Tag: whistleblower

Snowden will return if he can get a fair trial

snowden_2912545bUS Government whistleblower Edward Snowden said he would return to the US if the government would guarantee him a fair trial.

Speaking on Skype from Russia at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, Snowden said that he has told the US government he would return if it  would guarantee a fair trial where he could make a public interest defence of why this was done and allow a jury to decide.

He said that he had had talked about making a plea deal with the government in the past and that former colleagues at the NSA and CIA agreed with him. Others believed that the “Constitution doesn’t really matter,” he said.

Of course it is pretty debatable. The US government is hardly going to allow him a “fair trail” as he is not a Wall Street Banker and it regards him as a spy rather than a whistle-blower. While Snowden’s actions did bring to an end the US government’s electronic spying sweeps, the government felt that he put agents’ lives and risk by exposing what he did.

Snowden could face up to 30 years in prison, if he is found guilty.

Former top cop calls for the persecution of whistleblowers

A former top cop has decided that whistleblowers should be arrested on sight.

The Guardian reports the former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Blair has said that there was material the state had to keep secret, and powers had to be in place to protect it.

The announcement comes after cops were patting themselves on the back that they had got their paws on copies of thousands of classified documents from David Miranda  who along with his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, has been reporting leaks from the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The documents were obtained when the Home Office used anti-terrorism laws to detain and question Miranda at Heathrow airport earlier this month. Of course, they only received copies, the rest of the documents were secretly stored elsewhere.

Lord Blair said the state has to have secrets as it is the only way to defend itself against terrorists.

He said that the UK needs a law that covers a situation when somebody wishes to disclose secrets, because it can be dangerous for individual citizens to make those secrets available to terrorists.

The Snowden leaks revealed an unprecedented, secret dragnet spying operation in the US and the UK.

Blair claimed that the threat from international terrorism was always changing and there was a need to review the law on whistleblowers.

Lord Blair said that it was a new threat which is not of somebody personally intending to aid terrorism, but of conduct which is capable of facilitating terrorism. Curiously this was the same line used in the prosecution of Bradley Manning to WikiLeaks – and the judge in that case did not agree.

We are not sure that Lord Blair has thought this one through.

Having laws against whistleblowers could result in problems for his former colleagues on the force. After all, who is going to want to talk to the police if they can be arrested for telling them information or exposing political corruption? 

Snowden rumoured to be leaving Moscow airport

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked details about a worldwide US government backed spying programme, has been allowed to leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, it is rumoured.

Snowden’s lawyer has said he had not yet received documents that would allow him to leave the airport and will continue to stay in the transit area.

The USA has been putting pressure on governments around the world to bring Snowden back to American soil. Moscow previously said it would consider granting Snowden asylum, as long as the leaks stop.

Several South American countries also offered Snowden asylum, and Bolivian president Evo Morales’ personal plane was grounded in Europe because of pressure from the United States.

The Interfax news agency, the BBC reports, said Snowden would be given new clothes before leaving the airport. But lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said Wednesday that Snowden was still in the airport.

The Snowden revelations showed other countries were cooperating with the United States for the blanket surveillance, including Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. It’s alleged that US intelligence has been spying on diplomatic missions and in EU offices.

In a recent poll, it was revealed that most Americans consider Snowden a well meaning whistleblower rather than a hostile foreign force.

Judge refuses to drop Bradley Manning 'aiding the enemy' charge

Colonel Denise Lind, presiding over the trial of Bradley Manning, will not throw out the most serious charge against him – that he ‘aided the enemy’.

Manning’s defence urged Lind to dismiss the notion he knowingly aided the enemy. If found guilty, Manning could spend life in prison without parole.

The leak was the biggest ever of secret US documents.

Prosecutors argued Manning had “systematically harvested” documents, which were eventually seen by Osama bin Laden. They also say the leaks have damaged national security and put American lives at risk, although critics dismiss this argument as dishonest and spurious.

