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Fair trial impossible in U.S., Snowden tells Ecuador (cnn.com)
153 points by mathattack 296 days ago | comments


DanHulton 296 days ago | link

There's a lot of discussion here that is missing the point that is clearly expressed in the first paragraph of the article:

"Pleading for asylum from U.S. officials he says want to persecute him, NSA leaker Edward Snowden told Ecuadorian officials that he fears a life of inhumane treatment -- even death -- if he's returned the United States to answer espionage charges, the country's foreign minister said Monday."

Snowden isn't afraid of being found guilty and serving a reasonable sentence. He's afraid of disappearing into a secret dungeon and tortured for decades. Which is a thing the USA has been proven to do. Recently. To people who have upset the government way, way less than he has.

It's a legit fear.

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lifeformed 296 days ago | link

> He's afraid of disappearing into a secret dungeon and tortured for decades. Which is a thing the USA has been proven to do. Recently. To people who have upset the government way, way less than he has.

Can you provide some examples of when this has happened to a non-military US citizen? I'm not denying it, I'm just genuinely curious here.

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CapitalistCartr 296 days ago | link

He's probably referring to America's program of "Extraordinary Rendition" which disappears people off the streets of cities around the World, and transports them to coöperating countries that are happy to torture prisoners. Supposedly such nations have included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Libya. The number of people so disappeared, their nationality, and their ultimate fate is in unknown. There is no way for the American public to ascertain whether or not such abductions have happened on American soil because the program is secret, lacking any oversight. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_rendition

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pyre 296 days ago | link

  | He's afraid of disappearing into a secret dungeon
  | and tortured for decades.
Or spending decades in solitary confinement, which is akin to torture.

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burke 296 days ago | link

    s/akin to//
It is torture. Human beings are not meant to be deprived of interaction that much, and you can be sure he's not in solitary because he's a danger to other inmates.

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pyre 295 days ago | link

I consider it to be torture, but a good portion of the population views torture as the stuff where someone's body is meticulously taken apart in the most painful way possible.

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Panoramix 296 days ago | link

Honestly I prefer to die.

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jlgreco 296 days ago | link

Here is the kicker: they would not allow that.

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mtgx 296 days ago | link

Manning was kept for 3 years in prison, half of that in solitary, with sleep deprivation and all that - with no charge. It would almost be against the law, if only Obama hadn't signed the indefinite detention clause within NDAA a couple of years ago (which he promised it won't be abused).

Obviously it's still against human rights and the Constitution, but the US government cares less and less about its own Constitution and even less about international laws lately.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

Manning is in the military, UCMJ applies.

Likewise he was held in Quantico Brig from July 2010 to April 2011, which is half again what you claim. His treatment was bad enough that it's not as if you have to lie about it to make your point.

Likewise, he was under formal charges since July 5th, 2010, and has been under the most-recent set of charges since March 1, 2011.

Likewise again, his detention has nothing to do with NDAA. A civilian court could just as easily remand someone to custody for the entire duration of a trial, even if it takes awhile.

All of this is easily available on Wikipedia. Now I'll add some hyperbole: Are there any Manning supporters who don't have to resort to misleading people or to outright lying?

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hedonist 296 days ago | link

Nice information, but you don't have to accuse people of lying. Most likely they're misremembering structurally minor details which don't distract from the main point -- which is that he was held under conditions tantamount to torture, and in an abuse process: in particular, a dubious interpretation of the "Prevention of Injury" status.

If you want to go after liars, go after people who pretend to believe that unnecessary solitary confinement (military or civilian) isn't torture. Or that drone (and vanilla) airstrikes aren't killing civilians in large numbers.

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DanHulton 296 days ago | link

You know, it's entirely possible they were just mistaken.

Chill.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

It's 2013 now. Manning was taken into custody in 2010. When do we get to assume people seriously debating the events around Manning's trial will at least be vaguely aware of the big details? Especially since we're discussing Manning in the context of wider U.S. legal policy now.

Garbage in means garbage out, every time. How can you draw accurate parallels from one case to another if you don't even bother to do the barest of research about the case you're drawing from?

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baddox 296 days ago | link

> Are there any Manning supporters who don't have to resort to misleading people or to outright lying?

I like to think of myself as one.

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iamdave 296 days ago | link

>Manning is in the military, UCMJ applies.

Can you show me what the UCMJ has about detention, and treatment of the detained?

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

It's all in 10 U.S.C. You can also download the Manual for Courts-Martial which includes all of the UCMJ articles (and IIRC, even the equivalent of 'annotated diffs'). I believe the latest MCM is from 2012.

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PavlovsCat 296 days ago | link

Are there any Manning supporters who don't have to resort to misleading people or to outright lying?

