Snowden Is A Whistleblower . . . Just Not In The United States

228px-Picture_of_Edward_Snowden220px-Pea_WhistleThese are certain things that you will not easily find in U.S. media like Jimmy Carter declaring that we no longer have a functioning democracy in this country. Another is reading about Snowden as a whistleblower. The White House has been highly successful in telling media not to refer to Snowden as a whistleblower and enlisting various media allies to attack him as a clown and a traitor or mocking his fear of returning home. This week you had to read Moscow Times or other foreign sites (or a link on Reddit) to learn that Snowden has won this year’s Whistleblower Award established by German human rights organizations.

The award handed down by the Association of German Scientists (VDW) and the German branch of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) comes with a small financial reward that will be given to Snowden’s legal representatives. Such awards will bolster his claim for asylum.

While there is no evidence thus far of any motivation by Snowden except his desire to reveal an unconstitutional program, the media has largely complied with a demand of the White House that he not be called a whistleblower as Obama officials and members of Congress denounce him. The problem is that many Americans and foreigners view him as a whistleblower and some as a hero. Likewise, the effort to get Americans to embrace a new surveillance-friendly model of privacy has largely failed though most average Americans feel helpless in a system with a locked monopoly of power by two parties.

As I have noted before, it brings to mind the successful effort to convince media to call waterboarding “enhanced interrogation” in the media rather than “torture” as it has long been defined by courts. Snowden is a whistleblower in my mind. It is true that the Administration can argue that these programs were lawful to the Supreme Court’s precedent stripping pen registers of full constitutional protection in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979). Many of us disagree with that ruling, but this is a new application of the precedent. While the government has long sought the information for individuals, the Administration is essentially issuing a national security letter against the entire population. Moreover, it does appear that violations have occurred in these programs.

Putting aside the legality issue, whistleblowers are defined more probably by public interest organizations. For example, The Government Accountability Project, a leading nonprofit handling whistleblowers, defines the term as “an employee who discloses information that s/he reasonably believes is evidence of illegality, gross waste or fraud, mismanagement, abuse of power, general wrongdoing, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Typically, whistleblowers speak out to parties that can influence and rectify the situation. These parties include the media, organizational managers, hotlines, or Congressional members/staff, to name a few.”

Snowden clearly fits that more common definition of whistleblower, even if the government contests the application of statutory protections. Many can legitimately question Snowden’s chosen means for objecting to this program. However, the hostile and dismissive treatment by the establishment reflects an obvious fear of the implications of this scandal. We saw the same full court press in defining Julien Assange in a way that avoids calling him a journalist or a whistleblower. He is just an Assange. Well Snowden is just a Snowden in the view of U.S. media . . . until he can be called a prisoner.

140 thoughts on “Snowden Is A Whistleblower . . . Just Not In The United States”

  1. Roberts’s Picks Reshaping Secret Surveillance Court
    Published: July 25, 2013

    WASHINGTON — The recent leaks about government spying programs have focused attention on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and its role in deciding how intrusive the government can be in the name of national security. Less mentioned has been the person who has been quietly reshaping the secret court: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

    In making assignments to the court, Chief Justice Roberts, more than his predecessors, has chosen judges with conservative and executive branch backgrounds that critics say make the court more likely to defer to government arguments that domestic spying programs are necessary.

    Ten of the court’s 11 judges — all assigned by Chief Justice Roberts — were appointed to the bench by Republican presidents; six once worked for the federal government. Since the chief justice began making assignments in 2005, 86 percent of his choices have been Republican appointees, and 50 percent have been former executive branch officials.

    Though the two previous chief justices, Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, were conservatives like Chief Justice Roberts, their assignments to the surveillance court were more ideologically diverse, according to an analysis by The New York Times of a list of every judge who has served on the court since it was established in 1978.

    According to the analysis, 66 percent of their selections were Republican appointees, and 39 percent once worked for the executive branch.

    “Viewing this data, people with responsibility for national security ought to be very concerned about the impression and appearance, if not the reality, of bias — for favoring the executive branch in its applications for warrants and other action,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and one of several lawmakers who have sought to change the way the court’s judges are selected.

  2. A Bipartisan Warning on Surveillance
    Published: July 25, 2013

    Lawmakers have given the Obama administration a bipartisan warning: patience is growing thin with its expansive and unwarranted surveillance of Americans.

    House Defeats Effort to Rein In N.S.A. Data Gathering (July 25, 2013)

    Today’s Editorials

    Editorial: Inching Forward in the Mideast (July 26, 2013)
    Editorial: The Gun Lobby Takes Vengeful Aim (July 26, 2013)
    Editorial: Bait and Switch in the House (July 26, 2013)

    For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.