Critics such as the Bradley Manning Support Network suggest that it is the United States administration itself that has threatened national security with its interventionalist policies of aggression abroad, not to mention Obama’s drone assassination campaign which has actually killed an American.

Manning has already pleaded guilty to 10 charges which could see him imprisoned for up to 20 years, however, the United States is seeking punishment of up to 154 years plus the maximum life sentence for “aiding the enemy”.

“He [Pte Manning] was knowingly providing intelligence to the enemy,” Judge Colonel Denise Lind said during the Fort Meade, Maryland hearing, the BBC reports.

A key witness, Colonel Morris Davis, who was director of the US air force’s judigicial system from 2007-2008, said he was “extraordinarily disappointed” by the decision. Ordinarily, Davis defends military justice, but he expressed concern about the extent of Manning’s heavy-handed prosecution. Davis compared the Manning trial to the marines who faced courtmartial over the 2005 Haditha killings.

In Haditha, 24 unarmed Iraqis were murdered by US marines. Six of the marines had the case dropped, another was found not guilty, and only one defendent was convicted of a single count – but still avoided jail time.

Davis said the difference between the responses suggest the military justice system “is not working”. 

Human rights advocacy group Amnesty International, the Guardian reports, called the decision a travesty of justice. “It’s abundantly clear that the charge of ‘aiding the enemy has no basis and the charge should be withdrawn,” senior director for international law, Widney Brown, said.

Manning, his defence team earlier said, was young, naive and good intentioned when he arrived in Iraq. But his growing disillusion spurred him to allegedly leak the documents.

One infamous file, which Wikileaks dubbed ‘Collateral Murder’, was a video of an American apache helicopter attack over Baghdad which killed 12, including a photographer for Reuters.

Civilian lawyer for Manning, David Coombs, claimed the US govnment hadn’t provided any substantial evidence that Manning knew he was providing information to enemies of the United States. Coombs argued if he was found guilty of “aiding the enemy” this would set a dangerous precedent for all whistleblowers and the freedom of the press.

Manning’s trial is bound up with the Obama administration’s increasingly restrictive and authoritarian stance on whistleblowers and the press.

A global manhunt is underway for Edward Snowden for revealing the NSA’s worldwide spying programme. The US government has attempted to paint him as a ‘leaker’ and of a collaborator with foreign interests hostile to America. Despite this, the American public broadly supports Snowden, a public opinion survey found.

Earlier this year the Associated Press, meanwhile, claimed the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of reporter and editor telephone records. The organisation’s top executive called it a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news is gathered. 

Venezuela offers asylum to Edward Snowden

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro had offered asylum to the former US intelligence contractor on Friday and it was just a matter of getting him out of Russia with no one noticing.

The timing of the announcement coincided with Venezuelan independence day celebrations. Nothing says “independence” better than offering humanitarian asylum to someone who needs to escape “persecution of American imperialism”.

On 14 June, 2013, US federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government

property. Snowden is believed to have asked 27 countries for asylum, most of whom had turned down his request since he outed himself as the NSA whistleblower responsible for leaking information about US government spy programmes. 

Russia’s head of international affairs, Alexei Pushkov, tweeted: “Venezuela is waiting for an answer from Snowden. This, perhaps, is his last chance to receive political asylum”.

So far, Venezuela claims to have not heard from Snowden yet, who is reportedly still in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

AP reports the only way for Snowden to get to South America is if Venezuela provides him with travel documents, adding that the only direct commercial flight is from Moscow to Havana, Cuba. This could prove problematic for Snowden, as the flight would have to pass over European and US territories – which grounded Bolivian president Evo Morales last week.

Bolivia and Nicaragua have also said Snowden may seek asylum in their countries.

A “press release” is doing the rounds on social media that claims Snowden is in Venezuela now, as confirmed to Al Jazeera, but it appears to be a hoax.