I think you answered that yourself:

His treatment was bad enough that it's not as if you have to lie about it to make your point.

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swamp40 296 days ago | link

I sure hope that {Comment redacted by the NSA}.

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swamp40 295 days ago | link

I accept my downvotes, yet remain unbowed.

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ihsw 296 days ago | link

Interesting how the US equates her own jurisdiction with 'the law.'

During the HK debacle they made this statement:

> If Hong Kong doesn't act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong's commitment to the rule of law.

And again regarding Russia:

> I would urge them to live by the standards of the law because that is in the interest of everybody.

Universal jurisdiction is a difficult policy to enforce since it can be challenged so plainly and directly by other state actors, especially if it's enforced selectively based on diplomatic convenience.

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pfortuny 296 days ago | link

It is funny how the now call the Internationa Treatises (if there is one, which I am inclined to doubt), "Law"... Taking into account that, well, the USA has not signed one of the most important in the world (not that I agree with it, just pointing the fact): the existence and admission of the International Criminal Court.

So much for 'the law'.

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joonix 296 days ago | link

I don't understand your point. The US is arguing that treaties that have been agreed to between HK and US should be honored because they are "the law" between those two countries. The US has not signed the ICC treaty, as you stated, so that is not "the law" binding the US. You have no point here unless the US had signed the treaty but failed to respect its terms.

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pfortuny 296 days ago | link

You are right, I just wanted to emphasize the single-sidedness of the US whenever it suits them and the 'oh-people-you-have-to-abide-by-the-law' when not.

The ICC was one of the BIG things as far as 'International Law' goes. The US did not enter because 'we do not want our military to be judged by foreigners' (in G.W. Bush's words), just as they did with the Germans after WWII.

You are right, my point is just tangential.

But there it goes.

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joering2 296 days ago | link

US government is the most selfish country in the world. They sit on #2 oil mine in the world (Alaska) but yet continue to suck it up from any other place.

And yes indeed its irony how they believe the only law everyone needs to comply is the one they set up. And if they decide to use nuclear weapon of course it will be in accordance with rule of law and in "interest of everybody". Yuck. That abuse of basic words: everyone, everybody, everywhere. My parents gave me really good advice: do not ever listen or trust people who continuously abuse those words.

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outworlder 296 days ago | link

> US government is the most selfish country in the world. They sit on #2 oil mine in the world (Alaska) but yet continue to suck it up from any other place.

Isn't that just logical, however? Other countries could do the same, but they prefer to exchange their reserves for dollars. Once the other countries reserves start to run out, then the US will begin tapping theirs.

That's smart, from my point of view.

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_k 296 days ago | link

Is it really that smart ? By doing so the president commits crimes against humanity, incentives lots of people to attack the US, kills privacy for the sake of security and does so while violating the constitution. The list goes on and on. Meanwhile, the people (not the government !) end up paying for this madness. Literally and figuratively.

A smart thing to do would have been to fund programs that bring alternatives on the market. That may not even have been necessary. (high oil prices is a big enough incentive) If he had invested all that war money in alternatives, the world would love the US. But look at what's happening now ! The guy at the top is worse than Bush. He then bullies and threatens foreign countries in an attempt to shut down journalists. How smart is all that ?

The US could have innovated its way out of oil dependency problem. It choose not to. How smart is that ?

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outworlder 296 days ago | link

> Is it really that smart ? By doing so the president commits crimes against humanity, incentives lots of people to attack the US, kills privacy for the sake of security and does so while violating the constitution. The list goes on and on. Meanwhile, the people (not the government !) end up paying for this madness. Literally and figuratively.

[Disclaimer: this is a foreigner's point of view. US citizens are welcome to step in this discussion and correct my points]

Not all of that follows. For instance, it is not automatically true that the US commits crimes against humanity by not using its own reserves. It can be argued that it shouldn't be buying oil from some countries, but it is really not its fault that the government of said countries is using the spare dollars to fuel their own agenda.

I see no merits at in any terrorist attacks on US soil, even if they resulted in no casualties. If some of these groups had a point, even then the responsibility must be shared between the US and other countries. "Oh, the US did such and such to my country!". Well, aren't we talking about sovereign states here? And again, not all foreign policies are about oil.

Yeah, I agree that it would be even more logical to spend more resources in order to develop alternatives to oil, at least as a fuel - there are other things we extract from it that are valuable and perhaps not as easy to replace, such as fertilizers and plastic. But research takes time, and oil is needed now. Furthermore, with such a huge military force, the US needs a lot of it. I can't imagine an all-electric airforce anytime soon, or electric tanks.

