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Snowden: To be Droned Disappeared DeathSentenced Imprisoned?

Johnathan Easley in “Ron Paul Warns US Government May Assassinate NSA Leaker Snowden” quotes the former Republican Representative from Texas:

“I’m worried about somebody in our government might kill him with a cruise missile or a drone missile ... I mean, we live in a bad time where American citizens don’t even have rights, and that they can be killed, but the gentleman is trying to tell the truth about what’s going on.”


“[Snowden’s] not defecting, there are no signs of that happening. It’s a shame that we are in an age where people who tell the truth about what the government is doing gets into trouble.”

Certainly, whistleblower Edward Snowden has brought down grave danger onto himself.

In “NSA whistleblower reveals identity, exposes US government’s 'architecture of oppression'” Thomas Gaist writes:

Obama administration officials have already threatened to arrest and prosecute the leaker of the information on domestic spying. Speaking to NBC, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “This is someone who for whatever reason has chosen to violate a sacred trust for this country… I hope we’re able to track down whoever is doing this.”

For whatever reason, Director Clapper?

Gaist writes:

Snowden said he was motivated by a desire to defend the public against a vast expansion of state power. “Allowing the US government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest,” he said.

“It’s important to send a message to government that people will not be intimidated.”

Snowden stated that he lives “a very comfortable life,” but is “willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Gaist goes on to explain how Edward Snowden admitted to fearing for his safety as a result of his actions:

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads [organized crime syndicate in China]. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

Snowden’s fears are entirely justified, given the punishment of whistleblowers meted out by the Obama administration. The US military is currently prosecuting Bradley Manning for releasing to WikiLeaks evidence of massive criminality abroad.

Responding to statements by journalist Steve Clemons that he had overheard intelligence officials arguing that the reporter and leaker of the story should be disappeared, Snowden said: “Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process—they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general.”

Snowden is seeking protection from foreign governments. He asserted to the Washington Post: “I intend to ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy,” Snowden told the Washington Post.

Gaist writes of the administration’s public stance on the NSA surveillance issue:

In a recent speech, Obama brushed aside media coverage of the surveillance programs as “hype,” saying that systematic spying on telephone records and Internet usage amounted to no more than a “modest encroachment” on rights protected by the US Constitution.

Gaist counterpoints this with what Snowden maintains:

“What they’re doing,” Snowden said, poses “an existential threat to democracy.”


... “I don’t want to live a society that does these sort of things. I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.

The 29-year old Snowden refers to the “massive surveillance program” as an “architecture of oppression” with virtually “limitless aims.” He explains: “They are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them.”

Gaist’s summation:

The leaks have uncovered a government spying program that includes the accumulation of detailed phone records on nearly every individual in the United States, as well as a program of Internet spying spanning the globe involving the close collaboration of major tech companies, including Microsoft and Google.

According to the data released by Snowden, in addition to the collection of data from millions of US citizens on a daily basis, the NSA also snoops on the rest of the world.

Employing a program known as Boundless Informant the NSA collected no less than 3 billion pieces of metadata from individuals and businesses across the continent of Europe in the space of just one month. Every European state was subject to surveillance but, on the basis of a color-coded map, it emerges that the continent's biggest economy, Germany, was subject to the most scrutiny by the US program. 

The US spying operation has huge international implications. In a commentary on the revelations the British Financial Times expressed its concern about the consequences of the US spying for international diplomacy and business, while the Observer newspaper condemned the hypocrisy of Obama who recently harshly criticized surveillance operations conducted by the Chinese government.

In “US congressman calls for prosecution of journalists over NSA leak” Gaist focuses on how NY Rep. Peter King is demanding not only prosecution for Edward Snowden but journalist Glenn Greenwald for enabling Snowden’s whistleblowing. This, Gaist describes, is the intensification of the “witchhunt” against whistleblowers in this country expanding to a “broader attack on press freedom and democratic rights.”


Top Democratic leaders, including Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, have declared Snowden guilty of treason, a capital offense.