Edward Snowden issues statement on Wikileaks

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden blasted the Obama administration and claimed he had more information to release, even though it is starting to appear his relations with countries who initially backed him are being increasingly strained.

Snowden is still believed to be staying in a transit area at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and is asking for asylum in several countries, including Russia, China, Brazil, India and Ireland.

In a statement to WikiLeaks, Snowden accused the Obama administration of deception in a campaign to prevent him from finding political asylum and of leaving him a stateless person by revoking his US passport.

Snowden said that he was free and could continue to publish information that serves the public interest. However, he does seem to think that some US spooks are going to bump him off.

“No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world. If any of those days ahead realize a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank,” he said.

There are signs his relationship with Ecuador are being tested. The government, which reportedly gave him a temporary travel pass, has now said that it can’t give him asylum until he gets to Ecuador.

A government spokesperson said that giving Snowden a temporary travel pass to fly to Moscow was “a mistake on our part” and that Snowden was now Russia’s problem. Ecuador was not responsible for getting him to Ecuador.

In his Wikileaks statement, Snowden lashed out at US president Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden for pressing Ecuador to turn him away.

“This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile,” he said.

Snowden said that while the public has cried out support of his shining a light on the NSA revelations, the government of the USA responded with an extrajudicial man-hunt costing him his family, freedom to travel, and right to live peacefully without fear of illegal aggression.

Curiously, according to Reuters, Russian Tsar Vladimir Putin said Snowden could stay in Russia on the condition that he stops his work aimed at harming America. Supporters would argue it is not America in general he is harming, but its secretive spying organisations like the NSA.

Putin said he suspected that Snowden would continue leaking information because “he feels himself to be a human rights activist”.

While this might seem odd at first, it’s really not when you consider that Snowden sees himself as a human rights advocate while Putin sees himself as the Tsar of all Russias. Tsars don’t usually get on with human rights activitists even if they are revealing details about other countries. Besides, Snowden might have access to American dirt on Putin which he would prefer was not revealed.

The best course for Putin is to say Russia is not working with Snowden, but add that he has no intention of handing Snowden over to the United States.

“Russia has never given up anyone to anybody and does not plan to. And nobody ever gave anyone up to us,” Putin said.

To put Putin’s comments in some perspective, he has previously defended the use of government surveillance similar to those revealed by Snowden’s Prism leaks.

Assange ready to stay in Embassy for five years

With PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden nicking all the anti-secrecy press, the Ecuadorian government has reminded the world that it is still looking after Julian Assange.

Assange has been effectively under house arrest in the Ecuador embassy because he refuses to go to Sweden to face sex charges. A copper outside the embassy waiting to arrest him costs the UK taxpayer £3 million a year. He must be a well paid copper.

Any hope that the Ecuadorians might have changed their mind now that there had been a change of government in the country appears to have been dashed.

Talking to the Independentthe Equadorian ambassador Ricardo Patino claimed that Assange is prepared to stay for five years at the Ecuadorian embassy.

He denied Assange’s health was worsening, maintained he was “in good spirits” and confirmed Ecuador will continue to provide political asylum.

The UK and Ecuador are in a legal stalemate over what to do with Assange and have formed a working group to hammer out a deal.

The Foreign Office admitted that “no substantive progress” has been made and any resolution would need to be within UK law.

Patino claimed that Assange’s human rights to safe passage out of the UK were being violated by an intransigent British government.

Assange has claimed that if he was extradited to Sweden, he will be sent to the United States and potentially face the death penalty relating to charges of disclosing confidential material. He has never explained why if the US wanted to extradited him they didn’t do it when he was in the UK.

The UK’s Hoe (sic) Secretary  Teresa May would have loved to extradite him to the US and with the government wasting £3 million to wait for him to come out of the embassy, we expect William Hague would have gift wrapped him.

