Sunday, July 14, 2013

We're better off when he doesn't try to help!









This morning, the world waited to hear from NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden as media poured into the Moscow airport in anticipation of what the person who has influenced a global dialogue might say next.  Ahead of his appearing, BBC News notes, "The American is believed to have been stuck in transit since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong on 23 June, even though no pictures of his stay there have emerged."
Lidia Kelly and Alessandra Prentice (Reuters) report, "Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden asked to meet human rights groups at a Moscow airport on Friday to discuss what he called 'threatening behaviour' by the United States to prevent him gaining asylum."

Ed Snowden:  My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.
It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.
I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: "Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."
Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.
That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.
Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression. The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.
Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.
I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.
This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

On the above, it's cute to watch the reaction of the press.  Michael Hirsh (National Journal) wrote a ridiculous article blaming Ed for the circus that surrounds him -- that would be the press circus and Hirsh needs to learn to hold his own industry accountable or stop pointing the fingers at others.  If he's not getting how useless the press is being, he can examine how they covered the above with so many focusing on Ed's name.  Telegraph of London, "Snowden, apparently wants to be called Ed, not Edward." Forbes: "[. . .] letting them know that 1) he prefers to be called Ed, and 2) he's ready to get out of there" -- and we could go on and on.

So, Michael Hirsh, who's causing the circus?  Not Ed.  And the press can't even be honest about the issue of the name.

We never called Ed Snowden anything but "Ed Snowden."  Dropping back to the June 11th snapshot:

Strange times in Portland, Maine
Lobsters dancing on the docks
Switzerland's been weird since they unplugged the clocks
Man and a woman in Brooklyn Heights
Each convinced the other's in the wrong
While last year the divorce rate tripled in Hong Kong
If through all the madness
We can stick together
We're safe and sound
The world's just inside out and upside down
-- "Safe and Sound," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears on Carly's Hotcakes

The world is inside out and upside down these days.  In even the most basic ways.  Take Ed Snowden, the whistle-blower who exposed the programs Barack and Clapper are currently defending, and take Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbagi.  By the 'press rule,' Ed Snowden's name is "Edward Snowden."  Stan wrote last night about how the press stripped Glen King of his name and insisted he be called Rodney King.  Ed Snowden is very clear in the Guardian video interview that his name is Ed Snowden.  That is how he identifies himself.  The New York Times identifying him as "Edward Snowden" is not surprising to me.  That people on the left go along with it surprises me. 

How much more clear is it than someone identifying themselves on video as the NSA whistle-blower and stating their name as "Ed Snowden"?  The press has refused to call him by his name.  Today, he again stated his name.  And the press wants to pretend this is something new or novel -- as opposed to the reality that they got it wrong for over a month now.

There was a great deal to address.  At the State Dept press briefing today, Associated Press' Matthew Lee  and CNN's Elise Labott attempted to address the issues.  It was not a proud moment for Jen  Psaki or for the State Dept.

Matthew Lee: Can we start in Russia –

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee: -- with Mr. Snowden? I’m wondering if, since he has now asked the Russians for asylum, there has been any contact between this building and the Russians about your feelings about his status.

Jen Psaki: Well, I can tell you – I hadn’t seen – or I don’t have independent confirmation, I guess I should say, about any request he’s made. I can tell you that we have been in touch, of course, with Russian officials. Our Embassy in Moscow has been in direct contact on the ground. We are disappointed that Russian officials and agencies facilitated this meeting today by allowing these activists and representatives into the Moscow airport’s transit zone to meet with Mr. Snowden despite the government’s declarations of Russia’s neutrality with respect to Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee: So I’m sorry. You’re disappointed that they let someone into their own airport?

Jen Psaki: Well –

Matthew Lee: I don’t get it.

Jen Psaki:  Well, that they facilitated this event, of course.

Matthew Lee:  Well, why?

Jen Psaki:  Because this gave a forum for –

Matthew Lee:  You don’t think that he should have a forum? Has he – he’s forfeited his right to freedom of speech as well?