The attacks on Snowden and Greenwald illustrate the determination of the US ruling elite to strangle any opposition that emerge outside of its state controlled media apparatus, which works in close coordination with the State Department and the CIA.

Effectively, the ruling class is seeking to criminalize journalistic activity. Since the revelations first emerged, leading representatives from both capitalist parties have centered their efforts on downplaying the surveillance program's scale and scope and concocting arguments to justify a massive and illegal spying operation directed at the American people.

Barry Grey and David North in “Defend Edward Snowden!” also examine the forces coming together to quell the scandal and punish Snowden:

Lining up behind the Obama administration, the NSA, CIA, FBI and Pentagon, the massive propaganda apparatus of the American media is being mobilized in a desperate attempt to poison public opinion against Snowden. A prime example is the New York Times and its columnist David Brooks.

Brooks is one of many commentators who have focused on Snowden’s age, writing that Snowden is representative of “a growing share of young men in their 20s.” The political establishment and the media are frightened. They rightly see in Snowden not simply an individual, but the representative of an entire generation that has become thoroughly alienated from the official institutions and lost any confidence in them as upholders of democratic rights.


Brooks concludes his piece by accusing Snowden of being “obsessed” with data mining and oblivious to “the damage he has done to social arrangements and the invisible bonds that hold them together.”

Grey and North offer a differing and deeper analysis of Edward Snowden:

Snowden is the product of the experiences of his generation, which have politicized and radicalized millions. Born in 1983, he grew up under conditions of growing social inequality and the collapse of the unions as organizations of social opposition.

Snowden’s formative political experience as he approached adulthood was 9/11 and the so-called “war on terror.” Lacking political experience, his initial response was a naïve combination of idealism and patriotism. He at first believed the American government.

The next ten years would shatter his illusions.

He enlisted in the military because, as he has said, he “felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free other people from oppression.” He soon became disillusioned because “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone.” He, like millions of others, discovered that the Iraq war was based on the lie that Baghdad possessed weapons of mass destruction.

He saw, under George W. Bush, the use by the United States of torture against detainees at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and the US prison camp in Guantanamo, the destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah and countless other war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a barrage of police state measures such as indefinite detention without trial, rendition and domestic surveillance on a mass scale. He was affected by Barack Obama’s campaign promises and stated opposition to the Iraq war and Bush’s attacks on democratic rights, but became further alienated from the political system by what he has called “the slow realization that presidents could openly lie to secure the office and then break public promises without consequence.”

Snowden eloquently summed up his motives in leaking information on the NSA programs and coming forward to assume responsibility, telling the South China Morning Post Tuesday night, “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.”

Grey and North also anlayze the establishment now persecuting Snowden:

Snowden’s evolution terrifies the ruling elite. They are losing credibility and the trust of broad masses of the population. Since they cannot win back their allegiance by persuasion, they resort to terror and threats. They want to make an example of Snowden in order to intimidate others.

Democracy is collapsing in America under the weight of imperialist militarism and the concentration of wealth and power in the richest one percent of the population.

Norman Solomon in “An Open Letter to Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee” goes after Senator Feinstein for betraying the Fourth Amendment rights of the citizenry.

The Constitution doesn’t get any better than this: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The greatness of the Fourth Amendment explains why so many Americans took it to heart in civics class and why so many of us treasure it today. But, along with other high-ranking members of Congress and the president of the United States, you have continued to chip away at this sacred bedrock of civil liberties.

As The Guardian reported the night before your sudden news conference, the leaked secret court order “shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk — regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”

One of the most chilling parts of that just-revealed Surveillance Court order can be found at the bottom of the first page, where it says “Declassify on: 12 April 2038.”

Apparently you thought — or at least hoped — that we, the people of the United States, wouldn’t find out for 25 years. And the fact that we learned about this extreme violation of our rights in 2013 instead of 2038 seems to bother you a lot.

Rather than call for protection of the Fourth Amendment, you want authorities to catch and punish whoever leaked this secret order. You seem to fear that people can actually discover what their own government is doing to them with vast surveillance.


.... The only “threats” assisted by disclosure of that document are the possibilities of meaningful public discourse and informed consent of the governed.