Now, if you want to argue that some (but not most, and certainly not all!) resources could be diverted from the military towards such programs, then I would agree. But I am not so sure that isn't happening already, it could as well be. Some of that research might be classified, even.

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_k 296 days ago | link

Back in the 70s a lot of alternative systems were coming available when oil prices were sky high due to an oil embargo. A lot of initiatives were started all over the world to become independent and to develop alternative sources of energy. It's very unfortunate all that innovation was stopped soon after the oil price went back down again.

What it always seems to come down to : a threat followed by a political decision. But as soon as the threat is gone, almost all innovation is being stopped. And that's very unfortunate.

We've seen something similar when the US got the first human on the Moon. There was a threat, a political decision, a lot of innovation and then the threat disappeared and the funding dried up.

I wasn't born yet in 1969 but I do remember reading about it as a kid. And when I grew up I was wearing a sweater with the letters USA on it. I wasn't the only one, far from it.

And here we are. Decades later. There's another threat, imo. All we need is a political decision.

If it comes, I'm gonna try and be the first one to say it's a smart decision.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

The U.S. doesn't get most of its oil from abroad though. We get most of it between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The idea that the U.S. is ravenously hounding Arab countries for their oil is pretty much just a leftist myth at this point.

Most Arab oil goes to China, India, Europe. Even the Arab oil that does go to the U.S. is typically just to be refined and processed so it can turn right around and be exported back to other countries.

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dragonwriter 296 days ago | link

> The U.S. doesn't get most of its oil from abroad though. We get most of it between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Canada and Mexico are part of "abroad", unless they've secretly been annexed when we were all distracted by Snowden.

Also, it doesn't get "most" from Canada and Mexico. More like a third of its imports.

> The idea that the U.S. is ravenously hounding Arab countries for their oil is pretty much just a leftist myth at this point.

OPEC, as a large cartel that controls enough of the world supply to substantially influence market prices, is an important target for influence for any purchaser of oil whether or not they directly get oil from them. That said, the US gets lots of oil from OPEC, including its Arab members; Saudi Arabia, for instance, is the #2 source of imported US oil, and Iraq and Kuwait, and are significant sources as well -- and of the non-Arab OPEC members, Venezuela is #4, some months topping Mexico as #3, and Nigeria is significant as well.)

See: http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_ep00_im0_...

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

Canada and Mexico are encompassed by free trade agreements. I walked past a Canadian government poster right here in DC the other day gloating about being the #1 oil exporter to the U.S. I should hope that my overall point is not lost in the quibbling about whether invading Iraq for oil is the same as buying it from a willing seller next door.

As for OPEC, it is true that the U.S. imports a lot of oil... it is also true that it exports a lot of refined petroleum products, as I had hinted at but didn't make fully clear. The actual U.S. usage for oil can be mostly made up by domestic (incl. regional) production, the excess refining capacity goes to support giving Europe and other nations high-quality gasoline and other products.

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mathattack 296 days ago | link

I don't think this is strategic intent as you're reading it. There's a world market and world price for oil. The US dips into their strategic reserve when prices get too high. This isn't consistent with "hoarding" oil in Alaska. It's environmental concerns that hold off on drilling in Alaska. Similarly, the issues with Shale isn't hoarding, it's environmental. In general it's citizen groups pushing back against drilling (Alaska or Shale) not on the US government.

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saryant 296 days ago | link

The administration granted a license to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in Alaska, Shell just royally screwed up and had to suspend operations.

I expect drilling to restart eventually but probably under a different operator (Exxon being my bet).

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_delirium 296 days ago | link

This is becoming something of a tangent, but the U.S. doesn't produce a particularly large amount of oil relative to its population: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_oil_pro_percap-energy-...

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blueprint 296 days ago | link

You're absolutely right to question and confirm when people use such terms. They're almost always used by liars.

But one word of caution: it's important to keep in mind that you need to confirm by default, not simply ignore by default. For example, one of the dangers of ignoring by default is that the same advice could be pointed at itself. Just because the statement uses such a wide ranging word doesn't make it false by default. It's just the unfortunate circumstance of the modern world that so many people who use such terms don't actually know anything.

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hacker789 296 days ago | link

Like you, I'm opposed to bringing charges against Snowden. But that first statement you quoted is completely reasonable.

The United States is just saying, in fewer words:

> The United States and Hong Kong have a treaty—an agreement under international law. We are confident that our request for Snowden is covered by the treaty. If Hong Kong doesn't uphold its side of the treaty by complying with our request, it will raise questions about their commitment to the rule of law—international law, in particular.

