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Posted on on July 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Daniel Ellsberg: Edward Snowden was right to flee.

The man who leaked the Pentagon Papers says the NSA leaker could not speak out if he had stayed.

That was then – and now is now!!!

Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S.
By Daniel Ellsberg, In The Washington Post of July 8, 2013.

Daniel Ellsberg is the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.” He was charged in 1971 under the Espionage Act as well as for theft and conspiracy for copying the Pentagon Papers. The trial was dismissed in 1973 after evidence of government misconduct, including illegal wiretapping, was introduced in court.

Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.

After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days. My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions. The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”

Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)

Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong. I agree wholeheartedly. More than 40 years after my unauthorized disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, such leaks remain the lifeblood of a free press and our republic. One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.

In my case, my authorized access in the Pentagon and the Rand Corp. to top-secret documents — which became known as the Pentagon Papers after I disclosed them — taught me that Congress and the American people had been lied to by successive presidentsand dragged into a hopelessly stalemated war that was illegitimate from the start.

Snowden’s dismay came through access to even more highly classified documents — some of which he has now selected to make public — originating in the National Security Agency (NSA). He found that he was working for a surveillance organization whose all-consuming intent, he told the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, was “on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”

It was, in effect, a global expansion of the Stasi, the Ministry for State Security in the Stalinist “German Democratic Republic,” whose goal was “to know everything.” But the cellphones, fiber-optic cables, personal computers and Internet traffic the NSA accesses did not exist in the Stasi’s heyday.

As Snowden told the Guardian, “This country is worth dying for.” And, if necessary, going to prison for — for life.

But Snowden’s contribution to the noble cause of restoring the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution is in his documents. It depends in no way on his reputation or estimates of his character or motives — still less, on his presence in a courtroom arguing the current charges, or his living the rest of his life in prison. Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.

I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.

What he has given us is our best chance — if we respond to his information and his challenge — to rescue ourselves from out-of-control surveillance that shifts all practical power to the executive branch and its intelligence agencies: a United Stasi of America.

Read more on this topic —- Eugene Robinson: We can handle the truth on NSA spying.



The British Guardian – an American Media — on the run-up to July 4-th, 2013.

By Dan Gillmore

How Did American Become So Fearful and Timid That We’ve Given Away Essential Liberties? Some Are Even Afraid to Speak up
America’s founders would be horrified at this United States of Surveillance

July 2, 2013

I’m a longtime subscriber to an Internet mail list that features items from smart, thoughtful people. The list editor forwards items he personally finds interesting, often related to technology and/or civil liberties. Not long after the Guardian and Washington Post first started publishing the leaks describing the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance-dragnet, an item appeared about a White House petition urging President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden. The post brought this reply, among others:

“Once upon a time I would have signed a White House petition to this administration with no qualms. Now, however, a chilling thought occurs: what ‘watch lists’ will signing a petition like this put me on? NSA? IRS? It’s not a paranoid question anymore, in the United States of Surveillance.”

As we Americans watch our parades and fire up our grills this 4 July, the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – the seminal document of the United States – we should take the time to ask ourselves some related questions: how did we come to this state of mind and behavior? How did we become so fearful and timid that we’ve given away essential liberties? Do we realize what we’re giving up? What would the nation’s founders think of us?

No one with common sense believes Obama is planning to become a dictator. But the mail list question was indeed not paranoid – because Obama, building on the initiatives of his immediate predecessors, has helped create the foundation for a future police state. This has happened with bipartisan support from patriotic but short-sighted members of Congress and, sad to say, the general public.

The American media have played an essential role. For decades, newspaper editors and television programmers, especially local ones, have chased readers and ratings by spewing panic-inducing “journalism” and entertainment that helped foster support for anti-liberty policies. Ignorance, sometimes willful, has long been part of the media equation. Journalists have consistently highlighted the sensational. They’ve ignored statistical realities to hype anecdotal – and extremely rare – events that invite us to worry about vanishingly tiny risks and while shrugging off vastly more likely ones. And then, confronted with evidence of a war on journalism by the people running our government, powerful journalists suggest that their peers – no, their betters – who had the guts to expose government crimes are criminals. Do they have a clue why the First Amendment is all about? Do they fathom the meaning of liberty?

