FLORIDA, July 3, 2013 — Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked a plethora of National Security Agency documents — thereby revealing a top-secret and allegedly unconstitutional data mining program known as PRISM — has released a new statement.
It was given on Monday in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, from where he is attempting to find asylum. The statement was originally posted on Wikileaks, the controversial website devoted to rooting out perceived corruption.
“One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth,” Snowden begins. “My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.”
“On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.
“This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.
“For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country.
“The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon.
“Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.
“In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
“I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.”
In a Fox News Sunday appearance last month, former Vice President Dick Cheney referred to Snowden as a “traitor.” Cheney suspects that the now-world famous whistleblower has less than noble intentions because “he went to China. That’s not a place where you would ordinarily want to go if you are interested in freedom, liberty and so forth. It raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this.”
Snowden spared little time in issuing a rebuttal.
During a question-and-answer session facilitated by The Guardian, the British newspaper which originally broke the PRISM story, Snowden wrote that “it’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead.”
Snowden’s most quoted line followed immediately after: “Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”
Prior to addressing Cheney’s statements, Snowden remarked that “(j)ournalists should ask a specific question: since these programs began operation shortly after September 11th, how many terrorist attacks were prevented SOLELY by information derived from this suspicionless surveillance that could not be gained via any other source?”
He also urged citizens to ask “how many individual communications were ingested to acheive that….Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.”
Despite the very public nature of Snowden’s actions and his widely-reported reasons for them, everybody seems to have their own views about the man himself.
Two articles which were published in The Washington Times Communities illustrate this point. On one side is Peter Bella, a retired Chicago police officer who wants to see Snowden hauled into a courtroom. On the other is Thomas Mullen, a libertarian activist who seems to think the world of Snowden.
“Snowden is a common criminal,” Bella proclaimed. “He should be arrested and prosecuted to fullest extent the law allows. It should be done as soon as possible. Arresting him would not create a public relations nightmare. It is the right thing to do. It is the only thing to do.”
Mullen suggested that sympathetic politicos shouldn’t try to get Snowden pardoned. Instead, they ought to opt for jury nullification in the event that the man stands trial.
“Yes, there are plenty of laws that Edward Snowden probably broke,” he wrote, “but as Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The law is often but the tyrant’s will.” Never was that more true than now.
“You could also argue that Snowden broke a contract he entered into when accepting this employment and the security clearances that go with it. That’s probably true, but so did the federal government. It broke the contract known as the U.S. Constitution.”
Strong words indeed. The following from Bella are, too: “If Snowden did not like what he witnessed he could have always quit his $200,000 a year job….Instead, he stole government documents and released them. Snowden knowingly and willingly committed crimes. Snowden is a criminal, nothing more, nothing less.”
Mullen summed up his views with the following plea: “I am calling on every eligible juror in America to take a stand right now. If you are called to serve on a jury for the trial of Edward Snowden, do not convict. I don’t care if he’s broken a thousand laws….Let this government know that those who defend the U.S. Constitution against a government that violates it are safe in this country.”
It seems difficut to either condemn or extol Snowden in any comprehensive sense. The man has made his motivations clear; he fears that America could essentially be entering the age of Big Brother beyond one’s wildest dreams. Considering how much the security state has grown over the last decade or so, few should fail to see the merit in this concern.
However, if Snowden’s whistle-blowing puts any NSA personnel at risk, then that is a whole different ball game. Such a thing is inexcusable, to put it mildly.
It will be some time until a definitive conclusion can be reached about Snowden. Who knows; that might never happen. Facts change and personal opinions should change along with them.
The following can be said, though: if Snowden’s legacy is anywhere near as complicated as the person behind it seems to be, then the mental jury will be out for a long while.
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