Edward Snowden Issues Bizarre Statement Via Wikileaks

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I’ve been following the endless Edward Snowden soap opera just about non-stop for the past few days. I wish I were capable of writing a reasoned, logically argued post right now, but I’m not. This whole story has just become too crazy. I just can’t guarantee that this post will make a lot of sense, so I’ll just begin by posting Snowden’s statement. I’ve added emphasis to a few passages.

Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

Monday July 1, 21:40 UTC

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America have [sic] been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

I’m mystified by this statement. Snowden could have stayed here in the U.S. and fought against the government actions that he claims are criminal. He could have followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther King by accepting the consequences of civil disobedience. He would have probably have gotten a great deal of support from the public if he had done so. Instead he chose to flee first to China and then to Russia–two countries with far worse domestic spying and human rights records than the U.S. And now he’s whining about the consequences of his fleeing.

President Obama did not promise not to take any actions to interfere with Snowden’s life. He indicated that he wasn’t going to do something as dramatic as bringing down Snowden’s plane or go to extreme lengths to negotiate with Russia or some other country for his return.  Snowden’s naivete is amazing. World leaders engage in deception. Countries spy on each other. When you reveal secret information stolen from your government you are engaging in espionage and you become a spy.

Because neither Snowden nor Glenn Greenwald has a coherent political ideology, neither of them is able to make a clear political argument to define and defend Snowden’s actions in reasonable, logical ways. So what we get is whining from Snowden and defensiveness and trumped up outrage from Greenwald and his followers.

Snowden apparently sees himself as a tragic martyr who should be applauded for “revealing the truth.”  He has the gall to compare himself to whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Thomas Drake who faced the consequences of their actions by pleading guilty to crimes. We don’t know yet what the upshot of Manning’s case will be, but Drake is not “powerless.” He served no jail time, and now he is free to make appearances and share his opinions freely. Furthermore, Snowden hasn’t been exiled. I’m sure he could work out a deal to return to the U.S. and face the music. But he doesn’t seem to think the rules apply to him.

As for Greenwald, he has such tunnel vision that he appears to believe that he can simply state that Snowden is a hero who has revealed the most important secret information in American history–and somehow this is so. Anyone who objects or simply asks mild questions about the “revelations” is  an enemy to be dismissed and attacked by legions of Greenwald fans who possess endless reserves of inchoate outrage. As I’ve said before, they remind of the Obot hoards of 2008.

If nothing else, Snowden’s leaks have gotten people talking about what the NSA is doing, although I have no idea if there is serious discussion of the actual content of the leaks outside the of people who closely follow the news and argue with each other on the internet. I have no idea if this episode will end with Americans being more knowledgeable about the government’s domestic spying programs.

The articles written about the leaked documents by Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian and Barton Gellman at the Washington Post have so far been confusing at best. Neither writer seems to have consulted with security and computer experts who could have helped them do a better job of explaining how the NSA programs work. I’ve gotten a much clearer understanding from reading Kurt Eichenwald’s blog at Vanity Fair.

Poor Ed. He’s learning that now that the information is out there, he is no longer that important. Ecuador doesn’t want to deal with him. Even Vladimir Putin has tired of using him to humiliate the Obama administration. Today he announced that Snowden could stay in Russia if he stopped leaking information designed to hurt the U.S.

Glenn Greenwald has also washed his hands of Snowden. Shortly after Putin made that announcement, Greenwald tweeted that “Snowden’s leak is basically done. It’s newspapers – not Snowden – deciding what gets disclosed and in what sequence.” Apparently Glenn is finished with Snowden too. That must have felt like a dagger through poor Ed’s heart.

We’ve learned that Snowden sent copies of the documents he stole to “many different people around the world,” so that he could continue to control the information. But it appears that someone–perhaps Wikileaks–must have all of it now, and Julian Assange has also said that nothing will stop publication of all of Snowden’s files now.