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tpatke 296 days ago | link

I realize this may not be a popular opinion, but I think Snowden should turn himself in. There is a wider America then the one we get here on HN. The wider America is the same one which voted for Bush and don't own passports. To that America it is easy to see Snowden as a traitor and running to China and Russia isn't helping.

I realize that Manning has had it pretty rough while in custody, but: 1. Snowden is a civilian. He has not submitted himself to military law. As far as I am aware, everything that has happened to Manning is (unfortunately) in line with military law. 2. Manning leaked GBs of confidential documents seemingly at random. Snowden is pointing out a particular problem which he finds morally repulsive. These are two different issues.

In short, the more Snowden acts like a criminal, the more he will be perceived to be a criminal. Monitoring citizens is one thing. The failure of the criminal justice system / law and order is another. Furthermore, it is difficult to support him when he is in hiding.

Snowden is acting like he did something wrong. He should own it.

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alexqgb 296 days ago | link

Manning isn't the only example of vindictive prosecutors run amok. Aaron Swartz was facing a deck stacked so heavily that he was risking 35 years in prison for excercising his basic right to a trial by jury. And if you doubt that the same psychotic vindictivness would be in play here, consider the case of Thomas Drake.

Indeed, Drake's case is the essential precursor to understanding Snowdwn's, in that it was the one that unambiguously revealed (a) how out of bounds the NSA had grown and (b) how effectively the whistleblower system had been transformed into a means of ferreting out principled opponents with the law on their side.

Snowden had no illusions about getting a fair trial. He's running from a kangaroo court, not impartial justice. And if you think his "legitimacy" as a "conscientious objector" has any bearing whatsoever, then the thrust of the entire revelation has been lost on you. This isn't some theatrical act of protest. This is hard evidence of a massive criminal conspiracy conducted by the US military against the American people. And the power to which he's speaking truth isn't them, it's us. Some can handle it, and respond judiciously. Others freak out, and retreat to blanket denials. Insisting that Snowden stand trial on dubious charges in a court rigged against him is probably the worst imaginable response to the confirmation he's risked his life to deliver.

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qdog 296 days ago | link

Manning is in the military, so his case exists in a totally different legal system (which I personally don't think is a good idea, ie: separate system for military justice).

Revealing the spying system gathering US Citizen data is probably the whistleblower part that might be protected. I don't think that the surveillance of foreign citizens at universities in HK or wherever is going to get protected, and revealing that type of stuff is going to be prosecuted.

Your viewpoint on spying may be that it isn't right, however, I believe the only legal defense for Snowden is in the US Constitution, and it grants no rights to foreigners, as far as I recall.

I find it unfortunate at this point that the main story is starting to revolve around Snowden and his attempts at finding sanctuary instead of whether or not what he revealed is important.

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fnordfnordfnord 296 days ago | link

>I realize this may not be a popular opinion,

I think you hit the nail on the head.

>To that America it is easy to see Snowden as a traitor

We shouldn't pander to those who refuse to open a dictionary and learn the meaning of the word "traitor".

> running to China and Russia isn't helping.

The important thing to notice here is to ask why anyone might find this necessary. There simply aren't any other places who can or would resist US "diplomacy"

>1. Snowden is a civilian. He has not submitted himself to military law.

I think it is not imprudent for Snowden to assume that he may be treated as an "enemy combatant". If the gov't declares him to be under the auspices of the military, I doubt they will announce that publicly.

>the more Snowden acts like a criminal, the more he will be perceived to be a criminal.

Considering the recent conduct of the US gov't WRT related whistleblowers, I cannot find fault in Snowden for wishing to avoid that. Either for the sake of his personal safety, or for the sake of keeping the issue in the press, and forcing more attention to the illegal spying.

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graedus 296 days ago | link

I see your reasoning, but the "wider America" of which you speak - or at least a large portion of it - would still be calling for him to be tossed in prison (or worse) for being a "traitor" after he turned himself in. IOW I don't think it would help him much in the court of public opinion.

Further, the distinction between indiscriminately leaking and selective/targeted leaking is a real one but I don't think it will result in him being spared in any sense. I can't blame him for wanting to prolong media exposure instead of being locked up awaiting trial for "espionage" while the story quickly disappears from the headlines and from the national and global consciousness.

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icelancer 296 days ago | link

>Snowden is acting like he did something wrong. He should own it.

Easy for you to say. You're not the one facing an unwinnable trial and/or serious human rights violations.

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mr_luc 296 days ago | link

Yeah - the "own it" advice seems crazy in this situation. I mean, the guy already put his face on it, blew the whistle. He "owned" it. Now he's trying to avoid a life of constant suffering for doing what he saw as the right thing.

From the standpoint of his welfare, yeah, he had to move.

