Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ed Snowden awarded, Barack called out

The Voice of Russia reports, "Four whistleblowing advocates from the United States met with Edward Snowden in Moscow Wednesday and gave him an award for truth-telling. As seen on the photo published by Getty Images Snowden received the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Award (SAAII) alongside UK WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, who took Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow and obtained his asylum, and the United States government whistleblowers including Coleen Rowley (FBI), Thomas Drake (NSA), Jesselyn Raddack (DoJ) and Ray McGovern (CIA)."  The Oxford Union explains, "The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence confers an award each year to a person exemplifying the courage, persistence and devotion to the truth of CIA analyst Sam Adams.  Many distinguished past award winners include prominent whistleblowers and former intelligence agents.Caro Kriel (AP) quotes Jesselyn Raddack stating, "He spoke very openly about a whole range of things, a number of which I won't get into here, but it certainly didn't involve any kind of manipulation by the Russian government or anyone else for that matter.  He definitely is his own person and makes his own decisions and says and does what he wants to."  Raddack is with the Government Accountability ProjectFred Weir (Christian Science Monitor) reports:

Interviewed on the Kremlin-funded English-language television network RT Thursday, the four whistleblowers agreed that Snowden looked "remarkably well" and was in fine spirits "considering the pressures" of his situation.
"This is an extraordinary person. He's made his peace with what he did, he's convinced that what he did was right, he has no regrets and is willing to face whatever the future holds for him," Mr. McGovern told RT.
Snowden's lawyer, Kucherena, has told Russian media that his client "has a girlfriend," is making great progress in learning the Russian language, and may soon find a job to keep him occupied in Russia.
Reached by telephone on Thursday by the Monitor, Kucherena offered nothing but a good-natured scolding.
"You must admit that when American politicians demand that human rights should be observed and talk about democratic freedoms, it's a sheer contradiction when we see the fact that everybody is bugged and their emails are read," he said.

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."

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."  August 1st, he was granted temporary asylum in Russia.

Along with receiving the award (announced in July) yesterday, Ed has another visitor in Russia.  Phil Black ands Ben Brumfield (CNN) report:

The father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden told reporters in Moscow that he thinks his son deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.
He arrived there Thursday for his first visit with his son since the former government IT contractor fled the United States after leaking National Security Agency spy program details to the media.
Members of the European Parliament nominated Snowden in September for the Andrei Sakharov Prize, which honors figures who stand up to oppressive powers. The prize was awarded to Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai on Thursday.

Becky Evans (Daily Mail) reports on Lon Snowden's visit hereRIA Novosti adds:

Edward Snowden’s future and exact current whereabouts remain shrouded in mystery, but his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena says the former US intelligence contractor was not in talks to seek asylum in any other countries and has received several offers of work.
Kucherena, speaking to Rossiya-24 news channel alongside Lon Snowden, said Edward Snowden would be open to extending his one-year asylum status in Russia.

The news above comes as Leonard Downie Jr. and Sara Rafsky's "The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America" is published by the Committee to Protect Journalists:

In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An “Insider Threat Program” being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues.
Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being “an aider, abettor and/or conspirator” of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.
Compounding the concerns of journalists and the government officials they contact, news stories based on classified documents obtained from Snowden have revealed extensive surveillance of Americans’ telephone and e-mail traffic by the National Security Agency. Numerous Washington-based journalists told me that officials are reluctant to discuss even unclassified information with them because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources. “I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, an influential nonprofit government accountability news organization in Washington. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for the government to monitor those contacts,” he said.

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