Snowden has become an object of pity at this point. And his whining about his situation isn’t going to help him look like a “hero.” He made the choice to leave his family, his home, and his girlfriend and run away from the consequences of his actions. President Obama did not do that to him.

Please discuss, or use this as an open thread.

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“If this is transparency, who needs it?”

“If this is transparency, who needs it?” Steven Aftergood, Director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, speaking of the Obama Administration’s White House visitor log policy, the results of which he labeled “very thin gruel” (Apr. 13, 2011).

“A White House official conceded the system has limitations, asserting it was designed not as an archive but ‘first and foremost to protect the first family, second family and White House staff while imposing the smallest administrative burden possible.'” POLITICO, “White House Visitor Logs Leave Out Many” (Apr. 15, 2011).

from the site “Quotes of the Month” hosted by American University’s Washington College of Law, Collaboration of Government secrecy.

One of the major Obama campaign promises was to bring more transparency to governing. The English/international version of   Speigel on line has a compelling series up this week called “Disingenuous Transparency”focusing on how government whistle blowers have suffered under the Obama administration.  The series is extremely relevant given that the U.S. government has finally “officially” released the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War as a show of ‘openness’. The article accuses Obama and the administration of stonewalling and basically ignoring court instructions.  The sad thing is that the compelling article filled with compelling examples will probably never reach a large audience.

I have been following the case of Thomas Drake–a former employee of NSA–who is accused of providing the Baltimore Sun with internal information on government wiretapping. Drake’s case predates the more famous case of Bradley Manning and Wikileaks.  There have been other cases.

In May 2010, a court convicted former FBI interpreter Shamai Leibowitz was sentenced to 20 months in prison for providing government information to a blogger.  Another prosecuted whistle blower of Stephen Kim who was  a North Korea expert at the State Department.  Kim supposedly supplied state secrets to Fox News. Another high profile case is that of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling who allegedly provided information to author James Risen a 2006 exposé entitled  “State of War.”    The Obama Justice Department has prosecuted these cases to the fullest extent possible.

The Drake case fell apart in a similar way that the charges of Oliver North fell apart during the Iran-Contra Scandal of the 1980s.  It was felt that the prosecution of Drake would expose too much national security information. Drake accepted a plea of misdemeanor charges for “exceeding his authorized use of a government computer”.  Again, the tie back to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers is relevant.

But the government withdrew the evidence supporting several of the central charges after a judge ruled Drake would not be able to defend himself unless the government revealed details about one of the National Security Agency’s telecommunications collection programs. On two other counts, documents the government had claimed were classified have either been shown to be labeled unclassified when Drake accessed them or have since been declassified. Faced with the prospect of trying to convict a man for leaking unclassified information, the government frantically crafted a plea deal in the last days before the case was due to go to trial.

The collapse of the case against Drake may have repercussions beyond just this one case.

This is the third time the government’s attempt to use the Espionage Act to criminalize ordinary leaking has failed in spectacular fashion. The first such example—against Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg—got dismissed when the government’s own spying on Ellsberg was exposed.

Spiegal characterizes this case as “an embarrassing setback for the White House”.  It seems that the candidate that promised translucency is fighting to keep secrets at a pace previously never experienced.  That says a lot given the paranoia of Nixon and the fierce defense of the so-called imperial presidency by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Under Obama, more whistleblowers are being held accountable than in all previous decades. Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the Associated Press that the US government is going after whistleblowers “very, very aggressively.”

Government whistle blowers are supposedly protected by an act of Congress passed in 1989 called The Whistle Blower’s Protection Act. It was designed to encourage government employees to step forward with instances of government abuse that they’ve witnessed. You’ll notice the date roughly corresponds to the time the Iran-Contra situation was fresh.   Since then, the law has been weakened.

