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ACTION ALERT: Support the Moral Actions of Edward Snowden


June 11, 2013
Norman Solomon / AntiWar.com & Dylan Stableford / Yahoo! News & Daniel Ellsberg / The Guardian

According to Daniel Ellsberg, "there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material, and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers." With his actions and words, Edward Snowden has given aid and comfort to grassroots efforts for democracy. What we do with his brave gift will be our choice.

http://original.antiwar.com/solomon/2013/06/10/historic-challenge-to-support-the-moral-actions-of-edward-snowden/

ACTION: Click here to sign the Roots Action "Thank NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden" petition.

Historic Challenge to Support the Moral Actions of Edward Snowden
Norman Solomon / AntiWar.com

(June 10, 2013) -- In Washington, where the state of war and the surveillance state are one and the same, top officials have begun to call for Edward Snowden's head. His moral action of whistleblowing -- a clarion call for democracy -- now awaits our responses.

After nearly 12 years of the "war on terror," the revelations of recent days are a tremendous challenge to the established order: nonstop warfare, intensifying secrecy, and dominant power that equate safe governance with Orwellian surveillance.

In the highest places, there is more than a wisp of panic in rarefied air. It's not just the National Security Agency that stands exposed; it's the repressive arrogance perched on the pyramid of power.

Back here on the ground, so many people -- appalled by Uncle Sam's continual morph into Big Brother -- have been pushing against the walls of anti-democratic secrecy. Those walls rarely budge, and at times they seem to be closing in, even literally for some (as in the case of heroic whistleblower Bradley Manning). But all the collective pushing has cumulative effects.

In recent days, as news exploded about NSA surveillance, a breakthrough came into sight. Current history may not be an immovable wall; it may be on a hinge. And if we push hard enough, together, there's no telling what might be possible or achieved.

The gratitude that so many of us now feel toward Edward Snowden raises the question: How can we truly express our appreciation?

A first step is to thank him -- publicly and emphatically. You can do that by clicking here to sign the "Thank NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden" petition, which my colleagues at RootsAction.org will send directly to him, including the individual comments.

But of course saying thank-you is just one small step onto a crucial path. As Snowden faces extradition and vengeful prosecution from the US government, active support will be vital -- in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Signing the thank-you petition, I ventured some optimism: "What you've done will inspire kindred spirits around the world to take moral action despite the risks." Bravery for principle can be very contagious.

Edward Snowden has taken nonviolent action to help counter the US government's one-two punch of extreme secrecy and massive violence. The process has summoned the kind of doublespeak that usually accompanies what cannot stand the light of day.

So, when Snowden's employer Booz Allen put out a statement Sunday night, it was riddled with official indignation, declaring: "News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm."

What are the "code of conduct" and "core values" of this huge NSA contractor? The conduct of stealthy assistance to the US national security state as it methodically violates civil liberties, and the values of doing just about anything to amass vast corporate profits.

The corporate-government warfare state is enraged that Edward Snowden has broken through with conduct and values that are 180 degrees in a different direction. "I'm not going to hide," he told the Washington Post on Sunday. "Allowing the US government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest."

When a Post reporter asked whether his revelations would change anything, Snowden replied: "I think they already have. Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten -- and they're talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state."

And, when the Post asked about threats to "national security," Snowden offered an assessment light-years ahead of mainline media's conventional wisdom: "We managed to survive greater threats in our history . . . than a few disorganized terrorist groups and rogue states without resorting to these sorts of programs. It is not that I do not value intelligence, but that I oppose . . . omniscient, automatic, mass surveillance. . . . That seems to me a greater threat to the institutions of free society than missed intelligence reports, and unworthy of the costs."

Profoundly, in the early summer of 2013, with his actions and words, Edward Snowden has given aid and comfort to grassroots efforts for democracy. What we do with his brave gift will be our choice.



Ellsberg: Snowden's NSA leak more important than my Pentagon Papers
Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News | The Ticket

(June 10, 2013) -- Daniel Ellsberg, whose leak of the so-called Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in 1971 exposed the secret history of the war in Vietnam, thinks Edward Snowden's leak of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs was more important than his.

"In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material, and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago,"

Ellsberg wrote in an op-ed published by the Guardian on Monday [See below]. "Snowden's whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an 'executive coup' against the US constitution."