This isn't a startup with a PR problem after making a tough but principled decision. This is a guy who worked within government, pulled a Bradley Manning, and is still at large.

Startup marketing slash public relations 101 advice just isn't very realistic in this situation.

Now, if you're talking about the Greater Good, and making him even more of a sacrificial lamb -- if you're arguing that he should come back here, take his lumps, 'take the argument to the people' (as if he'd be allowed to ... we haven't heard much from Manning, right?) so as to sway public opinion a few more points ...

Well, that's a valid point of view, but if you want to prevail on other people to sacrifice more for the sake of the blown whistle, who pick on one of the few people who are already sacrificing? I don't know if Snowden counts as a "good guy" or not, but as a whistleblower it looks like he did a bang-up job, so instead of griping, just come to Ecuador and buy him a beer or something.

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obstacle1 296 days ago | link

>Snowden is acting like he did something wrong. He should own it.

Big difference between acting like you did something wrong and acting like you think another party thinks you did something wrong. When said other party is a government that can torture you, confine you, or kill you, you run. That is 'owning it' in that case.

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dclowd9901 296 days ago | link

Most people don't even know who Bradley Manning is, and the news organizations have all but moved on at this point. If he got more coverage, or if people knew him, he might have a better shake, but as it is, he's probably sitting in the place where he'll die.

I'd say Snowden has given his decisions considerable thought, and he's taking the only course of action that doesn't cause him to disappear into a dark hole, as he asserts.

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rhizome 296 days ago | link

Snowden is acting like he did something wrong.

You're projecting, and plenty of people don't see it this way, which is exactly the problem Obama has on his hands and why the mainstream focus (that you appear to adopt as your own) is on Snowden. One facet of this is decrying him for not throwing himself on the sword of butthurt intelligence agencies, instead of the revelations themselves. Do you contend that killing the messenger is sometimes justified?

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Lendal 296 days ago | link

I really wish I could sign the White House petition to pardon Snowden, but I don't want to get my name on the no-fly list or any other such secret lists of "terrorists".

I wonder how many Americans are afraid to speak out for the same reason. I guarantee every one of those 110,000 people who signed that petition are now being closely watched.

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ipsin 296 days ago | link

If 110,000 are more closely watched because they signed a petition, problems are much bigger than they currently appear to be.

I am confident in at least that much.

Sign the petition, use the voice you have. I did.

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msg 296 days ago | link

I guess I'm living my life in the government bubble.

If you're censoring your feelings out of concern for the security apparatus, you are really missing the point. This is not Mao's hundred flowers campaign, and it is your job as a citizen to make sure it never gets there.

The only way to stop this leviathan is to change minds. If you thought SOPA was a dark day for the internet, surely this sucking up of network metadata and content data strikes at the heart of end to end communication.

I wonder if we need to start over on the privacy-protected internet, just to make sure this can never happen again.

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davidw 296 days ago | link

> I wonder how many Americans are afraid to speak out for the same reason. I guarantee every one of those 110,000 people who signed that petition are now being closely watched.

My inclination is that this is mostly a paranoid fantasy on your part, rather than anything resembling reality.

In any event, how can you "guarantee" it?

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fnordfnordfnord 296 days ago | link

>I really wish I could sign the White House petition to pardon Snowden, but I don't want to get my name on the no-fly list or any other such secret lists of "terrorists".

Really? You believe that signing a petition could get your name onto a 'no-fly list or any other such secret lists of "terrorists".' and you haven't fled the country? Isn't that outrageous?

>I guarantee every one of those 110,000 people who signed that petition are now being closely watched.

This is nuts. If there is such a list, I'd be ashamed to be left out.

If the list is based solely on petition signing, it would probably be titled "Mostly Harmless Complainers"

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tomp 296 days ago | link

> are now being closely watched

You mean to say they (we) weren't before?

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adammil 296 days ago | link

I'm proud to have signed the petition and I'll tell anyone who asks. The government depends on cowardice to get away with what they've done so far. The least a citizen can do is to sign a few petitions and contact your representatives to tell them what you think about this.

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CamperBob2 296 days ago | link

I'm sure I'm already on the NSA's Christmas list for donating to WikiLeaks. However, I haven't signed the petition to pardon Snowden because, although I'm basically sympathetic to his actions as they've been reported, I don't know enough about exactly what he did, what he's doing now, and what he might do in the future to lobby for a "pardon." It is becoming increasingly clear that his actions were not as well thought out as people have been assuming they were.

What would help at this point is for additional conscientious government employees and contractors to follow Snowden's example. ("If you see something, say something.") It would be easier for me to get behind a mass resistance movement than a single guy who, frankly, has said and done some things that don't suggest a high degree of mental stability.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

The NSA doesn't have enough analysts to "closely watch" anywhere close to that number though.