“It is no surprise that honest citizens who witness waste, fraud and abuse in national security programs but lack legal protections are silenced or forced to turn to unauthorized methods to expose malfeasance, incompetence or negligence,” Stephen Kohn, the executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center wrote in an op-ed contribution to the New York Times on Monday.

He wrote that Congress and the executive branch would be well advised to follow the example of their predecessors. In fact, the first protective law in the US for “whistleblowers” is almost as old as the country itself — it originated in 1778.

Speigal characterizes the Obama administration as having an active policy of “stonewalling” and “blocking” any avenue that would provide a safe path for federal whistle blowers.

The Obama administration also uses other avenues for stonewalling and blocking. At times, those efforts take on grotesque dimensions, as in the case the Pentagon’s September order to pulp the entire first printing run of “Operation Dark Heart.” The memoir by army officer Anthony Shaffer over his time in the Afghanistan war contained what were alleged to be military secrets. The destruction of the 9,500 books cost taxpayers an estimated $47,300. When the second edition was released, 250 passages were blacked out.

This pressure clashes with the increasing openness of the Internet age. Four decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg had to photocopy selected passages from the “Pentagon Papers.” Today, WikiLeaks indiscriminately places tens of thousands of documents on the Web. “It revels in the revelation of ‘secrets’ simply because they are secret,” well-regarded attorney Floyd Abrams, who represented the New York Times in its “Pentagon Papers” case against the government, wrote six months ago in the Wall Street Journal.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Does anyone have a remedy for the sleepies? I recently finished a semester of teaching, and the last couple of days I’ve been extremely groggy. Yesterday I even slept until 10:30AM! It doesn’t help that we haven’t seen the sun in the Boston area for at least a week–it’s dark, dank, and raw out there. It seems a lot more like November than late May. On top of all that my Spring allergies are the worst I’ve ever experienced. So please forgive me if this post makes no sense. On to the news of the day.

Disgraced IMF honcho Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s accuser testified before a New York grand jury today. Immediately following her testimony, Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys announced their determination to spring their client from his cell at Rikers Island Jail.

His lawyers initially proposed a $1 million bail package that was rejected by the court.

Today a new offer that was said to add a private monitoring firm, an electronic bracelet and a guard to the package was put together. The cash component of the bail package remained at $1 million dollars, but the deal now included a guarantee that Strauss-Kahn would remain confined in New York City and not leave his residence except for visits to his doctor or lawyers. His passports and travel documents have already been taken from him.

According to ABC News, police are testing body fluids found in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room for DNA.

ABC News has confirmed that police cut a swath of carpet to test for DNA and swabbed one of the suite’s sinks under a black light that indicated there was potential DNA evidence there.

Apparently Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys plan to claim that their client’s sexual encounter with a hotel maid was “consensual,” but there is a serious problem with that theory in addition to the maid’s testimony.

Investigators also say information downloaded from the suite door’s electronic card reader indicates the maid entered the room and never closed the door. The hotel policy requires maids to leave the door open when cleaning. The open door, they say, is proof that the women entered the room to work, not to engage in consensual sex.

I won’t dwell on this sordid story much longer, but I did want to call your attention to this piece in Time Magazine, which details a number of previous accusations against Strauss-Kahn–along with rumors –gossip about his abusive behavior toward women–that were hushed up until now. How predictable these guys are!

Joseph Cannon’s latest post is a must-read, along with the New Yorker article by Jane Mayer on which the Cannon comments. It’s about the domestic spying by the NSA that went on under Bush and the Obama administration’s heavy handed prosecution of whistleblowers while at the same time protecting the Bush administration criminals. (Minkoff Minx also mentioned Mayer’s article in her morning post yesterday.) Here’s an introduction to the piece by Cannon:

This humble blog spent a lot of time talking about NSA overreach during the controversies over Russell Tice and FISA. Meyer’s piece confirms a long-held suspicion that the real problem wasn’t eavesdropping on telephone calls but automated data-mining of all forms of electronic communication.

