Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'I have absolutely no faith in Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States'

 "NSA Blurred Lines" is a Shorts Show Comedy Brooklyn's Worst production.   Bloomberg News reports that protests took place throughout Germany "against spying by the US and other countries" with protesters in Frankfurt comparing the actions of the US government to those of "the secret police of former communist East Germany."  Their protests were in response to the revelations of NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  Another apparent response to Snowden's revelations?

Barack Obama's Change.gov disappearing.  The Sunlight Foundation reports:

Why the change?
Here's one possibility, from the administration's ethics agenda:

Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
It may be that Obama's description of the importance of whistleblowers went from being an artifact of his campaign to a political liability. It wouldn't be the first time administration positions disappear from the internet when they become inconvenient descriptions of their assurances.

ed snowden

Ed Snowden (above) is an American citizen and whistle-blower who had been employed by the CIA and by the NSA before leaving government employment for the more lucrative world of contracting.  At the time he blew the whistle, he was working for Booz Allen Hamilton doing NSA work.  Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) had the first scoop (and many that followed) on Snowden's revelations that the US government was spying on American citizens, keeping the data on every phone call made in the United States (and in Europe as well) while also spying on internet use via PRISM and Tempora.  US Senator Bernie Sanders decried the fact that a "secret court order" had been used to collect information on American citizens "whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing."  Sanders went on to say, "That is not what democracy is about.  That is not what freedom is about. [. . .] While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans."  The immediate response of the White House, as Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported,  was to insist that there was nothing unusual and to get creaky and compromised Senator Dianne Feinstein to insist, in her best Third Reich voice, "People want to keep the homeland safe."  The spin included statements from Barack himself.   Anita Kumar (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Obama described the uproar this week over the programs as “hype” and sought to ensure Americans that Big Brother is not watching their every move."  Josh Richman (San Jose Mercury News) quoted Barack insisting that "we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about."  Apparently not feeling the gratitude, the New York Times editorial board weighed in on the White House efforts at spin, noting that "the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights."  Former US President Jimmy Carter told CNN, "I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."  Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson explains, "Intelligence officials in the Obama administration and their allies on Capitol Hill paint the fugitive analyst as nothing but a traitor who wants to harm the United States. Many of those same officials grudgingly acknowledge, however, that public debate about the NSA’s domestic snooping is now unavoidable."

The more Barack attempted to defend the spying, the more ridiculous he came off.  Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reviewed Barack's appearance on The Charlie Rose Show and observed of the 'explanations' offered, "None of that actually explains why this program is necessary. If there's a phone number that the NSA or the FBI gets that is of interest, then they should be able to get a warrant or a court order and request information on that number from the telcos. None of that means they should be able to hoover up everything."  As US House Rep John Conyers noted, "But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else.  You've already violated the law, as far as I am concerned."  Barack couldn't deal with that reality but did insist, in the middle of June, that this was an opportunity for "a national conversation."  He's always calling for that because, when it doesn't happen, he can blame the nation.  It's so much easier to call for "a national conversation" than for he himself to get honest with the American people. And if Barack really believes this has kicked off "a national conversation" then demonizing Ed Snowden is a really strange way to say "thank you."

Despite Barack's campaign promise -- his now internet disappeared campaign promise, he has gone after whistle-blowers repeatedly and Ed Snowden is currently trapped in Russia as a result.  Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) notes, "Invasive tests for the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted diseases. A bed in a provincial refugee hostel and little prospect of a decent job. That is what NSA leaker Edward Snowden can expect if and when he is allowed out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport to await word on his application for temporary refuge, Russian media observed in a flurry of articles and commentaries Monday."  Dana Ford (CNN) notes Ed's father Lon Snowden appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 Monday and declared, "He loves his country.  I know my son.  I know he loves his country.  What he believed is that . . . the American people needed to be aware of what their government was doing to them, spying upon them."  From a video at Anderson Cooper 360:

Lon Snowden:  Well, I think that probably the large minority of Americans, first of all, have not seen his 12 minute video.

Anderson Cooper:  Mmm-hmm.

Lon Snowden: I've spoken to close friends who know this is my son and we talk and I realize they haven't listened to the video.  They don't really understand what the Fourth Amendment is.  So I-I think that there's much that's unknown.  The American people -- the media to be quite honest -- has not done a very good job of laying out the facts in digestible form. There has been a clear effort by those who have been threatened politically and/or embarrassed by these revelations to focus on the so to speak 'sinner,' my son, who's revealed these instead of the 'sins,' the actual revelations.

Anderson Cooper: In a letter to the Justice Dept, to the Obama administration, you describe what your son did as civil disobedience.  There are those who say, "Look, is accepting the ramifications of your -- of your actions, of your decision, taking your punishment.'  Uhm, why do you see this as civil disobedience?

Lon Snowden:  Well-well, first of all, I think he is accepting the consequences.  Again, if you look at his 12 minute video and what he said, he's not living a very comfortable life at this point. He's said he's American, he loves his country.  I know my son.  I know he loves his country.   What he believed is that this information, the American people needed to be aware of what their government was doing to them.

