Friday, September 16, 2016

Will Obama Pardon Edward Snowden? Not Bloody Likely!

This file photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, on June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong.
Neoliberal security fetishists are unlikely to want Edward Snowden pardoned, despite the fact he's performed a public service in exposing surveillance overreach.

Today, with the opening of Oliver Stone's biopic film  'SNOWDEN', props and kudos must go out to The New York Times for its bold editorial calling for Obama to issue an executive pardon.  As the Times puts it, embodying the hopes and desires of civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU, Amnesty International and Humans Rights Watch:
“Edward J. Snowden, the American who has probably left the biggest mark on public policy debates during the Obama years, is today an outlaw. Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed to journalists secret documents detailing the United States’ mass surveillance programs, faces potential espionage charges, even though the president has acknowledged the important public debate his revelations provoked.

Mr. Snowden’s whistle-blowing prompted reactions across the government.  Courts found the government wrong to use Section 215 of the Patriot Act to justify mass phone data collection. Congress replaced that law with the USA Freedom Act, improving transparency about government surveillance and limiting government power to collect certain records. The president appointed an independent review board, which produced important reform recommendations.

That’s just in the American government. Newspapers that published Mr. Snowden’s revelations won the Pulitzer Prize. The United Nations issued resolutions on protecting digital privacy and created a mandate to promote the right to privacy. Many technology companies, facing outrage at their apparent complicity in mass surveillance, began providing end-to-end encryption by default. Three years on, the news media still refer to Mr. Snowden and his revelations."

This should be a veritable no brainer given it's one case, laced by so much controversy, that it literally calls out for a presidential pardon.  But as the Times also went on to document,  the grievances and retribution mindset of the Neoliberal security statists live on, and they have the memory of a metaphorical elephant.  In Snowden's case, these hard heads (including the two current presidential candidates) focus not on the man's public service but the importance of prosecuting him. Hillary Clinton, who played fast and loose with her emails - putting them on 19 different devices  - had the audacity to say Snowden "needed to face the music". This despite the fact the FBI and Justice Dept. let her off with a slap on the wrist. As for Trump,  this is a guy who - despite receiving a confidential briefing 2 weeks ago -blabbed its content to the frickin media.  All this, even - as the Times observed how  Eric Holder struck  a more measured tone in May, upon leaving office as Mr. Obama’s attorney general. He even acknowledged Snowden had performed a "public service'.

What about Barack Obama? Can he strike a similar tone to Mr. Holder's?  Alas, the man who eight years ago defined "hope and change" has now devolved (evolved?)  to become basically a keeper of the Neoliberal state establishment - and is unlikely to be so gracious.  Meanwhile on Wednesday Snowden thanked supporters who launched a campaign for his pardon and affirmed that for the sake of democracy, future whistleblowers must not be silenced.

Again, this ought to be a no-brainer but to the Neoliberal state and its gate keepers, information keepers, it bears the mark of a treasonous contempt.  The "contempt"  of a genuine citizen who demands transparency from his government and doesn't seek to keep its people in the dark- or to use various rationalizations to spy and catalog their every move. See e.g.

Speaking by video link from Moscow, where he has been in exile since 2013, Snowden said that while the Founding Fathers created checks and balances to guard against government abuses, “whistleblowers, acting in the public interest, often at great risk to themselves, are another check on those abuses of power, especially through their collaboration with journalists.”

Snowden addresses supporters at video conference.

He said whistleblowing “is democracy’s safeguard of last resort, the one on which we rely when all other checks and balances have failed and the public has no idea what’s going on behind closed doors.”

The 33-year-old addressed a New York City news conference where advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International announced an online petition drive to urge President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office. The supporters called Snowden a hero for exposing the extent of government surveillance by giving thousands of classified documents to journalists. The documents disclosed the extent of unconstitutional mass surveillance conducted without adherence to the 4th amendment's demand for individual warrants.

Meanwhile, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi has insisted:

"It is important to remember Mr. Snowden is not a whistleblower. He is accused of leaking classified information, and his actions have inflicted serious harm on our national security."

