Libby’s Stew-Re: Snowden & 'Casual Abduction of Bolivian Prez'
Gary Leupp in “Here’s What People Think About You, When You Dis Edward Snowden”:
[followup to open letter to Melissa Harris-Perry] Your colleague Rachel Maddow (who often disappoints me too) did a nice segment last night on the harassment of Bolivian president Evo Morales as he tried, aboard his presidential plane, to return home to La Paz from Moscow.
Because the Obama administration suspected that the plane carried Snowden, it demanded that allies including France and Spain deny it entry into their airspace en route to Portugal, where it would refuel. So the plane had to land in Austria. (“Austria, of all places,” said Rachel with a quizzical look, although she might have noted that Austria is formally a neutral country, not in NATO and maybe less subject to U.S. diktat.)
There it was searched by the Spanish ambassador to Austria, among others, who determined that Snowden wasn’t there, while the Bolivian president was detained 13 hours before his plane was allowed to return home.They are that determined to capture Snowden. To do so, Obama was willing to humiliate the leader of a sovereign state and infuriate all of Latin America. It’s like this elected leader of a Third World country (Bolivia’s first Aymara president), was pulled over to the side of the world by the global cop, who searched his vehicle while dissing him and of course, afterwards, no apologies. Indeed, no comment at all from the U.S. State Department.
In any case the detention of Morales was a clear warning to Venezuela or any other country not to try bringing Snowden out. (I’d been thinking he could take the regular flight from Moscow to Tehran, and then fly on to Caracas from there. But Obama has made it clear that the U.S. can prevent that by pressuring countries to close their air space to any aircraft suspected to be transporting the whistle-blower.)
Rachel Maddow called it “bizarre.” It’s more than that. It’s so hugely wrong that if you can’t see that, your moral compass is out of kilter.
John Pilger in "Air Piracy Over Europe":
Imagine the aircraft of the President of France being forced down in Latin America on “suspicion” that it was carrying a political refugee to safety – and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.
Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the “international community”, as the governments of the West call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.
The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane — denied air space by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to “inspect” his aircraft for the “fugitive” Edward Snowden — was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name.
Those paid to keep the record straight have played their part with a cat-and-mouse media game that reinforces the Godfather’s lie that this heroic young man is running from a system of justice, rather than preordained, vindictive incarceration that amounts to torture: ask Bradley Manning and the living ghosts in Guantanamo.
Historians seem to agree that the rise of fascism in Europe might have been averted had the liberal or left political class understood the true nature of its enemy. The parallels today are very different; but the Damocles sword over Snowden, like the casual abduction of the Bolivian president, ought to stir us into recognising the true nature of the enemy.
.... Unprecedented, Germany’s Der Spiegel has described the Obama administration as “soft totalitarianism”. If the penny is finally falling, we might all look closer to home.
Thomas Gaist in “US escalates threats against governments considering asylum for Snowden”:
Top US officials escalated their threats over the weekend against any government that grants asylum to Edward Snowden, the source of leaks detailing illegal government surveillance programs directed at the population of the United States and the entire world.
These threats are in line with the international campaign of thuggery and intimidation launched by the Obama administration in response to the revelations of secret programs that involve the collection of communications on hundreds of millions of people all over the world.
Regarding the downing of Morales’s plane, more information has emerged making clear that the US was behind the action. Latin American media have reported that a US diplomat spread rumors that Snowden was on board the flight, prompting the efforts to force a landing. The Austrian newspaper Die Presse reported that US Ambassador to Austria William Eacho “claimed with great certainty that Edward Snowden was onboard.”
Maduro reported that he was personally informed by a European minister that “it was the CIA that gave the order to the air traffic authorities, which gave the alert that Snowden was going in the plane.” While the details surrounding the forced landing remain unclear, it is in blatant violation of international law.
The downing of Morales’s plan makes clear that Snowden will face enormous obstacles as he attempts to travel to any asylum-granting country, even if he receives approval from its government..