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danudey 296 days ago | link

They don't need analysts to watch them. They just need to add their contact information to their 'watch more closely' list, and then run that through their data mining software. There's more than enough processing power to add a few hundred thousand more people to their 'intense scrutiny' list.

Not that I expect that it's actually going to happen, but it's not beyond the realm of their capability.

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alan_cx 296 days ago | link

When defendants can be over whelmed to the point of suicide, with many charges, knowing that a jury is likely to find guilt on at least one of them, and basically feel (s)he might as well plead guilty to get a lesser of two evils sentence, I'm not sure how any one thinks they can get a fair trial in the US, unless they have a huge amount of money to lose, let alone the likes of Snowden.

The idea of facing any sort of trial in a US court scares me senseless.

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carbocation 296 days ago | link

Often, assets will be frozen before the trial (see Silverglate's Three Felonies A Day for more details), so even those with vast resources may be unable to bring them to bear.

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tptacek 295 days ago | link

This happens in cases where those assets are alleged to be the product of the crime itself; most felonies don't create that circumstance.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

How does one get a fair trial in any nation with a free press and freedom of speech then?

If the jury has been tampered with, it has been by the incessant media coverage, which is permitted by the wide-ranging protections on the press, protections which Snowden is fighting for along with the rest of our Bill of Rights, no?

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pfortuny 296 days ago | link

First of all, you need a trial. Go ask the people at Guantanamo.

Then it needs to be fair. Which means that both parties (the State and the individual, in this case) abide by the same laws. This is what is tricky, but in this case, Snowden could point out that (simplifying a lot):

* The law he is abiding by is the Constitution.

* The prosecutors will claim that he has broken other laws which have not been deemed unconstitutional.

* While those laws are reviewed (if they are, upon his appeal), he will not be treated justly (which to him probably seems quite likely).

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twoodfin 296 days ago | link

The law he is abiding by is the Constitution.

Where in the Constitution is the right to flee the United States with laptops full of classified information you illegally obtained?

Snowden has clearly committed serious crimes. It's fine to argue they were somehow for the greater good—though I'm not sure what "greater good" carelessly exposing classified information to the Russians and Chinese might be serving—but it seems like the government could present a slam dunk case against him while entirely respecting his rights.

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pfortuny 296 days ago | link

Well, yes. You know: he could not do it from the US, so he decides to break a lesser important law for the greater good.

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Zigurd 296 days ago | link

We could start by punishing some of the prosecutors who are particularly notorious for creating these conditions.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

What prosecutors are responsible for the 24/7 news cycle?

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alan_cx 294 days ago | link

Well, in the US you cant. Defendants are demonized by the police even before they reach trial. Note how Snowden is already a guilty traitor before even arrest, let alone trial.

In the UK we are incredible careful about what is said in the press until guilt is found.

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cafard 296 days ago | link

I suspect that a trial that would result in Snowden being found not guilty is nearly impossible--given anything like competence in the prosecution team. But is a fair trial supposed to be like a fair coin, with an even chance either way?

Note that I am not saying anything with regard to rights and wrongs, merely about laws.

[Edit: changed "found guilty" to "found not guilty". Thanks.]

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ipsin 296 days ago | link

I suspect you meant "being found not guilty is nearly impossible". And federal prosecution is absolutely nothing like a fair coin toss -- the federal conviction rate is 90+%.

I think this has something to do with the tactics used in federal cases -- throwing an array of charges and seizing assets, for example. Also, the idea of jury nullification (the idea that jurors can find someone 'not guilty' of an unjust law) cannot be broached by the defense.

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Someone 296 days ago | link

"And federal prosecution is absolutely nothing like a fair coin toss -- the federal conviction rate is 90+%."

It better be. Yes, a high conviction rate can be a symptom of injustice, but it need not be. A low conviction rate, on the other hand, is a sure symptom of injustice. It would be truly harassment if the feds prosecuted many where they should know they don't stand a chance of getting a conviction.

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cafard 296 days ago | link

Yes, "not guilty".

Would you consider a system just that brought persons to trial without a strong probability that they were guilty as charged? If so, why have grand juries?

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rayiner 296 days ago | link

> I think this has something to do with the tactics used in federal cases

Yes, and that tactic is not wasting resources bringing a case unless it's a slam-dunk. Say what you want about the Schwartz prosecution, but it was a slam-dunk case. The debate was political: whether his actions merited such harsh punishment, not legal: it was clear and undisputed that he entered the closet, downloaded the articles, changed his MAC address to evade the ban, etc, and those actions were almost certainly crimes within the letter of the law.

