The Guardian today released additional excerpts from Glenn Greenwald’s videotaped (by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras) interview conducted in Hong Kong with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden before he outed himself last month. He accurately predicted the government’s response to his revelations and explains clearly why he felt it necessary to do what he’s done.
He is a very principled man of great courage troubled by what his government has become, as am I.
Are you listening, Uncle Sam?
On Thursday night Charlie Rose interviewed London Guardian editors Alan Rusbridger and Janine Gibson, who are responsible for the release of the materials Edward Snowden took from the National Security Agency.
It is an in-depth discussion of how the Guardian is dealing with the materials Snowden has disclosed to them, of which there is more coming. While both British and US officials told the Guardian they would rather none were published, they were given an opportunity to argue the case if publication of any specific document would truly endanger national security. Neither government offered any such argument!
There is also a good exploration of Snowden’s motives and his understanding of the consequences of his actions—excellent interview.
For a look at Edward Joseph Snowden’s predicament through the eyes of spy novelist Alex Berenson, check out his guest-op in the New York Times: “Snowden, through the Eyes of a Spy Novelist”
I mention Snowden’s middle name, because it has come out that the extradition papers the US filed with HK misidentified him as Edward James Snowden, which was proper grounds for refusing the request, thus enabling Snowden’s escape. Hmmm, they’re going after this guy for telling the world how the US government is violating its constitution and who knows how many other nations’ laws; and they can’t even get the extradition request right.
Spy-novelist Berenson suggests what would have been the adult response to the Snowden affair:
We have treated a whistle-blower like a traitor — and thus made him a traitor. Great job. Did anyone in the White House or the N.S.A or the C.I.A. consider flying to Hong Kong and treating Mr. Snowden like a human being, offering him a chance to testify before Congress and a fair trial? Maybe he would have gone with President Vladimir V. Putin anyway, but at least he would have had another option. The secret keepers would have won too: a Congressional hearing would have been a small price to bring Mr. Snowden and those precious hard drives back to American soil.
Alas, truth is stranger than fiction—and often much less satisfying in the end; it’s beginning to appear that Mr. Snowden may be stuck in something closely approaching modern purgatory—the “transit area” of a 21st century Russian airport, or any airport, for that matter. We have it on no less an authority than Russia’s Alpha Male and former Chief Spook, Vladimir Putin, that Snowden is holed up “in the transit hall as a transit passenger.”
Putin said Russia would not extradite Snowden to the US with whom Russia has no extradition treaty. He called US accusations against Russia “ravings and rubbish.” Putin, in so many words, wished Snowden godspeed: “Mr. Snowden is a free man. [Only a Russian czar could view Snowden’s being “free”—ever again.] The sooner he chooses his final destination the better it would be for us and for himself.”
Snowden may be there a long while according to extradition lawer Douglas McNabb, who conducted an online Q&A at the London Guardian website in which I participated on Wednesday afternoon. Shortly before McNabb went online, we learned that Ecuador had not issued refugee documents for Snowden as had widely been reported since he left HK.
“If he had the document he would be free to travel assuming the airline accepted it as a valid travel document, which most do,” McNabb said. “It is now being reported that Ecuador has not issued refugee travel documents for Snowden. If accurate, Snowden may be pulling an Assange but at a transit area in the airport with a hotel.”
McNabb noted that the US Supreme Court has ruled that even while breaking local laws federal agents may kidnap someone in another country and bring him back to stand trial in the US. The kidnapping is not grounds for having the charges dismissed.
The Johnson Post today has an excellent look back at the work of the (Idaho US Sen Frank) Church committee, which revealed the ugly underbelly of the US “intelligence” apparatus in the 1970s.
The Johnson Post is the blog of my mentor at Idaho public TV, Marc Johnson. In the early 1980s, we produced the nightly “Idaho Reports”
Marc, in his blog, quotes a recent article in Harper’s magazine’s online Stream, On the NSA’s “That ’70s Show” Rerun:
“The Snowden Affair is a ‘rerun’ of issues first uncovered during the 1970s, though these problems trace back to the earliest American efforts at espionage,” says [Pat] Shea. Between 1975 and 1976, the Church committees produced more than a dozen reports detailing the illegal activities of the NSA, CIA, and FBI, which included opening mail, intercepting telegrams, planting bugs, wiretapping, and attempting to break up marriages, foment rivalries and destroy careers of private citizens. “We thought we put a stop to this wholesale collection of information on Americans forty years ago,” says Peter Fenn, another former Church staffer.
Looks like we’re condemned to repeat some history here. Marc notes in his blog, as I did a few days ago, that the polling data show a lot of ambivalence on the part of our fellow citizens “and perhaps as a result poll-sensitive elected officials, with the exception of Wyden and Udall, are laying low. Again, I suspect, Church would be stunned.” I sure am!
The situation is much worse now than then. The nation has bought into an omnipresent danger of terror in the land. It’s one way of keeping a fragile polity united.
Be sure to check out The Johnson Post
Well, here’s a thought:
I’ve been following the adventures of Edward Snowden, and it appears that no one has actually seen him in Moscow, where he was supposed to have spent the night after leaving Hong Kong. In addition to having booked a seat from Hong Kong to Moscow, Snowden had a seat on a flight to Havana that left Moscow without him today.
What if that were a feint. and he actually went in the other direction. VietNam might be a convenient stopover. There he could visit with the Ecuadorian foreign minister and, perhaps, hitch a ride to Ecuador.
What do y’ think?
Just for the heck of it, I plotted the journey from HongKong to HaNoi to Quito on a Google map. It’s a pretty straight shot.
“NSA surveillance may be legal — but it’s unconstitutional” by Laura K Donohue, Georgetown law professor and director of the Center on National Security and the Law, in the June 21, 2013, Washington Post. NSA surveillance programs undermine purpose of FISA, which was established to prevent this kind of overreach
“The top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant” by Glenn Greenwald and James Ball in the June 20, 2013, London Guardian. FISA court submissions show broad scope of procedures governing NSA’s surveillance of Americans’ communication; documents show that discretion as to who is actually targeted lies directly with the NSA analysts.
This morning, the Guardian has a summary of Edward Snowden’s online chat comments yesterday, as well as an overview of the number of government data requests various Internet service providers have been receiving—Yahoo reports c. 2,000/month; Apple, c. 750; Facebook, c. 1,500; Microsoft, c. 1,000. They were unable legally to break out how many of those were Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests as opposed to the more numerous requests related to criminal investigations.
In an unprecedented bow to citizen journalism, for about an hour and a half this morning, Edward Snowden answered 18 questions submitted online. The questions and answers are republished in full at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/edward-snowden-nsa-files-whistleblower?commentpage=6
While he did not get to my specific questions, Snowden provided useful clarification about the difference between policy restrictions and technical capabilities for accessing communication content.
While he made it clear that he was divulging information only to journalists, not governments, the mainstream media did not fare well:
Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.
I loved his witty response to the question of whether he was supplying China with information in exchange for asylum:
Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.