The founders, for all their dramatic flaws, knew what liberty meant. They created a system of power-sharing and competition, knowing that investing too much authority in any institution was an invitation to despotism. Above all, they knew that liberty doesn’t just imply taking risks; it absolutely requires taking risks. Among other protections, the Bill of Rights enshrined an unruly but vital free press and guaranteed that some criminals would escape punishment in order to protect the rest of us from too much government power. How many of those first 10 amendments would be approved by Congress and the states today? Depressingly few, one suspects. We’re afraid.

America has gone through spasms of liberty-crushing policies before, almost always amid real or perceived national emergencies. We’ve come out of them, to one degree or another, with the recognition that we had a Constitution worth protecting and defending, to paraphrase the oath federal office holders take but have so casually ignored in recent years.

What’s different this time is the surveillance infrastructure, plus the countless crimes our lawmakers have invented in federal and state codes. As many people have noted, we can all be charged with something if government wants to find something – the Justice Department under Bush and Obama has insisted that simply violating an online terms of service is a felony, for example. And now that our communications are being recorded and stored (you should take that for granted, despite weaselly government denials), those somethings will be available to people looking for them if they decide you are a nuisance. That is the foundation for tyranny, maybe not in the immediate future but, unless we find a way to turn back, someday soon enough.

You may believe there’s no possibility of America turning into a thugocracy, that the amassed information – conversations, business dealings, personal health and financial data, media consumption, gun records and so much more – will never be systematically misused that way. But even if you do, ask yourself this: if a young employee of one of the countless private companies administering the surveillance state could get access to so much for idealistic reasons, how vulnerable is this material to people with baser motives? Do you suppose corporate spies or foreign security services might be able to tempt some of the holders of this information with money, or find others who are vulnerable to blackmail? We’re creating the ultimate treasure chest of information, and it’s value is nearly limitless.

America’s founders would be horrified at what we’ve done, and what we’ve become. They would have denounced our secret laws, Kafka-esque “no fly lists” and so many other recent creations of power-grabbing presidents emboldened by feeble lawmakers and compliant courts. While they wouldn’t have understood the modern concept of privacy – though they’ve have wanted to protect it once they did understand – they would have engineered checks and balances to prevent today’s wholesale abuses, made so much worse by active corporate participation, reluctant or not, in the digital dragnets.

I live in California. My senior US senator, Dianne Feinstein, is a former prosecutor and acts like it. In her no doubt sincere desire to protect Americans from harm, she has been a consistent Democratic enabler of untrammeled presidential and law-enforcement powers. She calls Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who unquestionably broke the law, a traitor. But he pulled back the curtain on an increasingly lawless surveillance state. She has helped shred the Bill of Rights. Who, in the end, will have done more to “preserve and protect the Constitution”? For me, that’s an easy call.

Will we confront what’s happening and move now to change our trajectory? There are glimmerings of rationality amid the fear-mongering, including the public’s growing understanding – despite politicans’ foot-dragging and the media’s longstanding refusal to do its job on this issue, like so many others – that the war on (some) drugs has been an international catastrophe and, at home, a useful tool for those who’d curb liberty.

Obama says he wants to have a “conversation” about surveillance, even though his administration works mightily to keep so much of its workings – on these and other matters – secret from the American public, Congress and the judiciary other than opaque, rubber-stamp courts. What we really need is a larger conversation about state power and the actual risks we face, with context and clarity. In the process we need to confront the people who amass power and profits by fueling the ever-expanding, increasingly militarized surveillance state, and insist that they explain and justify what they’re doing. Their “trust us” nostrums are hollow.

I don’t know what the American public will conclude if we ever have that conversation. I would do whatever I could to help everyone understand that a surveillance society is profoundly un-American. I implore journalists to be part of the truth-telling, to take a stand for the Bill of Rights by doing their jobs as the founders intended. If we’re to preserve the risk-filled but noble American experiment of trusting people with liberty, we’d all best get started.

I’m proudly American, in large part because we’ve so often faced hard facts and ultimately, if belatedly, done what’s right. I have faith that the American people want the unadorned truth and will think through what’s at stake this time – and that they’ll take to heart Benjamin Franklin’s eternally wise admonition: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”



New Rumor of Snowden Flight Raises Tensions.
Published by The New York Tines: July 2, 2013

It began as a seemingly offhand remark by the president of Bolivia, who suggested during a visit to Moscow that he might be happy to host Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former security contractor who is desperate to find asylum. It escalated into a major diplomatic scramble in which the Bolivian president’s plane was rerouted on Tuesday, apparently because of suspicions that Mr. Snowden was aboard.