There appears to be no warrant from the US for Assange and any claim that if he did not face the music for the sexual offences he would be extradited seems to be largely in his own head.

Patino said the Ecuador government had offered the Swedish legal authorities the opportunity to question Assange about the allegations in their London embassy. The Swedish had not replied. 

Assange denies he is a terrorist

The founder of Wikileaks took time out from his busy schedule of house arrest to deny a claim by the US Vice President that he was a terrorist.

Of course Julian Assange is not being held on terrorism charges, just extradition to Sweden where he faces a potential court case for being a sex pest.

Given that,  it is not every day that the second most powerful man in the US, Vice President Joe Biden calls you a “hi-tech terrorist”. In the US being labelled a terrorist means that you end up on a deck of cards with a cruise missile winging its way to your destination.

Since there has been a distinct absence of missiles, cruise or otherwise, heading towards Assange’s plush Ellingham Hall house arrest, we can assume that Biden was probably sabre rattling. US prosecutors are trying to pin a charge against him on the grounds that he encouraged a US soldier, Bradley Manning, to steal US cables from a government computer and pass them to Wikileaks. This cannot be going very well. Assange has denied knowing Manning.

But, nevertheless,  Biden scored an own goal with his “high tech terror” comments.

As Assange pointed out “terrorism is defined as the use of violence for political purposes” and while he has done a lot of things, the only people who have ever accused him of violence were the Swedish girls he allegedly slept with.

As yet, Wikileaks has not even threatened to blow up anyone, not been connected with weapons and seems totally opposed to the use of violence for political ends. Any terror that exists is in an abstract mind within Biden’s own head.

However, Assange cocked up his own point by suggesting that Biden’s administration continues to take offence at the organisation and the press with a violent or political objective. So they must be real terrorists. Well no more than you are Assange. So far the US has not threatened him with violence either. It seems that both are as bad as each other.

Assange moaned to El Pais  that he was “in a condition of high-tech arrest” I have electronic jewellery which means if I leave the house outside of curfew times then an alarm will go off. It is very Orwellian.”

If it bugs you Assange, maybe you would like to go back to the jail? Let us not forget that you have not been arrested for running Wikileaks, you are being extradited for allegedly being a sex pest. There are very few alleged sex pests who are allowed bail, so you should count yourself lucky.

Assange is staying at Ellingham Hall, which is a mansion on a friend’s 600-acre country estate in eastern England, where he must live while on bail, pending ongoing extradition proceedings which may take months. 

He would probably be better off popping over to Sweden and demolishing the prosecution’s case if it is all as flimsy as he says it is.

US claims that Assange is not a journalist

The Land of the Fee (sic) is showing how that “freedom of the press” stuff was all just a convenient jingle to get the great unwashed to become cannon fodder for that French-backed revolution they had a while back.

The US Justice Department is contemplating how it can lock up Julian Assange for embarrassing the US government. The only difficulty is that the US constitution is clear that arresting journalists is a pretty bad idea.

This is because the revolution was helped thanks to the propaganda techniques of the publisher Paul Revere who was responsible for putting a wholesome gloss on what was a self-motivated rebellion against popular British rule.

According to Wired, the Justice Department thinks that it can distinguish Wikileaks from traditional media outlets and charge Assange with violating the Espionage Act.

Kenneth Wainstein, former assistant attorney general on national security, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about Wikileaks said that by showing how Wikileaks is fundamentally different, the government should be able to demonstrate that any prosecution here is the exception and is not the sign of a more aggressive prosecution effort against the press.

Currently senators are baying for blood. They want the 1917 Espionage Act to be revised to make it easier to prosecute recipients of classified information.

However the problem here is that pesky First Amendment. If Assange can be prosecuted for espionage for publishing such information, there is no reason why a similar prosecution couldn’t be made against other news organisations for doing the same thing.

But Wainstein claimed that Wikileaks is not a news outlet. He said that while traditional media focus on publishing newsworthy information to educate the great unwashed, Wikileaks focuses on obtaining and disclosing any official secrets.