Jen Psaki: Well, Matt, Mr. Snowden –

Matthew Lee:  All right.

Jen Psaki:  -- as we’ve talked about – let me just state this –

Matthew Lee: Okay.

Jen Psaki:  -- because I think it’s important. He’s not a whistleblower. He’s not a human rights activist. He’s wanted in a series of serious criminal charges brought in the eastern district of Virginia and the United States.

Matthew Lee:  Okay. I’m sorry. But I didn’t realize people who were wanted on charges forfeited their right to speech – to free speech. I also didn’t realize that people who were not whistleblowers or not human rights activists, as you say he is not, that they forfeited their rights to speak, so I don’t understand why you’re disappointed with the Russians, but neither that – leave that aside for a second.  The group WikiLeaks put out a transcript, I guess, essentially, of Mr. – what Mr. Snowden said at the airport. At the top of that transcript, it contained – it said that the Human Rights Watch representative from Human Rights Watch, researcher who went to this thing, while she was on her way to the airport, got a phone call from the American Ambassador asking her to relay a message to Mr. Snowden that – basically the message that you just gave here, that, one, he is not a whistleblower, and, two, that he is wanted in the United States. Is that correct?

Jen Psaki:  It is not correct. First, Ambassador McFaul did not call any representative from Human Rights Watch. An embassy officer did call to explain our position, certainly, that I just reiterated here for all of you today, but at no point did this official or any official from the U.S. Government ask anyone to convey a message to Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee:  Did anyone from the Embassy call any of the other groups – representatives of groups that were going to this meeting – that you understood were going to this meeting?

Jen Psaki: As I’m sure would be no surprise, and as you know because we even had a civil society event when the Secretary was there, we are in regular touch, as we have been today. I don’t have an update on the exact list of calls, though, for you.

Matthew Lee: But you can say pretty conclusively that this one call did happen, and that it wasn’t the Ambassador. So were there others? Do you know?

Jen Psaki: We have –

Matthew Lee:  Did calls go to other groups?

Jen Psaki:  -- been in touch with –

Matthew Lee: Okay.

Jen Psaki:   -- attendees.

Matthew Lee:  Yes.

Jen Psaki:  I don’t have any specifics for you, though.

Matthew Lee:  Okay. And the – and you have made no secret of the fact that any country or government that gives Mr. Snowden asylum or allows him to transit through, that there would be some serious consequences for – grave consequences in their relationship with the United States.

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee:  Have you made the same – and presumably that would apply to individuals who would help him stay – help him avoid returning here to face justice. Is that – that’s correct?

Jen Psaki:  I’m not sure what that exactly means.

Matthew Lee:  Well, I’m – what I’m getting at is these groups, the human rights groups that are respected human rights groups –

Jen Psaki: : Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee:  -- which you yourself, as well as previous spokespeople have quoted from –

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee:  -- in relation to other situations, have taken a side in support of Mr. Snowden, and I’m wondering if there are any consequences for them if you – if they aid and abet Mr. Snowden in staying away – out of the reach of U.S. authorities.

Jen Psaki:  Well, we obviously don’t think this was a proper forum or a proper elevation of him. Beyond that, the way that I think it’s been asked, but also the way we’ve thought about it, is more about governments and our relationships with them and their aid or decisions to aid Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee:  Right, but I guess the question is: If you think this was an inappropriate forum, did you try to dissuade these groups from going there?

Jen Psaki:  From attending?

Matthew Lee:  Yeah.

Jen Psaki:  Not that I’m aware of, Matt. Obviously –

Matthew Lee:  Okay. So the call –

Jen Psaki:  -- they were invited to attend.

Matthew Lee: So the calls were just a reminder of your position. Did you say to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International that if you guys help Mr. Snowden, support him in some way so that – to keep him from facing justice back in the United States, that there would be consequences for them?

