Yesterday NSA-Whistleblower made a surprise visit on Russian TV (via videolink). The occasion was an annual show, in which the public can ask questions of President Putin.
Snowden did that:
SNOWDEN: I’d like to ask about mass surveillance of online communications and the bulk collection of private records by intelligence and law enforcement services. Recently in the United States two independent White House investigations as well as a federal court all concluded that these programs are ineffective in stopping terrorism. They also found that they unreasonably intrude into the private lives of ordinary citizens—individuals who have never been suspected of any wrongdoing or criminal activity. And that these kinds of programs are not the least intrusive means available to such agencies for these investigative purposes. Now, I’ve seen little public discussion of Russia’s own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance, so I’d like to ask you: does Russia intercept, store, or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals, and do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than subjects, under surveillance? (Read it all here: )
While Putin’s answer was predictable – and untrue – Snowden’s lead-up to the question is interesting.
Attentive readers will recall the wording ”communications of millions of individuals” from earlier:
Yeah, it’s draws heavily (to put it mildly) from US senator Ron Wyden, who before this affair, asked spyboss (and liar) James Clapper the following question:
”Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
That excact moment has on several occasions been highlighted by Snowden Snowden himself, as the final drop that made him become a whistleblower: watching the chief of US intelligence lie before the senate committee that’s supposed to be exercising oversight of the intelligence services. Snowden has added (paraphrase) : The members of the committee knew at the time that NSA WAS conducting mass-surveillance of US citizens, so in the final analysis it was the US public that Clapper really was lying to. A public that neither was briefed nor asked.
Clapper lied in response to Wydens question, and of course Putin didn’t answer truthfully when asked by Snowden (details about Russia’s own mass-surveillance programs can be found here)
Western media has for more than half a year been marred by a crazy and dishonest spin-game, evolving around whether Edward Snowden is fact some kind of Russian (before that: Chinese) spy, or if he secretly loves Putin etc. The same Snowden who already risked everything disclosing our (the West’s) systemic violations of privacy and undermining of internet security, has been attacked by all kinds of shady people, from journalists(!!) to policians to intelligence officials.
What’s important in this context, is that in not a single instance has these Snowden-critics offered a single shred of evidence to back up their assertions that he is something else than what he claims to be: a classic, all-american whistleblower. Nevertheless, these “critics” have been taken serious by the media – and given the kids-glove treatment when they spew their nonsense. (Imagine yours truly appearing in a televised debate claiming that Obama is a pedophile, Bush an Iranian spy or Mike Rogers a Martian – hopefully the media would demand some kind of evidence for my claims; if I can’t conjure any from thin air, they’d hardly consider it a case of ”word against word”. The situation is exactly the same with the Snowden-critics; unfortunately, the media reponse isn’t.
Well, the most silly of these “critics”, both here in Denmark and internationally, have spent the past few months improvising a new variation on this tired old theme: “Why the hell doesn’t Snowden attack Russia’s surveillance activities, being granted asylum there and all? Yuck, he’s such hypocrite, coward, Russian spy”.
Everyone with a working moral compass, will be able to instantaneously see a few problems with that line of thought – besides it being totally idiotic:
1) Snowden has been granted (temporary) asylum in Russia, because he’s being persecuted in his home country. Asylees in country X are not responsible for the crimes of country X. This is true in Snowden’s case, as well as in the case of every other asylee. When Ai Weiwei applied for asylum in the US, I don’t recall anyone proclaiming in the evening news: ”Doesn’t Weiwei realize that the US invaded Vietnam? Destroyed Iraq? Locks people in cages in Gitmo with no judicial process? Dispatches drones/Hellfires/Night-raids against 1.000’s of people in countries the US hasn’t declared war? This principle is what asylum IS – it’s about protection against persecution; not about whether country X is inhabited by rainbow shitting angels on unicorns. If someone (like me, for instance) doesn’t think he should be in Russia, it would be awesome to give him an alternative (say, here in Denmark) where he doesn’t have to worry about being handed over the US regime.
2) Contrary to claims from silly ”critics”, Snowden didn’t choose to be in Russia. He stranded there, because the US government – after voiding his pasport – threatened other countries into not allowing him safe passage. When he left Hong Kong, he was destined for Latin America, where so far 3 countries have awarded him asylum; even more would follow the minute he stepped foot on their territory.
3) It’s cowardly in the extreme to be sitting in safety in the comfort of your cozy home, demanding that Snowden should run more, greater risks than he he’s already done. Right now, the only thing between him and a life in isolation in a supermax prison, is the protection of the Russian government. Whether you like it or not. I don’t.
But that’s exactly what Snowden did yesterday. Risked (again) his own safety by pointing out, that Russia itself is surveilling on a mass scale. He’s hinted at this before, but yesterday he put the point to the Russian president, “face to face”.
As expected, it wasn’t enough for his brave ”critics” here in the West. They rushed to Twitter, their media etc, complaining that Snowden’s question wasn’t “aggressive” enough ( despite it being a bit more aggressive than what most of these “critics” ever ask of our own leaders – without having run real personal risks), or venting stupid talking points that Snowden ought to have followed up on Putins non-answer (as if Snowden is in control of of that on Russian TV, when the video link has already been cut)
It’s incredibly stupid, silly and ball-less (m/f), but also enlightening. What these “critics” really aren’t happy about, is exactly what Snowden already did: revealed the crimes of our governments/intelligence agencies; shown that democracy is at best, paper-thin.
They don’t for a second believe their own fairytales about Russian spies etc – it’s just oldfashioned (poor) propaganda, meant to deflect their own population’s attention, so we forget what the substance of the matter really is. It won’t work.
This morning Snowden had an op-ed in The Guardian, in which he explains his decision to pose the question to Putin. It’s worth reading in full, but below’s an excerpt. Anyone who after this runs around talking about Russian spy-stuff, what he ought to do, or anything else that just by pure coincidence lets NSA & Co off the hook, can be ridiculed without further discussion.
Snowden: ” In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we’ll get to them soon – but it was not the president’s suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.
I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin’s evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.“
Last Friday, the journalists behind the NSA-disclosures received the prestigious Polk Award (Watch their acceptance speech here) and on Monday the Pulitzer Prize followed (in the Public Interest category, no less). All involved parties used the occasion to thank their source – Edward Snowden – for making the reporting possible. A greater recognition of him as a whistleblower (as opposed to Russian spy, coward, narcissist) is hard to imagine.
In a week or so, the Danish Parliament will vote on whether grant Snowden protection here in Denmark. 6 MPs (and more than 3.000 ordinary Danes) have signed my petition calling for just that (feel free to do so yourself).
Unfortunately (but as expected), it seems like only a few MPs will vote for the motion. That says a lot about Danish MPs, politics, and the media if they (again) can get away with not caring about the real issues.
No matter what, this won’t be the last words in this case.
We do not forget – we do not forgive 😉