Moreover, any asylum granted from Venezuela or any other Latin American country must be seen highly conditional. Latin American heads of state are using the occasion to burnish their images as opponents of US imperialism. However, all these countries are heavily susceptible to US pressure and dependent on the US economy.
In spite of his tough talk, Maduro has made clear that he wants to improve relations with the United States. At the same time, the leader of the main opposition party in Venezuela, Henrique Capriles, has denounced the offer of asylum.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has offered asylum, but it was qualified with the phrase “if circumstances permit.” Political analyst Carlos Fernando Chamorro told the Wall Street Journal, “It is an ambiguous statement, that is consistent with his rhetoric of provoking the US and in practice doing everything to maintain good relations.”
A former Nicaraguan official close to Ortega expressed similar views, saying, “It’s his way of telling the Americans, I was asked to do this, but I’m not going to do it. I know him; it is a way that he can show off his revolutionary credentials, but he won’t do anything in the end.”
Ecuador too has indicated that it would consider asylum, but the country carried out an abrupt about-face after pressure from the US. The Ecuadorian government initially granted Snowden a travel document from Hong Kong to Moscow, but this was later rescinded and declared a “mistake.” It has since said that Snowden would have to travel to Ecuador first before any asylum request was considered.
For their part, every European government has refused Snowden’s petitions for asylum. The same European regimes that collaborated with the US in the illegal downing of Morales’s flight have, on countless occasions, allowed the CIA to use their airspace for “extraordinary rendition” of prisoners to black sites to be tortured. These governments have established their own mass spying programs and function, along with the US government, as political machines in defense of the ultra-wealthy and dominant banks and corporations.
Glenn Greenwald in “Top Officials Are Lying to Our Faces About Government Spying”:
Then we come to the leaders of various EU states. These leaders spent the last week feigning all sorts of righteous indignation over revelations that the NSA was using extreme measures to spy indiscriminately not only on the communications of their citizens en masse but also on their own embassies and consulates - things they learned thanks to Edward Snowden's self-sacrificing choice to reveal to the world what he discovered inside the NSA.
But on Tuesday night, the governments of three of those countries - France, Spain and Portugal - abruptly withdrew overflight rights for an airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was attempting to fly home from a conference in Russia. That conduct forced a diversion of Morales' plan to Austria, where he remained for 13 hours before being able to leave this morning.
These EU governments did that because they suspected - falsely, it now seems - that Morales' plane was also carrying Snowden: the person who enabled them to learn of the NSA spying aimed at their citizens and themselves that they claim to find so infuriating. They wanted to physically prevent Bolivia from considering or granting Snowden's request for asylum, a centuries-old right in international law. Meanwhile, the German government - which has led the ritualistic condemnations of NSA spying that Snowden exposed - summarily rejected Snowden's application for asylum almost as soon as it hit their desks.
A 2013 report from Open Society documents that Spain and Portugal were among the nations who participated in various ways in rendition flights - ie kidnapping - by the US. In particular, the report found, "Spain has permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations." Similarly, "Portugal has permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with CIA extraordinary rendition operations." The French judiciary previously investigated reports that the French government knowingly allowed the CIA to use its airspace for renditions.
So these EU states are perfectly content to allow a country - when it's the US - to use their airspace to kidnap people from around the world with no due process. But they will physically stop a plane carrying the president of a sovereign state - when it's from Latin America - in order to subvert the well-established process for seeking asylum from political persecution (and yes: the US persecutes whistleblowers).
All of this smacks of exactly the kind of rank imperialism and colonialism that infuriates most of Latin America, and further exposes the emptiness of American and western European lectures about the sacred rule of law. This is rogue nation behavior. ...
As usual, US officials and their acolytes who invoke "the law" to demand severe punishment for powerless individuals (Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning) instantly exploit the same concept to protect US political officials, their owners and their allies from the worst crimes: torture, warrantless eavesdropping, rendition, systemic financial fraud, deceiving Congress and the US public about their surveillance behavior. If you're spending your time calling for Ed Snowden's head but not James Clapper's, or if you're obsessed with Snowden's fabricated personality attributes (narcissist!) but apathetic about rampant, out-of-control NSA surveillance, it's probably worth spending a few moments thinking about what this priority scheme reveals.