Let’s be candid about the most clear and present danger to our country’s democratic values. The poisonous danger is spewing from arrogance of power in the highest places. The antidotes depend on transparency of sunlight that only whistleblowers, a free press, and an engaged citizenry can bring.

As Greenwald tweeted after your news conference: “The reason there are leakers is precisely because the government is filled with people like Dianne Feinstein who do horrendous things in secret.” And, he pointed out, “The real story isn’t just the spying itself: it’s that we have this massive, ubiquitous Surveillance State, operating in total secrecy.”

Obviously, you like it that way, and so do most other members of the Senate and House. And so does the president. You’re all playing abhorrent roles, maintaining a destructive siege of precious civil liberties. While building a surveillance state, you are patting citizens on the head and telling them not to worry.


Senator Feinstein, your energetic contempt for the Bill of Rights is serving a bipartisan power structure that threatens to crush our democratic possibilities.

As for Snowden now seeking refuge in Hong Kong, Lana Lam in “Whistle-blower Edward Snowden: 'Let Hong Kong People Decide My Fate'- Ex-CIA operative wants to remain in Hong Kong” writes:

... His [Snowden’s] decision to use a city under Chinese sovereignty as his haven has been widely questioned – including by some rights activists in Hong Kong.

Snowden said last night that he had no doubts about his choice of Hong Kong.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post.


His astonishing confession on Sunday sparked a media frenzy in Hong Kong, with journalists from around the world trying to track him down. It has also caused a flurry of debate in the city over whether he should stay and whether Beijing will seek to interfere in a likely extradition case.


He says he plans to stay in Hong Kong until he is “asked to leave”.

The United States has not yet filed an application for extradition.

Snowden could choose to fight any extradition attempt in court. Another option open to him is to seek refugee status from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Hong Kong.

Again Lana Lam in “NSA Hacking The World-Edward Snowden: US Government Has Been Hacking Hong Kong and China for Years”:

In an exclusive interview carried out from a secret location in the city, the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst also made explosive claims that the US government had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland for years.


In a wide-ranging and frank hour-long interview, the 29-year-old, who US authorities have confirmed they are building a criminal case against, said he was neither a hero nor a traitor and said that: US National Security Agency’s controversial Prism programme extends to people and institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China; The US is exerting “bullying’’ diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him; Hong Kong’s rule of law will protect him from the US; He is in constant fear for his own safety and that of his family.

Snowden has been in Hong Kong since May 20 when he fled his hometown in Hawaii to take refuge here, a move which has been questioned by many who believe the city cannot protect him.


“Last week the American government happily operated in the shadows with no respect for the consent of the governed, but no longer. Every level of society is demanding accountability and oversight.”

Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries”.

“Not only does it do so, but it is so afraid of this being known that it is willing to use any means, such as diplomatic intimidation, to prevent this information from becoming public.”

Snowden said he believed that the US was putting pressure on the Hong Kong government to extradite him.

“Unfortunately, the US government is now bullying the Hong Kong government to prevent me from continuing my work,” he said.

“I do not currently feel safe due to the pressure the US government is applying to Hong Kong, but I feel that Hong Kong itself has a strong civil tradition that whistle-blowers should not fear.”


Snowden said he had not contacted his family and feared for their safety as well as his own.

“I will never feel safe.

“Things are very difficult for me in all terms, but speaking truth to power is never without risk,” he said. “It has been difficult, but I have been glad to see the global public speak out against these sorts of systemic violations of privacy.

“All I can do is rely on my training and hope that world governments will refuse to be bullied by the United States into persecuting people seeking political refuge.”

Asked if he had been offered asylum by the Russian government, he said: “My only comment is that I am glad there are governments that refuse to be intimidated by great power”.

Tens of thousands of Snowden’s supporters have signed a petition calling for his pardon in the United States while many have donated money to a fund to help him.

“I’m very grateful for the support of the public,” he said. “But I ask that they act in their interest – save their money for letters to the government that breaks the law and claims it noble.

“The reality is that I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European, or Asian.”

[cross-posted on open salon]

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