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, was attending an energy conference in Moscow when he was asked in an interview if he would consider giving asylum to Edward J. Snowden.


Snowden Is Said to Claim U.S. Is Blocking Asylum Bids (July 2, 2013)
Outrage in Europe Grows Over Spying Disclosures (July 2, 2013)
India Ink: India Denies Asylum to Snowden (July 2, 2013)

By day’s end, outraged Bolivian officials, insisting that Mr. Snowden was not on the plane, were accusing France and Portugal of acting under American pressure to rescind permission for President Evo Morales’s plane to traverse their airspace on the way back to Bolivia. Low on fuel, the plane’s crew won permission to land in Vienna.

“They say it was due to technical issues, but after getting explanations from some authorities we found that there appeared to be some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane,” the Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, told reporters after the plane touched down in Vienna, where Mr. Morales was spending the night.

“We don’t know who invented this big lie,” the foreign minister said at a news conference in La Paz, Bolivia. “We want to express our displeasure because this has put the president’s life at risk.”

Rubén Saavedra, the defense minister, who was on the plane with Mr. Morales, accused the Obama administration of being behind the action by France and Portugal, calling it “an attitude of sabotage and a plot by the government of the United States.”

There was no immediate response by officials in Paris, Lisbon or Washington.

“We were in flight; it was completely unexpected,” Mr. Saavedra said on the Telesur cable network. “The president was very angry.”

Speaking by phone with Telesur, Mr. Saavedra said that Mr. Snowden was not on the plane. Later, Reuters cited an unidentified Austrian Foreign Ministry official as saying the same thing.

Bolivian officials said they were working on a new flight plan to allow Mr. Morales to fly home. But in a possible sign of further suspicion about the passenger manifest, Mr. Saavedra said that Italy had also refused to give permission for the plane to fly over its airspace. Later he said that France and Portugal had reversed course and offered to allow the plane to fly through their airspace after all.

On Monday, Mr. Morales, who was attending an energy conference in Moscow, was asked in an interview on the Russia Today television network if he would consider giving asylum to Mr. Snowden, 30, who has been holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a week, his passport revoked by the United States.

“Yes, why not?” Mr. Morales responded. “Of course, Bolivia is ready to take in people who denounce — I don’t know if this is espionage or monitoring. We are here.”

He said, though, that Bolivia had not received a request from Mr. Snowden, despite news reports to the contrary.

It was already clear by then that the Moscow conference had been overshadowed by the drama of Mr. Snowden and his disclosures about American intelligence programs, which have deeply embarrassed the Obama administration.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, who was also at the conference, had suggested he might offer Mr. Snowden asylum but did not plan to fly him to Venezuela.

But Mr. Morales’s remarks appeared to open the door. At least that was the way they were interpreted.

The problems began even before Mr. Morales left Moscow, Mr. Choquehuanca said. On Monday, Portugal, without explanation, had withdrawn permission for Mr. Morales’s plane to stop in Lisbon to refuel, the foreign minister said. That required Bolivian officials to get permission from Spain to refuel in the Canary Islands.

The next day, after taking off from Moscow, Mr. Morales’s plane was just minutes from entering French airspace, according to Mr. Saavedra, when the French authorities informed the pilot that the plane could not fly over France.

There was also plenty of confusion in Moscow over how Mr. Snowden could possibly have left undetected on a government aircraft.

Government planes carrying foreign officials to diplomatic meetings in Moscow typically arrive and depart from Vnukovo Airport, which is also the main airfield used by the Russian government, rather than from Sheremetyevo, where Mr. Snowden arrived from Hong Kong on June 23 hours after American officials had sought his extradition there.

The speculation that Mr. Snowden would hitch a ride on a government jet was discounted by the fact that the plane would have to first make a quick flight from one Moscow airport to the other.

In an interview with the television station Russia Today, Mr. Maduro said he would consider any request by Mr. Snowden. Then, ending the interview with a dash of humor, he said, “It’s time for me to go; Snowden is waiting for me.”

Rick Gladstone reported from New York, and William Neuman from Caracas, Venezuela. David M. Herszenhorn and Andrew Roth contributed reporting from Moscow, and Monica Machicao from La Paz, Bolivia.

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