    In one of the most unusual votes in years, the House on Wednesday barely defeated an amendment to curtail the National Security Agency’s collection of every phone record, limiting it to records of people targeted in investigations. The vote was 205 to 217, and what was particularly remarkable was that 94 Republicans supported the limits, along with 111 Democrats who stood up to intense lobbying by the White House and its spy agencies.

    The amendment was sponsored by Representative Justin Amash, a Republican of Michigan, one of the most anti-government libertarians in the House. On this issue, he found common ground with Democrats and moderate Republicans who are also concerned that the N.S.A. is needlessly violating the privacy of ordinary citizens.

    Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Republican of Wisconsin and an author of the Patriot Act, said the measure imposes the standard for collecting data in a criminal trial. Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat of New York, said the amendment would reimpose the original intent of Congress.

    “No administration should be permitted to operate above or beyond the law as they have done in this respect,” Mr. Nadler said.

    The arguments for unlimited record keeping were remarkably thin. A White House spokesman said the amendment was not “the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process” — a laughable assertion considering how uninformed the administration wants the public to be about the loss of privacy. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, said supporters seemed to have forgotten Sept. 11.

    But the closeness of the vote suggested that a growing number of lawmakers no longer respond reflexively to the waving of the 9/11 flag, or the patronizing insistence of government officials that they should be trusted implicitly. That reflects an increasing skepticism in the public, as reflected in several opinion polls, as people become aware that the N.S.A. isn’t following the common-sense practice of spying only on those suspected of terrorism.

    A 51 percent majority in the House with strongly bipartisan opposition is hardly a vote of confidence in a program as intrusive as universal phone-record collection. More and more lawmakers and voters are starting to pay attention to the arguments of longtime intelligence critics like Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who said on Tuesday that the opportunity had finally arrived to stop an omnipresent surveillance state that once seemed irreversible.

  3. “Journalists at Bradley Manning trial report hostile conditions for press”

    ….” have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being “screamed at” for having “windows” open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.

    I visited the trial two weeks ago. While there were many restrictions for attending press that I found surprising (reporters couldn’t work from the courtroom, mobile devices weren’t allowed in the press room), it wasn’t this bad. I was treated respectfully and courteously by Army Public Affairs Officers and military police, and was only grumped at a few times for stretching those (silly) restrictions. I was physically searched only once, when entering the courtroom, and that’s standard for civilian or military trials.

    But the vibe is very different today….”

  4. “Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords”

    “Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.”

    Except for Microsoft none of the big Telcoms are responding to questions and neither is the FBI. No one knows when this began, how widespread it is, if it’s specific to individuals or wholesale data dumps and nobody is talking.

    I wonder if Snowden knows? I wonder what else he knows.

  5. Whistleblowers like Private Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden threaten the totalitarian corporate state’s obsessive pursuit of Milieu Control:

    The most basic feature of the thought reform environment, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. Through this milieu control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual’s communication with the outside (all that he sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses), but also – in its penetration of his inner life – over what we may speak of as his communication with himself. It creates an atmosphere uncomfortably reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.

    Such milieu control never succeeds in becoming absolute, and its own human apparatus can – when permeated by outside information – become subject to discordant “noise” beyond that of any mechanical apparatus. To totalist administrators, however, such occurrences are no more than evidences of “incorrect” use of the apparatus. For they look upon milieu control as a just and necessary policy, one which need not be kept secret: thought reform participants may be in doubt as to who is telling what to whom, but the fact that extensive information about everyone is being conveyed to the authorities is always known. At the center of this self-justification is their assumption of omniscience, their conviction that reality is their exclusive possession. Having experienced the impact of what they consider to be an ultimate truth (and having the need to dispel any possible inner doubts of their own), they consider it their duty to create an environment containing no more and no less than this “truth.” In order to be the engineers of the human soul, they must first bring it under full observational control.

    Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism

    In President Obama — following his several immediate predecessors — we see the quintessential totalist administrator bent on bringing every aspect of human communication under his full observation and control. I hope and expect that he will fail — miserably and spectacularly — and when this vicious and vindictive little man fails in his attempts to control our every word and thought, the credit for that necessary and salutary failure will accrue most properly to the little “nobody” whistleblowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon, among a select few others, and those hardly independent journalists, like Glenn Greenwald, who remain thankfully and effectively uncontrolled in either thought or word.



