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September 9, 2013

Edward Snowden didn't break any law but the US government did

Scott Stockdale

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On June 5, The Guardian newspaper released a top secret order of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)that ordered a business division of Verizon Communications to provide "on an ongoing daily basis" metadata for all telephone calls "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls" and all calls made "between the United States and abroad."

On June 9, immediately after The Guardian released Edward Snowden's identity, at his request, as the source of this information, the vilification of Mr. Snowden - a former technical contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee - began in the mainstream media.

New York Times columnist David Brooks accused Mr. Snowden of betraying the constitution, stating that "the founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed."

However, Mr. Brooks neglected to inform his readers that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution says there is no spying on people or monitoring their communication s and no intrusion on their privacy without legitimate cause and without a prior judicial warrant.

Meanwhile, the New York Post entered the fray with a headline: “ROGUES' GALLERY: SNOWDEN JOINS LONG LIST OF NOTORIOUS, GUTLESS TRAITORS FLEEING TO RUSSIA.

However, some media commentators supported Mr. Snowden's actions, either in whole or in part: John Cassidy, of the New Yorker, called Mr. Snowden "a hero," and said that "in revealing the colossal scale of the US government's eavesdropping on Americans

and other person around the world, [Snowden] has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed."

Tellingly, for exposing secret government surveillance to the public , Mr. Snowden was praised by political commentators on both the right and the left, among them Chris Hedges and Michael Moore, on the left; and Glenn Beck and Matt Drudge, Alex Jones and Michael Savage, on the right.

The editors of the business publication Bloomberg News argued that the while Mr. Snowden's leaks "were a crime that has to be prosecuted" and that the government ought to prosecute him, they argued that the media's focus on Mr. Snowden takes attention away from issues of U.S. government surveillance, the interpretations of the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court actions, all of which are "what really matters in all this."

According to a Gallop poll conducted June 10–11, 2013, 44 percent of Americans thought it was right for Snowden to share the information with the press while 42 percent thought it was wrong.  A USA Today/Pew Research poll conducted June 12–16 found that 49 percent thought the release of information served the public interest while 44 percent thought it harmed it.

Mr. Snowden took classified documents from his employer, which probably broke the law; if so, the charges should be theft not espionage. But his real crime was confirming that the intelligence agencies, despite their strenuous public denials, have been accumulating vast amounts of personal data from the American public. When one examines who owns the corporate media, it's not all that puzzling why so many media commentators continue to toe the official line, vilifying Mr. Snowden as a traitor.

When 1.4 million Americans hold “top secret” security clearances, it should be no surprise that there will be leaks.  Moreover, it's difficult to see how informing people the world over, no matter what their activities or political persuasions - that their email s and telephone calls are being monitored; informing the Chinese that some of their most prestigious institutions are being hacked, and letting the public know that the British eavesdrop on just about anybody they please, should come as a surprise to anyone.

Indeed,  over 10 years ago, the U.S. television show 60 Minutes  aired a segment  which  claimed that after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government – with assistance from its European allies of course  - began using an intelligence information gathering system  to keep a record of every email, fax and telephone call in the world. The 60 Minutes reporter explained that U.S. security officials have certain catchwords or phrases which, if used, are red-flagged by a computer; and then more detailed surveillance of the communications of the persons involved is conducted.

Meanwhile, numerous prominent Americans, who consider Mr. Snowden a hero, not a traitor are lobbying Ecuadorian President Correa to grant Mr. Snowden asylum. In a recent letter to President Correa, endorsed by numerous signatories - including university professors and retired CIA personnel - asking him to grant asylum to Mr. Snowden, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky and Tom Hayden noted that Mr. Snowden's disclosures have done much to unveil the scale of U.S. government spying on its own citizens and people around the world., which they characterize as severe overreach by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

In their letter to President Correa, the above-mentioned signatories said Mr.Snowden is part of a long list of whistle-blowers who've been falsely charged with espionage in order to silence them and, of course, deter others from coming forward.  Their letter reads, in part:

“Charging someone with espionage, who clearly did not commit espionage, is strong prima facie evidence of political persecution. The unprecedented quantity of whistle-blowers that have been charged under the Espionage Act by the Obama administration suggests that it is applying this law in a completely arbitrary fashion. In Snowden’s case what he has revealed are actions by the NSA that violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” There is no evidence whatsoever that his revelations have in any way threatened U.S. national security or were ever intended to do so. Yet rather than pursue reforms that would protect the rights of people in the U.S. and around the world, the Obama administration again seeks to silence those who have brought these abuses to light. These are actions of political repression, and you would be right to grant Snowden political asylum.”

It appears that we are now dealing with a vast intelligence-industrial complex that is largely, if not totally, unaccountable to its citizens.

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