Bill Van Auken in “The hijacking of Evo Morales: International gangsterism in Snowden manhunt”:
The forcing down Tuesday night of President Evo Morales’s jet on suspicion that it was carrying Edward Snowden to asylum in Bolivia is part of a descent into imperialist lawlessness unprecedented since the 1930s.
France, Portugal, Italy and Spain all refused to allow the plane to cross their air space, rescinding approval of its flight plan after it had been airborne for three hours and forcing it to make an emergency landing, with its fuel running low, in Vienna, Austria.
The lives of Morales and other senior Bolivian officials were placed in imminent danger as they returned from a summit of gas-exporting nations in Moscow, where the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor has been trapped in an airport transit zone for 11 days, with no country yet willing to receive him. Afterward, the Bolivian president was essentially held hostage in Vienna until the next morning, when the European countries lifted the flight ban.
These methods amount to state terrorism and air piracy. While they were carried out by European governments, there is not a shred of doubt that their real author was the Obama administration in Washington, which is waging a relentless, extralegal manhunt for Snowden in retaliation for his exposure of the NSA’s secret and unconstitutional spying program against millions of people in the United States and all over the world.
Morales reported that Spain’s ambassador to Austria came to the airport and told him he would inform the Bolivians of whether their plane would be allowed to pass through Spanish airspace and refuel in the Canary Islands after Madrid had consulted with “friends” in the morning. There is no doubt that these “friends” reside at the US State Department and the Langley, Virginia headquarters of the CIA.
The actions of the European leaders are extraordinary. Secret files made public by Snowden only days before exposed Washington’s systematic spying on their governments and diplomatic missions as well as the European Union itself. The French government had vowed that the revelations would preclude the signing of an EU-US trade pact or virtually any other collaboration.
Yet these governments acted as willing accomplices in Washington’s scheme to effectively kidnap the president of Bolivia on the unfounded suspicion that he was exercising the sovereign right of granting Snowden asylum. The apparent basis for this suspicion was Morales’ statement in Moscow that Bolivia was “ready to accept those who disclose espionage” and would seriously consider Snowden’s appeal for asylum.
That Snowden merits asylum is unquestionable. If he falls into the hands of US authorities, he has every reason to fear he may be subjected to torture, incarceration without trial, or death, all of which have been meted out with impunity by Washington under the pretext of its “global war on terrorism.”
All of the pretensions that US imperialism is a champion of “human rights” and democracy have been exploded by the Snowden affair, arousing collective contempt and anger throughout the world. While Washington is occasionally prepared to embrace right-wing dissidents who function in their own countries as assets of US policy, when it comes to anyone who stands up to challenge its interests, Washington’s answer is violence.
The forcing down of Morales’s plane has once again exposed Barack Obama as a liar. It is barely a week since the US president cynically dismissed fears that he would “be scrambling jets” to capture Snowden. Yet this is precisely what he would have done had Washington’s NATO allies refused to obey his illegal order to intercept Morales’s flight.
As for the media, it remains as always a faithful conduit of government lies. On Wednesday, the talking heads of CNN were describing the incident with Morales’s plane as “bizarre,” meaning they had not yet been given an official pretext to justify a flagrant international crime. Had the Bolivian president’s plane crashed in the sea, they would have no doubt blamed him for his own death.
The US government has emerged ever more openly in the Snowden affair as a gangster regime that is prepared to kill to keep the ex-NSA contractor or anyone else from exposing its crimes. Obama is nothing but a front man for the Pentagon and the vast intelligence apparatus that dominates his administration.
On the world stage, this government more and more relies on militarism and aggression, treating nations like Bolivia in the manner that Hitler dealt with small nations in the late 1930s and 1940s.
Snowden is hated by wealthy ruling layers not only in the US, but in Western Europe as well, for exposing the criminal conspiracy being organized by gangster regimes against the democratic rights of the people.
[cross-posted on open salon]