Two competing computer systems were designed to take us into this brave new world: ThinThread and Trailblazer. (The system in place now is called Turbulence. Someone at NSA has a strange affection for the letter T — which is also the first letter in totalitarian.) Trailblazer turned out to be a costly boondoggle. ThinThread worked. Originally, it had provisions built in to protect the privacy of American citizens; NSA Director Haybed tossed out those barriers.

Meyer focuses on an NSA whistleblower named Thomas Drake, who tried to blow the whistle on the Trailblazer fiasco — and on the abuses of privacy — to a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, the Committee was headed, at the time, by Porter Goss — and by Nancy Pelosi. They both seemed deaf to what Drake had to say.

Why is Obama so obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers–even to the point of dusting off the Espionage Act? Jane Mayer writes:

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Mayer asked Drake about it:

Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

Check out her article if you can. She’s one of the best investigative reporters we have.

You may have missed Dakinikat’s late night post on Tuesday–the one about exploding watermelons. I thought this story deserved a little more emphasis, because it shows what can happen when there are no government regulations on agriculture–and industry in general (and that is what the Republicans would love to make happen). From Raw Story:

A bizarre wave of exploding watermelons — possibly due to farmers’ abuse of a growth-boosting chemical — has once again spotlighted safety fears plaguing China’s poorly regulated food sector.

State media has said nearly 50 hectares (120 acres) of watermelon crops in the eastern city of Danyang have been ruined by the phenomenon this month after some growers doused them with the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron.

“On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (exploded watermelons), but by the afternoon it was 100,” farmer Liu Mingsuo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in a report that aired Tuesday. He said he had sprayed them with the chemical just a day before.

Remind me to never buy any food produce in China!!

Have you heard that the Obama campaign is selling T-shirts and coffee cups that mock the “birthers?”

President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign today started selling “Made in the USA” t-shirts featuring images of both President Obama and the long-form birth certificate he released copies of last month.

Wear your support for this campaign with an official Made in the USA T-shirt,” his website advertises. Donate $25 or more today and we’ll send you your limited-edition shirt.

Coffee-mugs are also available.

“Remember ‘fight the smears’ from the 2008 campaign?” asked campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “This is the mobile version of it.”

Quite frankly, I think this is a little bit tacky….but that’s just me. And speaking of tasteless behavior, the Catholic Church is attempting to blame the ’60s counterculture for the behavior pedophile priests. From the Guardian UK:

The investigation commissioned by Catholic bishops said that the peak incidence of sexual abuse by priests in the 1960s and 70s reflected the increased level of other deviant behaviours in American society in the period, including “drug use and crime, as well as social changes, such as an increase in premarital sex and divorce.”

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said most of the abusive priests were ordained in the 1940s and 50s and were not properly trained to confront the social upheavals of the 1960s.

David O’Brien, a historian of American Catholicism at the University of Dayton, said the report, Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was dangerous because it seemed to exonerate bishops.

The study also ignores the long history of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy. Methinks these “researchers” told the Catholic Bishops what they wanted to hear rather than do any serious research.

Finally, President Obama plans to give another “most amazing speech evah” tomorrow. This one is on the Middle East and North Africa. According to Voice of America:

The speech will be broad in scope, as Mr. Obama focuses on the peaceful democratic movements for change that have swept the region, discusses implications for U.S. policy, and offers what administration officials call some concrete policy proposals.

He will give his assessment of the impact of popular uprisings that have led to political changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and which continue in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama will speak of a moment of opportunity, after a decade of great tensions and divisions, in which people of the region and U.S. policy can begin to turn the page toward a more positive and hopeful future.

The stalemated Israel-Palestinian peace process will be an important element. However, Mr. Obama is expected to frame it as part of a wider picture and say that leaders on both sides of that conflict should seize an opportunity for peace.

Whatever….I think I’ll arrange to be busy while he’s speechifying. Anyway, what are you reading and blogging about today?