Ellsberg added on CNN Sunday night that "it can't be overestimated to this democracy. It gives us a chance, I think, from drawing back from the total surveillance state that we could say we're in process of becoming, I'm afraid we have become. That's what he's revealed."

On Friday, President Barack Obama defended the programs that predated his administration, saying Americans must tolerate "modest encroachments on privacy" in the name of security, Congress had been fully briefed, and that his White House "actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards."

In the Guardian, Ellsberg scoffed at Obama's response:

For the president then to say that there is judicial oversight is nonsense—as is the alleged oversight function of the intelligence committees in Congress. Not for the first time—as with issues of torture, kidnapping, detention, assassination by drones and death squads -- they have shown themselves to be thoroughly co-opted by the agencies they supposedly monitor. They are also black holes for information that the public needs to know.

The fact that congressional leaders were "briefed" on this and went along with it, without any open debate, hearings, staff analysis, or any real chance for effective dissent, only shows how broken the system of checks and balances is in this country.

It's not the first time Ellberg has butted heads with Obama.

In 2011, Ellsberg was among a group of noted whistle-blowers that penned an open letter asking that a "transparency award" given to Obama earlier that year be rescinded. They called the Obama administration's record on secrecy and surveillance "a disgrace."

In 1971, Ellsberg became the first person to be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for releasing classified information to the public. The case was later dismissed when it was revealed during trial that the government had engaged in illegal wiretapping to gather evidence against him.

The Pentagon Papers were formally declassified in 2011.

Last week, Ellsberg told The Washington Post that the US government would have gone after him the same way they've gone after Bradley Manning, the former US soldier who is currently on trial accused of providing thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

"I'm sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in my case," Ellsberg said.


Edward Snowden: Saving us from the United Stasi of America
Snowden's whistleblowing gives us a chance to roll back what is tantamount to an 'executive coup' against the US constitution

Daniel Ellsberg / The Guardian

(June 10, 2013) -- In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material -- and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. Snowden's whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an "executive coup" against the US constitution.

Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.

The government claims it has a court warrant under Fisa -- but that unconstitutionally sweeping warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, almost totally deferential to executive requests. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: "It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp."

For the president then to say that there is judicial oversight is nonsense -- as is the alleged oversight function of the intelligence committees in Congress. Not for the first time -- as with issues of torture, kidnapping, detention, assassination by drones and death squads –they have shown themselves to be thoroughly co-opted by the agencies they supposedly monitor. They are also black holes for information that the public needs to know.

The fact that congressional leaders were "briefed" on this and went along with it, without any open debate, hearings, staff analysis, or any real chance for effective dissent, only shows how broken the system of checks and balances is in this country.

Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people's privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement -- like the one we had against the war in Vietnam -- or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous.

There are legitimate reasons for secrecy, and specifically for secrecy about communications intelligence. That's why Bradley Mannning and I -- both of whom had access to such intelligence with clearances higher than top-secret -- chose not to disclose any information with that classification. And it is why Edward Snowden has committed himself to withhold publication of most of what he might have revealed.

But what is not legitimate is to use a secrecy system to hide programs that are blatantly unconstitutional in their breadth and potential abuse. Neither the president nor Congress as a whole may by themselves revoke the fourth amendment -- and that's why what Snowden has revealed so far was secret from the American people.

In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms:
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America's intelligence gathering capability -- which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era -- "at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left."

That has now happened. That is what Snowden has exposed, with official, secret documents. The NSA, FBI and CIA have, with the new digital technology, surveillance powers over our own citizens that the Stasi -- the secret police in the former "democratic republic" of East Germany -- could scarcely have dreamed of. Snowden reveals that the so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America.

So we have fallen into Senator Church's abyss. The questions now are whether he was right or wrong that there is no return from it, and whether that means that effective democracy will become impossible. A week ago, I would have found it hard to argue with pessimistic answers to those conclusions.

But with Edward Snowden having put his life on the line to get this information out, quite possibly inspiring others with similar knowledge, conscience and patriotism to show comparable civil courage -- in the public, in Congress, in the executive branch itself -- I see the unexpected possibility of a way up and out of the abyss.

Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate the revelations by Snowden and, I hope, others to come might lead us to bring NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the bill of rights.

Snowden did what he did because he recognised the NSA's surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans' and foreign citizens' privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we're trying to protect.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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