But, truly, if a citizen - even under contract with the NSA-  reveals the government has committed serious constitutional violations (in this case of the Fourth Amendment) clearly that must be whistle blowing and the violation itself must trump in importance the means used to expose it. Indeed, our Constitution's Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Clearly showing that only individual warrants are acceptable and one cannot have mass warrants issued out of laziness, disrespect for the Constitution or mere expedience and efficiency provided by technology. Moreover, Snowden was ultimately vindicated when a  300-page report     was released last year by a commission appointed by Obama himself .

The very issuance of that report by an Obama-appointed commission, I would argue, shows unimpeachably the whistle blower status of Snowden.

As for Raimondi's claim of "harm to our national security", I would argue that emerged not with the Snowden disclosures but with the egregious use of the Stuxnet computer worm over a year earlier to create havoc with Iran's centrifuges - used in its nuclear program.  Sean McGurk - former head of cyber defense at The Department of Homeland Security, in charge of protecting critical infrastructure in the U.S.  interviewed on a March 4, 2012 '60 Minutes' pointedly remarked:

"You can download the actual source code of Stuxnet now and you can repurpose it and repackage it and then, you know, point it back towards wherever it came from."

And that has undoubtedly been done, as evidenced in the recent DNC hacks as well as others, e.g. of Colin Powell, attributed to "Russians" - but in any case with the aid of a repurposed and redirected Stuxnet code.

Edward Snowden was not responsible for wreaking any of the havoc later caused by Stuxnet's repurposing, and hence is not culpable for any measurable national security harm. The only "harm" was to programs (e.g. PRISM, MUSCULAR, XKeyscore) that never should have been implemented to  begin with, given they trampled on 4th amendment rights.

These facts also should be processed by the misnamed House Intelligence Committee - dominated by fascist Reeptard lackeys-  which sent a strong letter to Obama insisting he not pardon Snowden. But they approved wholeheartedly when Bush Jr. let Luis Posada Carriles have safe haven in Miami ten years ago. Recall Posada Carriles, eg.

was the Venezuelan terrorist who - along with Orlando Bosch - engineered the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 just off Barbados' SW coast on October 6, 1976, killing all 73 innocents aboard, in the worst plane terror act before 9/11.

Posada is still wanted by VZ authorities for his role, as he was ten years ago, when Bush Jr. let him live freely in Miami's "Little Havana"  as the Reepo House Reeptards cheered. So, I'd say they've lost all credibility over any security matters now.

Speaking more cogently after the Snowden video conference was ACLU Executive Directot Anthony Romero, in whose words:

Cases like Edward Snowden’s are precisely why the presidential pardon power exists, There is widespread consensus that Edward Snowden’s actions catalyzed an unprecedented debate about the proper limits of government surveillance, and his actions resulted in widespread reforms both in law and in technology that protect Americans and individuals across the globe.”

If George Bush Sr. could pardon a terrorist like Orlando Bosch, responsible for planning the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 off Barbados on Oct. 6, 1976 - killing all 73 on board- then certainly the least Obama could do is commute the sentence of a man who followed his conscience and constitutional law with respect for the highest moral imperatives.  The question then becomes  whether Obama has the cojones to do it and transcend his fear of wingnut narratives, e.g.  "extending his apology  terror tour" .  He'd also have to dismiss the concerns of dim-witted advisors whispering in his ear about being seen as "weak on national security".  In addition, what would Hillary and her campaign  think if he did it? This,  given she wants Snowden to "face the music" - never mind she won't for her own security failures with her personal email server.

Those imperatives have also made nations and peoples more aware of their rights and the threat of surveillance in violating them. As Naureen Shah, Amnesty International's Director of Human Rights for the U.S. put it:

"I think it's no exaggeration to say this man has changed the world"

Indeed, and for the time being - more people are freer in their web surfing, emailing, Google searching  than they had been before Snowden.  TO lend your voice in support, go to:

See also:

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