    These Members voted against extending the expiring PATRIOT Act provision reauthorization bill in 2011 but also against the Amash amendment (a much less ambitious amendment/proposition) in 2013 (i.e., contradictory votes):

    Wasserman Schultz
    Thompson (CA)
    Al Green
    Jackson Lee
    E.B. Johnson

    Members no longer in the House who almost certainly would have voted for Amash include Baldwin, Hinchey, and Markey, among others.

    But the 13 who are still House members and who voted against the PATRIOT Act reauthorization in 2011 and against the Amash amendment today provided the margin of victory for the White House and the supporters of NSA’s current surveillance programs. By comparison, in 2011 only 27 Republicans voted against reauthorizing expiring PATRIOT Act provisions, while today 93 voted with Amash, a radical swing clearly fueled by Edward Snowden’s sensational revelations about PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendment Act abuses.

  7. Off Topic:

    Jeremy Scahill Condemns White House Opposition To Freeing Of Abdulelah Haider Shaye (VIDEO)
    The Huffington Post
    By Jack Mirkinson
    Posted: 07/25/2013

    Jeremy Scahill blasted the Obama administration on Thursday for its opposition to the release of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye from prison.

    Shaye was jailed on terrorism charges after he reported on an American cruise missile strike in Yemen that killed many civilians. Though the charges were widely seen as trumped up, Shaye remained in prison at the behest of President Obama, who told Yemen’s president that he should back off of a planned pardon of the journalist.

    Shaye was finally freed on Tuesday; the White House said it was “concerned and disappointed” about the release.

    Speaking on “Democracy Now,” Scahill said that Shaye had been imprisoned “because he had the audacity to expose a U.S. cruise missile attack that killed three dozen women and children, and the United States had tried to cover it up.” He harshly criticized Obama for pressing for his continued imprisonment.

    “My question for the White House would be you want to co-sign a dictator’s arrest of a journalist, beating of a journalist, and conviction in a court that every human rights organization in the world has said was a sham court?” he said. “That’s the side that the White House is on right now. Not on the side of press freedom around the world. They’re on the side of locking up journalists who have the audacity to actually be journalists.”


    12:55 PM EST Over the recess, fellow journalists in attendance are sending reporter Alexa O’Brien emails saying that there is now a soldier stationed right behind her with a gun. @carwinb

    An armed military police officer leaned over me during the closing argument and said, “Don’t have Twitter open at all.”

    I wonder if individuals who signed up for the military ever thought they’d be policing the press (as if they were an ‘enemy’).

    I’m looking at the rules I signed. For what it’s worth, the rules don’t say “Keep Twitter windows closed while court is in session”.

    Frankly, the press deserve an explanation from public affairs on why they are now, after months of court martial, all of a sudden having armed MPs patrol the press.



    In Edward Snowden news, an amendment by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, to levy sanctions against any country offering Snowden asylum has unanimously passed out of the Senate appropriations committee, the Associated Press reports.

    “I don’t know if he’s getting a change of clothes. I don’t know if he’s going to stay in Russia forever. I don’t know where he’s going to go,” Graham said. “But I know this: That the right thing to do is to send him back home so he can face charges for the crimes he’s allegedly committed.”

    Graham, who is running for reelection, has been scrambling around throwing rhetorical stink-bombs all year in a seeming effort to top himself for jingoism and manufactured hysteria (and firearms enthusiasm). Last night on Fox News he went one better on the Bush “axis of evil” by describing a “trifecta from hell,” Think Progress reported:

    “The trifecta from hell is unfolding in front of us,” Graham said. “Iran is about to get a nuclear weapon. Syria is about to infect the entire region, taking Jordan down, and Egypt could become a failed state.”

  10. Sadly, Mr. Snowden’s options for exposure of the nsa spying is as corrupt as the gov’t itself.

  11. Ah, the secrets that we keep. And the U.S. gov is still sitting on a whopper.

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday urged the United States to revamp its surveillance laws and practices, warning that the country will ‘live to regret it’ if it fails to do so.

    “‘If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it . . . The combination of increasingly advanced technology with a breakdown in the checks and balances that limit government action could lead us to a surveillance state that cannot be reversed,’ he added. . . .

    “The government has essentially kept people in the dark about their broad interpretations of the law, he said. Wyden tells constituents there are two Patriot Acts: One they read online at home and ‘the secret interpretation of the law that the government is actually relying upon.’

    “‘If Americans are not able to learn how their government is interpreting and executing the law then we have effectively eliminated the most important bulwark of our democracy,” he said. . . .

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