Snowden’s Wikileaks Statement

I don’t necessarily want to discuss or debate my opinions regarding Edward Snowden and his slow leak of allegedly damning information about snooping and spying by various United States government entities. I think the reality of what the government does, and what Snowden has revealed, is far more complex in both scope, execution, and purpose than any of us realize; including Mr. Snowden himself. Instead, I want to discuss a statement he released Tuesday with the help of global transparency hypocrites Wikileaks

In the last week or so, it has been revealed that Snowden deliberately sought employment with an NSA contractor in order to gather what he considers to be damning information about American spying. He had unique access in his role as a systems administrator or infrastructure analyst – in any event, a sort of superuser of the computer systems that American intelligence agencies use to spy on people. Not content with merely revealing NSA secrets concerning the collection of telephone metadata and storage of recorded content, Snowden has become a celebrity of sorts, cheered by myriad repressive regimes hostile to the US, thanks to his revelations about some of the ways in which the US spies on foreign nationals, governments, and entities. 

A vehicle from the Ecuadoran Embassy at Moscow’s Airport

This isn’t a post to discuss the propriety of Snowden’s leak, or even necessarily to mock his amateur hour escape from Hong Kong, as he now finds himself unable to travel, stuck in the transit area of Moscow’s Shermeteyevo Airport. This is about his statement, which begins thusly,

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. 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.

Snowden is engaging in propaganda or has deluded himself into thinking that the government would sanction violence against him. I think he’s got a high enough profile that there’s unlikely to be any threat to his safety – merely to his freedom. He has, after all, been charged with a crime. I doubt he expected a parade. 

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.

Right. No wheeling and dealing – just handed over to face charges will do nicely. Ecuador – which is harboring accused sex offender Julian Assange in its UK Embassy – is all, “Snowden who?” After seeking asylum in Putin’s Russia, Snowden withdrew that application after Putin said Snowden could stay, as long as he stopped harming the US. In reality, Snowden would be Putin’s big bargaining chip in any future negotiation with Washington over anything important to the Kremlin. 

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.

Your passport – and Snowden’s – clearly states that it remains property of the government at all times, and the State Department retains the right to revoke anyone’s passport, especially when they’ve been charged with a federal crime. I’m hard-pressed to believe that Snowden is so naive as to think that Washington would continue to let him have freedom of movement when he’s a wanted fugitive. 

For decades the United States of America have 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.

Interesting construct, there. Notice the use of the plural voice after “United States of America”. Something united is singular. Setting style aside, the US does indeed grant asylum to people who fear persecution at home due to their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Snowden is none of these things and has a tremendous amount of chutzpah to equate himself with someone escaping military dictatorship in Burma, nationalist harassment in Bhutan, or sectarian violence and chaos in Iraq. Snowden is just another lawbreaker. 

Snowden conflates citizenship with possession of a travel document. No one has rendered him a stateless person – he remains a citizen of the United States until such time as he formally renounces it. He has merely lost his right to use a travel document because he is a wanted fugitive. Without papers, the only country to which he can now travel is the United States, unless some third party provides him with a temporary travel document such as a laissez passer, which the United Nations issues to some of its personnel. Russia could feasibly treat him as a refugee and issue an identity card for Snowden to use to travel to a third country, but it has not formally granted him entry to Russian territory. Snowden’s best chance to remain “free” is for some third world despot to grant him some form of asylum leading to immediate citizenship and a passport. Reports are that Snowden has applied for asylum to 20 countries, and so far has been met with rejection. He withdrew his request for asylum in Russia, because of Putin’s conditions

In the end, Snowden is not a persecuted person. He is a common fugitive accused felon and is not entitled to the rights and privileges associated with “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. 

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

Snowden has a background as a CIA agent who operated in Europe. Yet for someone supposedly knowledgable about spycraft and the surveillance capabilities of the US government, this seems so amateur hour. He’s now got Wikileaks writing press releases for him, and he effectively proclaims himself to be a martyr for a larger cause. I don’t think the Obama Administration is afraid of Snowden or Manning.  Everyone knows the US spies on other countries. Everyone knows we engage in complicated diplomatic issues on an hourly basis all over the world. 

There is certainly a debate and discussion to be had about the surveillance state and the way in which it is overseen and operated. I find somewhat persuasive the arguments commending Snowden for giving us more information about the scope and methods of the surveillance. But I do not think that Snowden’s “leaks” about American spying on foreign persons or governments is at all helpful, and find that to be particularly galling. He’s the contemporary version of the Cambridge Five – laptops replace the one-time pad – but instead of giving information to another country (although they probably got all of it anyway), he’s leaking what he can through the media. 

I don’t think Snowden is a hero or a villain, but I do think he should stop whining and face the consequences for what he’s done. 

He’s not subject to persecution – just prosecution under the law. 


  • robrobrobislike

    Given the US’s treatment of the last leaker that embarrassed them at this scale, how reasonable is it to expect Snowden to willingly let himself be taken in?

    While claiming to suspend judgment of Snowden’s actions for the purposes of discussing the mechanics of his and Wikileaks’s actions, you’re using a lot of loaded language (“Snowden is just another lawbreaker,” “He is a common fugitive accused felon and is not entitled to the rights and privileges associated with ‘asylum'”) that seems to indicate that your position is based on the idea that what he did was wrong.

    It kind of baffles me that someone that obviously has the facility to engage in a real analysis of the Snowden leaks would come down on the side of the government that has engaged in (likely unconstitutional, secret legal opinions aside) spying on its people at an enormous scale while serially lying about it not only to the public, but to their elected representatives in Congress.

    I can’t help but feel like you wouldn’t be rehashing the administration’s talking points on this had Romney been caught doing the same thing.