Jen Psaki:  I don’t have any readouts of these calls. Our focus remains on –

Matthew Lee:  Okay. Well, then can you say –

Jen Psaki:  -- conveying to the Russian Government the fact that they have the ability to help return Mr. Snowden to the United States.

Matthew Lee:  Did you tell them in the calls that you did not think that Mr. Snowden should have the opportunity to express his view?

Jen Psaki:  Matt, I don’t have any readout for these – of these calls for you. We did --

Matthew Lee: Okay. Well, forget about the calls, then.

Jen Psaki:  We did convey the broad point that I’ve made.

Matthew Lee: Okay. Well, then forget about what you said or what the Embassy people said in these specific phone calls. Do you believe that Mr. Snowden should not have had the opportunity to express his views at the airport in Moscow today?

Jen Psaki: Well, Matt, I think we broadly believe in free speech, as you know.

Matthew Lee: Except when it comes to this.

Jen Psaki: But we cannot look at this as a – I know we like to ask about sweeping scenarios in here, but --

Matthew Lee: No, this is not sweeping at all. This is very specific, related to one guy in one place in one city, one airport, one time. So I just – do you think that it was inappropriate for Mr. Snowden to speak publicly? Do you – I mean, not that – whether you’re disappointed in the Russians. Do you think that he should not have had the opportunity to speak publicly?

Jen Psaki: Our focus, Matt, is on how our concern about how Russian authorities clearly helped assist the ability of attendees to participate in this.

Matthew Lee: Mm-hmm.

Jen Psaki:  That is of concern to us. Our focus is on returning Mr. Snowden to the United States. Beyond that, I just don’t have anything more.

Matthew Lee:  Okay. I’m just – I’m trying to get – you are saying that this essentially – it wasn’t a press conference, but it might as well have been. And you don’t think the Russians should have helped to facilitate a --

Jen Psaki:  Facilitated a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee:  -- a propaganda platform. Okay. So this is, to your mind, something like them bringing out a defected spy from the Cold War and putting him on a platform and having him rail against the United States. Is that what the Administration believes?

Jen Psaki:  I’m not going to draw comparisons along those lines. But let me say --

Matthew Lee:  “A propaganda platform” is close enough.

Jen Psaki: -- that Mr. Snowden could – should return to the United States to face these charges that – where he will be accorded a fair trial. That’s where our focus is.

Elise Labott: Well, is this a propaganda platform or is this kind of putting in train a process for asylum? Because last week, or two weeks ago, the Russians said that they would consider his request for asylum if Mr. Snowden would stop leaking material about – or leaking information about U.S. surveillance programs. Now, he wouldn’t do that before, and he tried some other areas for asylum.
Now, in this propaganda platform, as you call it, he said that he has decided to – not to leak any more information, or he doesn’t have any more information, but he’s done. So are you concerned now that this is him accepting conditions for Russian asylum publicly as opposed to just some kind of propaganda? I mean, is that your real concern here, that these are the conditions for asylum and now he’s publicly meeting them?

Jen Psaki:  Our concern here is that he’s been provided this opportunity to speak in a propaganda platform, as I mentioned a few seconds ago, that Russia has played a role in facilitating this, that others have helped elevate it. But we still believe that Russia has the opportunity to do the right thing and facilitate his return to the United States.

Elise Labott:  Well, but --

Jen Psaki:  I don’t have any independent knowledge, as would be no surprise, of what he has officially requested, what has officially been --

Elise Labott:  Well, it’s pretty public that Russia --

Jen Psaki:  -- accepted or not.

Elise Labott:  Okay, but it’s pretty public that Russia said that they would consider his asylum petition if he said that – if he would agree publicly to stop leaking information. Now he’s done that.

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Elise Labott:  So is that propaganda, or is that publicly agreeing to Russia’s conditions and kind of moving the asylum petition along?

Jen Psaki:  I’m just not going to make an evaluation of what Russia’s conditions are and whether he meets --

Elise Labott:  Well, you don’t have to make an evaluation. They’ve said it publicly.

