Monday, June 24, 2013

Snowden's asylum-seeking

Marcy Wheeler analyzes some of the implications of the Obama Administration overreach in its charges against Edward Snowden in Obama’s Stubbornness and the Risk of Snowden Emptywheel 06/24/2013:

The most likely approach to lead to further damage, however, is to charge him with Espionage. This not only raises the specter of the treatment we’ve given Bradley Manning — giving Snowden Denise Lind’s judgement that Manning’s rights were violated to include in any asylum application — but also easily falls under what states can call political crimes, which permits them to ignore extradition requests. That is, we appear to be pursuing the approach that could lead to greater damage.

By contrast, letting Snowden get someplace safe is perfectly equivalent to letting the CIA off for torture (or, for that matter, James Clapper off for lying to Congress). It’s a violation of rule of law, but it also serves to minimize the tremendous damage the spooks might do to retaliate. Obama has chosen this path already when the criminals were his criminals; he clearly doesn’t have the least bit of compunction of setting aside rule of law for pragmatic reasons. But in Snowden’s case, he seems to be pursuing a strategy that not only might increase the likelihood of damage, but also lets China and Russia retaliate for perceived slights along the way.

All this is just an observation. I believe Obama’s relentless attacks on whistleblowers and his ruthless enforcement of information asymmetry have actually raised the risk of something like this. And he seems to be prioritizing proving the power of the US (which has, thus far, only proved our diminishing influence) over limiting damage Snowden might do. [my emphasis]

CNN interviews Glenn Greenwald on the Snowden case, Greenwald defends NSA leaker Snowden 06/23/2013:

Kevin Gosztola discusses Snowden's asylum request to Ecuador in Snowden's Asylum Request: 'Unlikely I Would Receive Fair Trial or Proper Treatment Prior to Trial' FDL 06/24/2013:

Earlier this morning, I published a post titled, "Leaving the US Doesn't Make Snowden Any Less of a Whistleblower." I highlighted this reality the United States government faces where leakers are now fleeing because they believe they will be punished unlawfully and subjected to harsh conditions, as Manning was during his confinement at Quantico.

This and the fact that people like Secretary of State John Kerry are talking about Snowden being a traitor, who committed acts of espionage, is not going to help persuade any country to return Snowden.

Moreover, there is a lot of huffing and puffing going on about the "rule of law" and how Russia must follow it and arrest Snowden and send him back to the US. However, Snowden has submitted an application for asylum and, as long as that is pending, Russia is supposed to respect that application and not override it by having him extradited.
I was never much impressed by the argument that Snowden's leaking would have somehow been more virtuous or honorable if he had stayed around in the US to be arrested. Since the Obama Administration is pursuing a de facto policy that any leaking of even non-classified and non-harmful information about national security is aiding enemies of the US, Snowden would have been foolish not to take Obama's draconian policy against leakers and whistleblowers into full account.

David Sirota in Why shouldn't David Gregory be charged with a crime? Salon 06/24/2013 addresses that issue:

Snowden’s decision to flee the United States has often been depicted as an act of treason unto itself. The idea is that whereas Daniel Ellsberg was a hero for blowing the whistle and remaining in the United States, Snowden is a coward for blowing the whistle and fleeing. Left largely unmentioned is the big change between the time of Ellsberg’s disclosures and today: This White House is waging an unprecedented campaign to criminalize whistle-blowing; it sometimes tortures whistle-blowers; and it claims the right to extra-judicially assassinate American citizens who criticize the government but haven't even been formally charged for a single crime. In light of this, why have most media outlets not bothered to even ask whether Snowden's location outside the United States is, unto itself, a response to these troubling changes in U.S. government policy?
These are real concerns. Federal whistleblowers on national security issues cannot expect to be treated fairly or even legally by the US Government under the Obama Administration. It's bad policy. And whistleblowers would be foolish to ignore its reality.

I'll add here that I'm glad Snowden made the leaks that broke this story out of the shadows. I'm withholding judgment on his motivations, partly because I don't actually care about them at the moment. But I'm also giving him the benefit of the doubt on that count.

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