While the media also gather news about sensitive areas of government operations through investigative reporting, Wikileaks uses encrypted digital drop boxes to encourage disclosures of sensitive government information and circumvent laws prohibiting such disclosures.

The traditional media also limit disclosures only to sensitive information that specifically relates to a particular story deemed to be of public importance. Wikileaks whacks the lot up with no regard for their relevance.

Assange’s oft-quoted remark that he “enjoys crushing bastards” is evidence that his release of sensitive information is a personal rather than a public-minded agenda, Wainstein said.

What the US government is hoping is that any judge will have in her or his mind a concept of a newspaper and therefore show Wikileaks is not one. But, to do that, a judge has to ignore an inconvenient truth about even traditional media. All of them, if they had access to diplomatic cables would print them. They might tart them up a bit with a story, but print them they must.

You cannot claim that a newspaper is a spy because it does a half-arsed job of presenting the facts. No one in the US senate would consider someone working for a tabloid less of a journalist than someone working for the Wall Street Journal.

Politicians, nor judges, have no power to define what a newspaper is. A newspaper is anything that prints something that you don’t know. Paul Revere’s rags would not have been considered newspapers by the British, any more than Wikileaks would be considered a newspaper by the US establishment. However they clearly are.

Certainly the effects of the leaks have shown cushy politicians have it when it comes to traditional news. They can spin, control, leak, release information when they like. Wikileaks however showed the horrible truth about what was going on in Washington.

However some of the witnesses at the hearing have noticed that pointed out that many of the cables published so far have contained information that should not have been classified and took aim at the government’s routine over-classification of documents.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, indicated that as a result of so much secrecy, leaks to the press had become one of the primary ways for the public to be kept informed about what its government is doing.

What is a little more alarming is that Congress is considering a change to the Shield Act, which Congress has been mulling as an amendment to the Espionage Act. The amendment would make it illegal to publish the names of informants who provide information to the military and intelligence agencies.

While this would appear OK on the surface, if the law was applied to non-government persons,  it would suppress their right to free speech.

It seems that the US needs to wake up to the fact that if you have a free society which was peddled as being important during the tea tax rebellion, you can’t turn around a couple of hundred years later and say “we made a mistake we really do want to control you”. It means that all those people who were duped into fighting the British for freedom, actually replaced one mild “tyranny” for one which was much worse. Ironically that makes Animal Farm, George Orwell’s satire about Communism more applicable to the United States.

US Air Force starts blocking sites linked to Wikileaks

The US Air Force is so terrified of Wikileaks it is banning any newspaper or magazine that happens to publish material from the site.

The New York Times, Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel have all been censored by the US Air Force and anyone who tries to view them get an “ACCESS DENIED. Internet Usage is Logged & Monitored” notice.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the notice means that trying to read the Guardian or the New York Times could send airforce personnel to the glass house.

The Air Force has confirmed that it has blocked more than 25 websites that contained the documents, originally obtained by the website Wikileaks and published starting late last month, in order to keep classified material off unclassified computer systems.

Major Toni Tones (no really), a spokeswoman for Air Force Space Command, said that removing such material after it ends up on a computer could require “unnecessary time and resources.

A New York Times spinner told the Journal that it was sad that the US Air Force has chosen not to allow its personnel access to the most important news, analysis and commentary.

After all where are they going to read Apple press releases and stories about the next iPad if they are banned from reading the New York Times?

The Guardian has big words in it, so we doubt it will be missed that much by US military personnel. We would not think there were many in the US military who can speak German and the vast majority would think that Berlin was somewhere in Utah.

Apparently it is only the Air Force which has instituted the ban.The Army, Navy and Marines aren’t blocking the sites, and the Defense Department hasn’t told anyone to do so.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has issued guidance against visiting Wikileaks or downloading documents posted there, according to officials.