    • Why is it that we are surprised by the government not readily admitting publicly to secret endeavors?

      • robrobrobislike

        As Pollyanna-ish as it sounds, I would prefer not to be spied upon and lied to by my government, especially when they’ve been caught with their britches down as in this situation. Surprise doesn’t really have anything to do with it.

        SImilarly, though, why is it that you are surprised that Snowden would try to evade prosecution? Whistleblowers are typically treated harshly. That’s why Mark Felt didn’t reveal his identity until 2005 and why Bradley Manning wasn’t arrested until his friend snitched on him.

        • Bradley Manning is on trial as we speak. He has a lawyer and everything.

          • After 3 years of what any sane society would call torture. Hurray for progress. Due process what now?

          • Not 3 years of torture. Unless all imprisonment is torture. Also, military courts operate somewhat differently from civilian criminal courts, but he is still entitled to – and receiving – due process.

          • robrobrobislike

            He was kept naked in solitary confinement and is facing life in prison. Regardless of whose definition of torture you’re going to use, the idea of facing would be enough to encourage any potential future whistleblower to try to evade capture.

          • Yes but not allowed to refer to international law; that is, ratified treaties that are supposed to be the highest law.

      • No one is surprised the gov’t has secrets. Nice strawman.

        What is galling is the breadth and depth of these particular secrets, which you seem to dismiss so casually.

        While claiming you don’t want to discuss your “opinions on Snowden”, that’s all you’re doing.

        • Actually, there’s really not very much there that’s particularly controversial, and there is a subset of people who knee-jerkedly support what Manning and Snowden did because they do not believe governments should have secrets. See Leaks, Wiki.

          • robrobrobislike

            There’s not much there that’s particularly controversial? Come on. You can’t possibly think that these things aren’t controversial.

          • Michael Raleigh

            If its not particularly controversial, why has the US Army banned the Guardian website on all of their computers?

  • “Snowden is engaging in propaganda or has deluded himself into thinking that the government would sanction violence against him. ”

    Alan, are you ****** kidding me? Look at what our benevolent government has done to Bradley Manning the last 3 years. Look what overzealous prosecutors did to Aaron Schwartz. Look at us force-feeding prisoners in Guantanamo.

    Our track record of treating humans humanely ain’t real stellar, even (especially?) under a guy who actually won a Nobel Peace Prize and is supposedly the hero to all you progressives.

    Why the hell would ANYONE want to give themselves up for “prosecution”?

    (The “have” is a European-English construction where an organization is plural where we’d make it singular – he definitely didn’t write that.)

    • If Manning and Snowden are the civil rights heroes you say they are, they could take a lesson from Martin Luther King, Jr., who willfully subjected himself to physical brutality to make his larger point.

      • Wow. That’s a pretty obscene standard you’ve decided is the bar a whistleblower has to leap over.

        Next you’ll be making prison rape jokes.

        • ““An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”

          MLK was such a fascist, right? But you’re right – Snowden is a precious snowflake who is standing up for the right to expose lawlessness through lawlessness.

          • It’s convenient that you demand that the whistleblowers become martyrs for their cause. Less people are likely to speak up against gov’t overstepping when all the previous ones are whisked away to US run torture prisons overseas

          • Bradley Manning is in a court in Maryland.

          • You’re right, why ship him overseas when we can just torture him on American soil with impunity

          • Right. Because he’s being tortured, being forced to answer for crimes he committed (he’s already pled guilty to 10 counts).

          • Clearly Alan, when it comes to Bradley Manning you have no idea what he’s been through over the past three years. If you can describe what Manning is going through as a trial, I would respectfully question your understanding of what constitutes justice. In this case, the Army is judge, jury, and jailer. Any attempt to describe this process as fair is simply preposterous!

          • Don’t worry, it’s all on the up and up. Alan sees no problems when the people watching him are the same people he “betrayed” and the same people who want to see him in the gallows

          • Was in Quantico

  • Alan, you’re a little quick to fit Edward Snowden for an orange jumpsuit. Now if he took the job with Booz Allen to get at the information, I still want to erect a statue for him and give him a pension and a parade. But look a little more carefully at your source: the South China Morning Post quotes him thus: “‘My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,’ he told the Post on June 12. ‘That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.'” Note the break between the two sentences: not only are you willing to believe the Post’s story—you’re also willing to believe that the “That” in the second sentence refers to his reason for taking the job. This suggests a certain “prejudice,” in the literal sense of the word. I don’t want to get all lawyerly and all, but a little restraint might be a good idea.

    How crazy and paranoid Snowden is to think that the US government would attempt to destroy one of its proclaimed enemies! They’d never do that—just ask Anwar al-Awlaki, Jose Padilla, or Bradley Manning. Oh, wait, you can’t. Your comparison to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is unintentionally apt: have you forgotten that the US government—in the unlovely but powerful person of J. Edgar Hoover—blackmailed King and tried to get him to commit suicide?

    It’s also interesting—but not surprising–that you take off after Edward Snowden rather than the manifest lies about spying of so many highly-placed members of the US government, including NSA Director General Keith Alexander, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and President Barack Obama. Not surprising, but interesting. Not one prosecution of the war criminals of the Bush and Obama Administrations or the Wall Street megagriftersl, but the entire weight of the US government turned against Snowden.

  • Michael Raleigh

    I can’t believe you are an attorney. Did they not cover constitutional law wherever you studied? Did you miss the past 12 years while we have handed over most of our civil liberties including freedom from execution by the Presidential hit list?

    ….War on Terror. Nuff said apparently.

    Also, nice dig at Assange by noting that he is an “accused sex offender.” Is this your unofficial tryout for Fox News?

    Buffalo Pundit, crusader for the government’s right to privacy.

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