A system where a trials didn't result in a high conviction rate would be supremely broken. It would mean that prosecutors were bringing cases without enough evidence to make them a likely win.

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rthomas6 296 days ago | link

Why do you think that a fair trial would result in Snowden almost certainly not being found guilty?

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danudey 296 days ago | link

The debate isn't whether a fair trial would convict him, the debate is whether it would be a fair trial. Regardless of whether he's guilty of a crime, an unfair trial is a sign of an unjust society.

Though, the same could be said for mass warrantless wiretapping.

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mtgx 296 days ago | link

Guilty on what? He has 3 charges against him. Pretty sure he won't be found guilty of Espionage (at least not at the Supreme Court if he gets there). If it's in a normal Texas Court, then he may be, and his fears might prove real that he won't get a fair trial.

As for being found guilty of "leaking classified documents", I supposed that could happen, but again I'd like to see the issue at the Supreme Court, because there you might see it being discussed if a whistleblower can or can't be charged for "leaking".

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bayesianhorse 296 days ago | link

It's a thorny issue. On the one hand, Snowden clearly committed treason in revealing a part of the national security architecture. So even in a fair trial, even counting how overdue the discussion about constitutional compatibility was, he can't expect to get free.

But he is right. While the US have a much fairer process of trial than most other countries, the system has been bitch-slapped left and right over Guantanamo and Wikileaks.

What is worse: The US justice system's failures are minutely documented, while China and Russia do these kind of trials routinely, and noone really bothers.

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LoganCale 296 days ago | link

He absolutely did not clearly commit treason, and he is not charged with it either. Treason is an actual crime defined by the Constitution and he did not commit it. Arguably, he did not commit espionage either—the DoJ under the Obama administration has charged seven other whistleblowers with that crime and in at least some cases the courts have found them not guilty.

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rthomas6 296 days ago | link

I agree with you except maybe on the word "treason". I'm not so sure that revealing state secrets is treason. A crime, certainly, but not treason. I thought treason was siding with some other entity over the interests of the state. So, for instance, if Snowden took state secrets and sold them to China, that might be treason.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

Well in layman terms treason is anything that deliberately weakens your state in favor of those of your enemies. Pointing out specifics of U.S. cyberattacks on Chinese infrastructure might actually be one example.

But then there is also a Constitutional definition that Snowden would not fall under.

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ceejayoz 296 days ago | link

> But then there is also a Constitutional definition that Snowden would not fall under.

That's the only definition that matters. "Weakens the state" could apply to someone who complains about their taxes on Twitter.

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fnordfnordfnord 296 days ago | link

s/layman/ultranationalist[1]/

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationalism#Ultranationalism

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fnordfnordfnord 296 days ago | link

>It's a thorny issue. On the one hand, Snowden clearly committed treason

Nope http://lmgtfy.com/?q=treason

>the US have a much fairer process of trial than most other countries,

Really? I'm skeptical.

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mtgx 296 days ago | link

He didn't commit treason. He isn't even charged for treason.

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joering2 296 days ago | link

> What is worse: The US justice system's failures are minutely documented, while China and Russia do these kind of trials routinely, and noone really bothers.

No difference to the outcome really. Okay so in US example you know things up to a minute. So what? Did it help you get off your comfortable couch and do something about it? Did it help those oppressed by the US government? [1] Not really. While you would expect fair trial, fairness and basic human rights being protected in the "land of the free, home of the brave", you wouldn't expect the same in China or Russia. Really strange and dangerous precedence if people seek asylum from the US!

[1] Manning is a great example of a governmental power abuse. No wonder Snowden is running away after seeing what they have done to Manning. He was kept for 3 years in solitary confinement. Sleeping naked (for his of own protection, of course) and being violently woken up every 2 hours "to make sure he is okay", it sure broke his mind, just like it would broke mine or yours. Heck, after what they done to him, I would personally admit to killing Jesus Christ himself. Major human rights advocates kept requesting more info from the US and to change that barbarian approach (some called it mental torture) up to a point that high ranked US officer simply told them to back off and leave it alone.

Bottom line: there is not difference and you cannot expect fair trial in situation like Snowden.

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ianhawes 296 days ago | link

I sincerely hope that Ecuador denies his request and he is deported back to the United States. In his Q&A, Snowden said the United States was worth dying for. If he truly wants things changed, he certainly won't achieve it hiding in Ecuador. He has the opportunity to present his case to the citizens of the United States through the proper avenues: our justice system, our legislature (through Congressional hearings), and our press.

To allege he won't receive a fair trial in the United States is completely ridiculous. What he's really trying to say is he knows he is guilty.

