Anti-NSA demonstrators pay homage to Ed Snowden back in October.
As the scuttlebutt heats up over who will be TIME's Person of the Year, most of those who've been paying any attention at all believe it to be a no-brainer: Edward Snowden! The reason is simple: No other man or woman on this planet has done more to enhance the knowledge of citizens as to how their rights have been gutted by mass, indiscriminate surveillance, than Ed Snowden. No other person has done more to expose maleficent deeds, including spying on allies and setting up an ancillary 'Patriot Act' program called "Main Core" to identify future "enemies of the state". No other person has disclosed the extent to which the national security fascists have run amuck - even to the extent of seizing citizens' laptops - as disclosed by Green Greenwald on the UK Guardian some months ago (as occurred to his partner at Heathrow Airport - compliments of the GCHQ, NSA's Brit "sister".).
Given this, and the fact knowledge is power, and the knowledge transmitted by Snowden also amounts to a global influence on world events, decisions - on which the 'Person of the Year' is supposedly based, Snowden is a simple choice. Yes, yes, the political class - all in bed with the national security state - will howl like stuck pigs, what would you expect? Their warp and woof is lies, political subterfuge and keeping us all deaf, dumb, blind and stupid. If we all had been kept as quiet, ignorant little sheep left to our own material consumption, debt and distractions, they'd have no complaints about Snowden. But because this one Constitutional patriot opened daylight on their shenanigans he thereby became Public Enemy Number One. Never mind, to real citizens he's a hero for exposing the extent to which our 4th amendment rights have been gutted by false legislation that actually rendered legal what was once lawless.
What are some of the many contributions Edward Snowden has made in the last 6 months?
- Revealing the PRISM and XKeyscore programs of the NSA to gobble terabytes of "metadata" and other data, simply because the technology allows it. This, in direct violation of the 4th Amendment which demands specific warrants apply. But because a cowardly congress couldn't bring itself to prosecute the Bushies (who used warrantless wiretaps from 2005-07) then it made their lawlessness legal retroactively via a 2011 Fisa redo, with new rubber stamping Fisa courts replacing real ones (set up under the original 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).
To acknowledge these mighty contributions of a true patriot, not a paper patriot, Jesselyn Radack, a former Justice Department ethics advisor, now a director with the Government Accountability Project, read a statement from Snowden to a crowd of NSA protestors back in October:
Indeed! But Snowden's June-July revelations were just the beginning.
- In September, before a U.S. -Brazil meeting Snowden revealed how the U.S. and NSA had spied upon the email messages of Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff. Outraged, Rousseff took to a UN podium to decry the tactics, e.g.
"Without respect for a nation's sovereignty, there is no basis for proper relations among nations,"
This ought to be a no-brainer. Because to spy on another country is to display malignant distrust of the spied -on nation. It therefore undermines polity, as well as civility, and in the process destroys any potential for normal relations or mutual respect. I would advance the same regarding the relation between a state and its citizens. If the former intrudes and spies on its people, then it mistrusts them at the core, and the citizen - knowing this - has no choice but to mistrust the state.
"Without the right of privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion, and so there is no actual democracy."
In other words, people denied this right - by NSA intrusiveness - via XKeyscore, PRISM or whatever, are inhabiting a Potemkin democracy. They have no true freedom of speech because they can't know how their (spied and mass-grabbed) speech is being used.
But without Snowden's justifiable revelations we'd never had been made aware of this!
Rousseff went on to say (ibid.):
"Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country."
- Within another month, Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA's spying on our own European allies. This centered on grabbing up the cell phone messages of Germany's Angela Merkel. As the word leaked out, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere told German ARD television the alleged surveillance would be “really bad” if confirmed. He added: “The Americans are and remain our best friends, but this is absolutely not right.”
These revelations prompted a full court press to rein in the NSA spooks via new legislation ('USA Freedom Act') touted by Patriot Act co-authors, Jim Sensenbrenner and Patrick Leahy. Quoted in the UK Guardian, Sensenbrenner said:
"Oversight only works when the agency that oversight is directed at tells the truth, and having Mr Clapper say he gave the least untruthful answer should, in my opinion, have resulted in a firing and a prosecution,"
Referring to Clapper's lying before a Senate Committee earlier, in March. Sensenbrenner's outrage occurred even as it was disclosed that Americans' communications were supposed to be destroyed as soon as possible, but they could be kept by NSA for up to six years to see if they meet certain criteria, according to recently declassified guidelines (pdf). In addition, it was learned that metadata about nearly every phone call made within the United States, kept in another NSA storehouse, can be saved for five years.
Meanwhile, a New York Times report revealed that the NSA keeps a wide range of information about Americans' communications for up to five years in online databases and another ten years "offline for 'historical searches". Also revealed is that an FBI agent can open an intrusive investigation with no reason to suspect criminal activity, and any resulting information can be kept for 20-30 years, even if it has no relationship to the investigation.
All of which prompted Sensenbrenner to tell the Guardian:
"We had thought that the 2006 amendment, by putting the word 'relevant' in, was narrowing what the NSA could collect. Instead, the NSA convinced theFISA court that the relevance clause was an expansive rather than contractive standard, and that's what brought about the metadata collection, which amounts to trillions of phone calls."
- Leading to the most recent revelations of the NSA "CO-TRAVELER" program which gobbles up 5 billion cell phone calls each day from around the world. According to the most recent Guardian report, e.g.
"The spy agency is said to be tracking the movements of “at least hundreds of millions of devices” in what amounts to a staggeringly powerful surveillance tool. It means the NSA can, through mobile phones, track individuals anywhere they travel – including into private homes – or retrace previously traveled journeys.
The data can also be used to study patterns of behaviour to reveal personal information and relationships between different users."
If Edward Snowden doesn't receive the 'Person of the Year' award, then one can only conclude the award itself doesn't matter as it's not based on its own fundamental criteria!