"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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
I like to think of myself as one.
Can you show me what the UCMJ has about detention, and treatment of the detained?
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.
| He's afraid of disappearing into a secret dungeon
| and tortured for decades.
Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
Barack H. Obama, The Obama-Biden Plan.
(Now I'll grant you that it probably isn't an attractive option for a lot of reasons, but there is a way for people like him to blow the whistle on illegal government activity without going to jail.)
Yes, they're different laws. The WPA doesn't apply to DoD at all AFAIK, so the fact the point made above that contractors are exempt is irrelevant.
The law that covers the NSA is the ICWPA and it applies equally to contractors and employees.
As I said above, I agree it's not a real great law and I could understand not wanting to take advantage of it. But reporting things to the IG or Congress is how you blow the whistle on classified intelligence programs. That's the process. I can't imagine it being a good idea to allow any low-level contractor to blow the cover of a classified program because they have decided it's wrong or unconstitutional.
The Whistleblower Protection Act - which is what I was originally talking about - has two seperate features. The first is to provide a well-defined pathway for reporting abuses to Congress. The second is to provide protection from retaliation against those who use this path.
The point I made is that this Act covers Federal employees only, and not private contractors.
What you referred to was a different law, written specifically for NatSec agencies. Like the Whistleblower Protection Act, it delineates a clear path for reporting abuse to Congress. And unlike the more general Act, it opens this path to private contractors as well as direct employees of the government. However—and this is critical—it does NOT provide the shield against retaliation that the Whistleblower Protection Act provides. In other words, if you're a private contractor (i.e. unprotected) and you use it to speak truth to power, you'd better be prepared to run.
So like I said, as a private security contractor, Snowden doesn't enjoy meaningful protections in the event that he blows a whistle. All he's got is a path for doing so that he may use at his own (very considerable) risk.
Again, as noted, not a single complaint has reached Congress via this channel. Not one. That should give you an idea as to how important the protections that Snowden doesn't enjoy really are.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?
[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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
I expect drilling to restart eventually but probably under a different operator (Exxon being my bet).
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.
So much for 'the law'.
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.
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.
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.
I am confident in at least that much.
Sign the petition, use the voice you have. I did.
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.
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?
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"
You mean to say they (we) weren't before?
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.
Not that I expect that it's actually going to happen, but it's not beyond the realm of their capability.
The idea of facing any sort of trial in a US court scares me senseless.
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?
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).
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.
In the UK we are incredible careful about what is said in the press until guilt is found.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Easy for you to say. You're not the one facing an unwinnable trial and/or serious human rights violations.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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?
Though, the same could be said for mass warrantless wiretapping.
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".
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.
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?  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!
 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.
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.
>the US have a much fairer process of trial than most other countries,
Really? I'm skeptical.
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.
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.
 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)
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."
| To allege he won't receive a fair trial in the
| United States is completely ridiculous
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.