Could you imagine if Daniel Ellsberg had fled to a foreign country and sought asylum there? The entire premise of a whistleblower would probably not exist if he had done that.

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agwa 296 days ago | link

How could he possibly "present his case to the citizens of the United States" when he's sitting in jail awaiting trial, and is then imprisoned for decades after conviction, possibly in severely cruel and restrictive conditions that deny him contact with the outside world[1]? He could lead a much more effective campaign as a free man in Ecuador.

Furthermore, allowing himself to be captured and subject to harsh treatment would be an extremely effective deterrent to future whistleblowers thinking of doing the same thing.

[1] See "Special Administrative Measures" here: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_administrative_measure] and [http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2009/June/09-ag-564.html] (bottom of page) and [http://www.justice.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/tit...] (under "9-24.300") - given that he is charged with espionage and the govt would love to make an example out of him, I have no doubt he would be subject to that.

(Edit: fixed typo: it's "Special Administrative Measures" not "Conditions" and added additional links)

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pyre 296 days ago | link

  | To allege he won't receive a fair trial in the
  | United States is completely ridiculous
Would you, as a whistleblower, trust your former employer, on whom you blew the whistle, to be your judge, jury and executioner? I'm thinking not.

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

Snowden himself is saying that the judiciary should have oversight of any NSA surveillance programs via specific warrants (among other things), was he not? Does he believe in Constitutional protections or no?

Similarly I wasn't aware that judges and defense attorneys allowed the prosecutor to pack juries with NSA analysts. Has this changed at some point?

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alexqgb 296 days ago | link

Why do you think the charges were filed in Eastern Virginia (home of the security establishment) and not Hawaii, whi h is the home of Snowden and the scene of the alleged crime?

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mpyne 296 days ago | link

Are you saying no one in all of eastern Virginia is able to get a fair trial? If true that would be a far worse crisis for civil liberties than an automated FISA-compliance system.

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alexqgb 296 days ago | link

No, of course I'm not. Moreover, reframing the dynamic that exists between a particular plaintiff and a particular defendant in a particular case by turning it into a blanket assumption as general as that is either stupid, dishonest, or both. Seriously, why would I do that? More pointedly, what makes you even raise the question?

Jurisdiction shopping is a very real problem, as HN readers who follow patent issues know all too well. Anyone insisting that Snowden's trial would be fair should pay more attention to the way the field is being tilted against him from the outset.

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pyre 295 days ago | link

They filed it in an area where the majority of the population will have an opinion against Snowden vs. a place where opinions may be more divided. If you were Snowden would want your jury pool to be from an area with a high concentration of people with government / security / high-clearance jobs? Or would you want jury selection to be from a pool of people that would be more willing to weigh the evidence and arguments.

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fnordfnordfnord 296 days ago | link

Could you imagine if Daniel Ellsberg...

Hmm, let's see what Ellsberg has to say, shall we? http://www.ellsberg.net/archive/edward-snowden

"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."

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ceejayoz 296 days ago | link

Troops storming Normandy on D-Day felt it was a cause worth dying for, too, but that didn't mean they were going to run up to a German machine gun nest unarmed and ask them to fire.

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outworlder 296 days ago | link

> To allege he won't receive a fair trial in the United States is completely ridiculous. What he's really trying to say is he knows he is guilty.

What he is saying is that he knows the government considers him guilty and will make it so. Which doesn't automatically mean that he shares the same opinion.

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danudey 296 days ago | link

> To allege he won't receive a fair trial in the United States is completely ridiculous. What he's really trying to say is he knows he is guilty.

Sure. The NSA has been conducting illegal data capture on millions of Americans for years, but surely we can rely on the government and legal system to play fair. After Bradley Manning was kept in conditions that are considered torture, and after prisoners in Guantanamo, having been kept without trial for years after Obama said he was going to close it down, went on a hunger strike only to have themselves force-fed so the government can keep them alive to continue rotting in jail, surely Snowdon will receive a fair and public trial where the facts in evidence will be used to ascertain his guilt or innocence without any interference.

The actual likely result is he will be declared a traitor, enemy of the state, and a spy, accused of espionage, and thrown in a cell without actually being charged with a crime for years.

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pfortuny 296 days ago | link

A whistleblower is NOT a conscientious objector, they are different figures.

The first one just wants to make something which is private, public, but he is not willing to risk even his life (because he does not deem it necessary).

A conscientious objector, on the other hand, is willing to put all aside -even his life- before doing something that goes against his conscience.

Not the same thing at all even though they may look similar.

He wants to defend America, not the legal status quo.

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happy_dino 296 days ago | link

People like you make me really feel ashamed of the human race.

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