Jen Psaki:  -- let me finish – whether he meets them. That’s not the point here. The point is Russia helped facilitate this. They have the ability and the opportunity to do the right thing and help return Mr. Snowden to the United States. It’s not about what the conditions are.

Elise Labott:  But you don’t – I mean, is it – I mean, your concern now is that this is – that Russia’s – by facilitating – I mean, are you really upset that this is propaganda, or are you really upset that Russia is moving closer to accepting to this guy’s asylum?

Jen Psaki:  Well, we don’t know that. This is a step that was taken today. Obviously, we continue to call for his return. They have a role they can play in that. Beyond that, I’m not going to speculate what they are or aren’t going to do.

[. . .]

Matthew Lee: Can I just --

Jen Psaki: Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee: In the conversations that the Ambassador, or whoever it was the Embassy had – not with the Human Rights people, but with the Russian Government --

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee: -- did you tell them that facilitating this appearance by Mr. Snowden was problematic, that you thought that they shouldn’t do it?

Jen Psaki:  I --

Matthew Lee:  Did you ask them not to do it?

Jen Psaki:  We made our concerns and our view on Mr. Snowden clear.

Matthew Lee:  No, but I – specifically about giving him this propaganda platform, as you called it.

Jen Psaki:  I just – I don’t have any more to read out for you from the private phone calls, Matt, just that there – we have been in touch.

Matthew Lee:  Well, I mean, did you ask the Russians, please don’t do this, we think he’s a criminal and needs to come back? Did you – did – I mean, did you ask and they rejected the request?

Jen Psaki:  Well, Matt, we’ve been clear publicly --

Matthew Lee:  Yeah.

Jen Psaki:  -- countless times what our view is --

Matthew Lee: I understand that, but --

Jen Psaki: -- and we’ve consistently made the same points privately, today and any other day.

Matthew Lee: Right. But did you say that you would look negatively on them providing him a, quote-unquote, “propaganda platform?”

Jen Psaki:  I just don’t have any more on the specifics of the calls.

Matthew Lee:  Well, is the United States Government now in the business of trying to discourage people or governments from facilitating people having – meeting with human rights activists? I don’t get it.

Jen Psaki:  Matt, this is not a universal position of the United States. This is an individual --

Matthew Lee:  So it’s just in this one case.

Jen Psaki:  -- who has been accused of three – of felony charges.

Matthew Lee: But surely – Jen --

Jen Psaki: This is not a unique --

Matthew Lee: Okay. He’s been accused. Do you remember the old line that we’re supposed to all know – he has not been convicted of anything yet.

Jen Psaki:  And he can return to the United States and face the charges.

Matthew Lee:  But he can also surely – people who are accused of crimes are allowed their right of free speech, are they not?

Jen Psaki:  Matt, I think we’ve gone the round on this.

Elise Labott: No, I mean, it’s a legitimate question. I mean, you talk about even in Russia that journalists have been persecuted and political activists have been persecuted and you call for free speech around the world. But you’re not saying that Mr. Snowden has the right of free speech?
Jen Psaki: That’s not at all what I was saying. We believe, of course, broadly in free speech. Our concern here was that this was – there was obvious facilitation by the Russians in this case. We’ve conveyed that. We’ve conveyed our concerns. I’m saying them publicly.

Elise Labott: So you’re upset – you’re not upset about the press conference; you’re upset that the Russians facilitated it.

Jen Psaki: We certainly are upset that there was a platform for an individual who’s been accused of felony crimes.

Elise Labott: But what does that matter, really? I mean, people that are in jail or are on trial in the United States, they give press conferences or they speak out all the time. I mean, it sounds to me like what you’re not really upset with the act that he spoke; you’re upset with the fact that the Russians did something on his behalf.

Jen Psaki:  I think I’ve expressed what we’re upset about.

Elise Labott: I don’t --

Jen Psaki: And you keep saying what we’re upset about. But I think I’ve made clear what we’re upset about.

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