via WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange pushes Snowden bid for Ecuador asylum.

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