[jump cut in the clip of the interview]

Anderson Cooper:  Do you believe him [Attorney General Eric Holder] when he says no death penalty and the United States does not torture?

Lon Snowden:  Well at this point, I believe it would be in the best interest of the Justice Dept -- and we've attempted to work with the Justice Dept and both the people investigating this -- and I just do not believe that that collaboration -- the good faith exists anymore.  So I'm very, very disappointed.  And we've attempted to get assurances that Ed would receive a fair trial.  I have absolutely no faith in Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States.

The 12 minute video refers to the Guardian's interview with Ed Snowden that Glenn Greenwald did (here for part one, the 12 minute video and here for part two).  Thomas Gaist (WSWS) reports on Lon Snowden's open letter to Barack Obama:

The letter, dated July 26, 2013, was written together with Lon Snowden’s lawyer, Bruce Fein.
In the letter, Snowden compares the NSA surveillance programs to the Fugitive Slave Act and the Jim Crow laws in the American South and writes that the United States has lessons to learn from “the dynamics of the Third Reich.” The letter further compares the present situation to the post-World War II Nuremburg trials “in which ‘following orders’ was rejected as a defense.”
It comes amid new revelations concerning the expansive scope of the programs. In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” program on Sunday, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented: “The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years.”

Steven Lee Myers (New York Times via NDTV) offers a profile on Ed's attorney Anatoly Kucherena which notes, "He said repeated statements by the U.S. State Department and members of Congress had bolstered his case for asylum, despite a letter from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to his Russian counterpart promising that Snowden would receive a fair trial and disputing Snowden's assertions that he faced torture or the death penalty if he returned to the United States."

As Ray McGovern points out to Iran's Press TV, "The Congress people who are supposed to be supervising the intelligence agencies have not been doing so and the courts, the judicial part of our government, has not been doing its job."   Over the weekend, John Naughton (Guardian) offered:

Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users' data.
Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to thousands of people who shouldn't have it. Nor would there be – finally – a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies.
These are pretty significant outcomes and they're just the first-order consequences of Snowden's activities. As far as most of our mass media are concerned, though, they have gone largely unremarked. Instead, we have been fed a constant stream of journalistic pap – speculation about Snowden's travel plans, asylum requests, state of mind, physical appearance, etc. The "human interest" angle has trumped the real story, which is what the NSA revelations tell us about how our networked world actually works and the direction in which it is heading.

Ed's actions are very important.  However, Naughton rush to emphasize the revelations leads him to make the mistake many others have.  Ed is also the story.  What's happening to Ed is also the story.  The way a whistle-blower is being demonized and attacked is part of the story.  The administration's obsession with Ed, their witch hunt, is part of the story.

Tom Engelhardt (via Mother Jones) notes the Robert Seldon Lady, CIA, who oversaw a kidnapping in Italy in 2003 and is wanted in Italy.  When Lady was in Panama this became news -- briefly -- when he was arrested in Panama last week.  But, as Engelhardt notes, there were no State Dept claims of how Italy had a right to extradite Lady, no ridiculous claims of justice and the need for the process to be respected.  None of that applied, none of the hypocritical statements made by the administration were offered.  Instead:

After all, the country that took him into custody on that Interpol warrant was a genuine rarity in a changing Latin America. It was still an ally of the United States, which had once built a canal across its territory, controlled its politics for years, and in 1989 sent in the US military to forcefully sort out those politics once again. Italy wanted Lady back and evidently requested that Panama hand him over (though the countries had no extradition treaty). But could anyone be surprised by what happened or by the role Washington clearly played in settling Lady's fate? If you had paid any attention to the global pressure Washington was exerting in an "international manhunt" to get Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower it had already charged under the draconian Espionage Act, back to its shores, you knew which direction Robert Seldon Lady would be heading when he hit the nearest plane out of Panama—and I don't mean Italy.
But here was the curious thing: when Panama sent him north, not east, there wasn't the slightest ripple of US media curiosity about the act or what lay behind it. Lady simply disappeared. While the Italian minister of justice "deeply regretted" Panama's decision, there was not, as far as I can tell, a single editorial, outraged or otherwise, anywhere in this country questioning the Obama administration's decision not to allow a convicted criminal to be brought to justice in the courts of a democratic ally or even praising Washington's role in protecting him. And we're not talking about a media with no interest in trials in Italy. Who doesn't remember the wall-to-wall coverage of the murder trial (and retrial) of American student Amanda Knox there? For the American media, however, Lady clearly lacked Knox's sex appeal (nor would he make millions off a future account of his Italian sojourn).

If you're new to Robert Seldon Lady, click here for the press release the Center for Constitutional Rights issued last week.

PanARMENIAN reports, "The sentence the U.S. court will pass upon Wikileaks informant Private Bradley Manning will show what fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden can expect should he return to the United States, a senior Russian lawmaker said, according to RIA Novosti."  Brad may learn his verdict later today.

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