Wednesday, July 29, 2015

White House responds: go to hell, Snowden

When Obama took office, the White House set up a web site for people to petition the office of the president. The White House pledged to respond to any petition with over 25,000 signatures; in his second term, the threshold was raised to 100,000. I followed the response to several petitions, and never once did I see the White House change their position on any subject in response to a petition. Still, usually they did, actually, respond.

In June of 2013, a petition was posted demanding that Edward Snowden receive a full pardon for his leaks about the NSA and U.S. surveillance practices. Not familiar with Edward Snowden? John Oliver explains:

The petition reads:
Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.
It quickly passed 100,000 signatures, but the White House stayed silent on the matter for more than two years, before finally responding Tuesday morning, dumped simultaneously with responses to 19 other petitions in their "backlog". I found their response so vile and hypocritical, I don't even want to link to it (though I will). Vile, because they're using this petition's plea for mercy as an opportunity to intimidate would-be whistleblowers and convince Snowden's supporters to abandon him, and hypocritical, because they're suggesting Snowden should be punished for revealing the truth while claiming that the NSA should be allowed to engage in any number of secret, unconstitutional programs.

The flavor of the response is no surprise, though, since Obama has - for reasons that I cannot even guess - been running an unprecedented war on whistleblowers for years now. The response comes not from Obama, but from a "Lisa Monaco", counterterrorism advisor.

Slashdot readers had some insightful comments on the issue.
There is a high probably no Sunday talk show would have let him speak once they found out what he was going to say. They are all owned by giant media conglomerates you know. They wouldnt risk the wrath of the Federal government. Pretty sure Snowden went to Greenwald because he was one of the few journalists with the balls to do the story. The Guardian was hammered by the UK government for running it.

Remember when the CEO of Qwest defied the NSA plan to tap all data and phones lines after 9/11. The Federal government pulled all their contracts from Qwest, hammered their stock and then put him in prison for a phony securities rap. Qwest was a rare corporate hero among telecoms, long since swallowed up by CenturyLink who are just as bad as all the rest.
What Snowden did was technically illegal.
For the record, what every single one of the Founding Fathers of the United States did was "technically illegal", too.

Boston Tea Party? technically illegal
Rosa Parks technically illegal
Susan B Anthony? technically illegal
Martin Luther King, Jr? technically illegal

So, Ms Lisa Monaco, go jump in the motherfucking sea. You suggest that the "right way" for Mr Snowden to react to finding that his government was doing illegal shit would be to "speak out about it". Well, madame spokesperson, how the fuck do you "speak out" about something that it's illegal to disclose?
Under FISA he is not allowed to use wistleblowing as a defense...
Actually, it's worse than that. Two of the counts he's charged with are violations of the Espionage Act, which was intended to prevent US citizens from colluding with US enemies during World War I. Unfortunately, the law provides no room for affirmative defenses at all: if secrets were leaked, you're guilty, and the court isn't allowed to consider even the slightest sliver of the surrounding context. Did you uncover something illegal? Doesn't matter. Is this course of action the only one that would have turned up malfeasance by intelligence agencies? That can't be discussed.

The reason the Obama administration's insistence that Snowden come back to the US to "face a fair trial" is so flagrantly disingenuous is that the act that he's charged under, by virtue of its complete lack of defenses, is explicitly and intentionally designed to result in anything but a fair trial. They're inviting him home for a railroading, and it doesn't matter whether it's done in private or public: he's fucked.

From the petition:
If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and—importantly—accept the consequences of his actions.
He IS dealing with the consequences. That's why he left.

What Lisa Monaco is pushing for is martyrdom.

We are supposed to be a country of laws. We should not have officials demanding martyrdom of those who oppose their policies.

More importantly, the message here is that being right doesn't matter; being good and obedient preserves you, while being right only makes you a martyr. If you expose the corruption of those in power, that's well and good, and a great civil duty; however, you must understand that you will be punished.

The implication is that, civil duty or not, you should think long and hard about pitching your own skin into the cause, because we sure as hell aren't going to reward you just for doing a great service to humanity. Read carefully and you'll notice the government said he'd even have to accept the consequences of speaking out and engaging in constructive protest: they decree you can dissent against their rule, and that's well and good, as long as they can punish you for your dissent--which is precisely the situation in North Korea, where you may speak out against Kim Jong-Un, and, importantly, accept the consequences of speaking out against him.
Correcting false ideas:
he made no effort to be a whistleblower
False. There are e-mails that have been more or less corroborate that indicate he DID raise the issue up the chain of command. He was basically told not to worry his pretty little head about it and get back to work.
Selling IC secrets to the highest bidder is hardly whistleblowing
Are you aware of any evidence he every sold any secrets? I am not.
Why do people think he's not going to get an open trial? OR a fair one?
It doesn't matter whether he gets an open trial or not. The trial quite simply will not be fair. That is more or less a foregone conclusion. The laws he is charged under basically allow for no context to be considered even if what he did was morally correct and justified. He quite simply cannot get a fair trial.
The outcome may be obvious, but that doesn't make the trial unfair....
A ludicrous argument because it presumes the laws are just. Laws frequently are wildly unfair and you cannot have a fair trial when you are being judged under unfair laws.
Jury Nullification is Snowden's only hope if he returns to face the music.
In most of the US, its borderline illegal to even MENTION JN in court. judges will kick you out, lock you up, threaten you, try to scare you. voire dire does all it can to try to reject jurors that even KNOW what JN is. and if you tell them during VD that you don't know what JN is and then later, they find out you do, you are in contempt.

its all neatly stacked up so that your CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS are not vocalized or listed or communicated to you.

"nice liberty you got there; would be a shame if something were to happen to it"
Mr. Snowden's dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country...
Here it is, put up or shut up: name one single way that I personally am less "secure" due to Snowden's actions.

That's it. One single example.

Either that, or quit pushing this bullshit.
Right now, he's running away from the consequences of his actions.
Unlike James Clapper who enjoys no consequences for his actions - lying under oath to Congress.

Obama's administration is going to go down in history as the one that best highlights how politically well connected players are "too big to jail"...
And here's a random comment that vocalizes what I thought the first time I heard the term "Department of Homeland Security":
What do you expect from a country that has a Department of Homeland Security? It sounds like something from Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. (Fatherland, motherland, homeland ...)
Finally, a reminder from Edward Snowden himself:
I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.
P.S. Hi, Sweet Sher!

Big Money Breaks Democracy

The 100 biggest campaign donors gave $323 million in 2014 — almost as much as the $356 million given by the estimated 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less, a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance filings found.
If you're an American, statistically, it's a safe bet that you don't personally donate anything to any political candidate. Only 2% of Americans do. But if you did donate, you'd be overshadowed by the big donors. Only one single candidate in the U.S. congress gets the majority of his funding from small donors giving $200 or less (that's Alan Grayson, (D) Florida).

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