Tag Archives: Julian Assange

Snowden and Media Friends: L’etat, C’est Nous

Louis XIV (seated) and family. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

“[T]he return of this information to the public marks my end,” Edward Snowden told the Washington Post‘s Barton Gellman prior to telling that public — under the auspices of several journalists and publications — about the NSA’s PRISM program and other horrors of the modern American surveillance state.

Snowden did indeed suffer for his good deeds:  These days he lives in exile in Russia, awaiting a day when he might return home to some fate other than life in a prison cell at the hands of the criminals whose misdeeds he exposed.

It’s a shame to see Snowden picking a public fight with Wikileaks, an organization dedicated to a similar mission whose leader, Julian Assange, himself suffers a form of exile in Ecuador’s London embassy (one of his sources, American political prisoner Chelsea Manning, has it worse: She’s serving a 35-year sentence in Leavenworth for her heroism in exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan).

On July 28, Snowden took Wikileaks to task via Twitter: “Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped,” he wrote. “But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake.”

Presumably Snowden’s ire applies to previous Wikileaks operations such as “Collateral Murder” and “Cablegate,” not just to this last week’s uncensored dumps of emails exposing the internal workings of Turkey’s government and of the US Democratic National Commitee.

The Wikileaks response (presumably tweeted by Assange) dripped vinegar: “Opportunism won’t earn you a pardon from Clinton & curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows.”

I hesitate to criticize Snowden, or to impute to him the motives implied in the Wikileaks response. The sacrifices he’s made command a great deal of respect from those of us who value truth and transparency.

Nonetheless, Wikileaks is right and Snowden is wrong here.

Good and honest motives or not, Snowden and the journalists who help him disseminate “curated” selections from the information in his possession have set themselves up as little governments. They’re not “return[ing] this information to the public” which theoretically owns it. They’re merely parceling out the information THEY’VE decided it’s OK for the public to have. But the the NSA and the US State Department do the same thing. Snowden and friends differ from those organizations merely on content selection criteria, not on the principles involved.

Snowden and Assange both serve the public. But only one of them seems to actually trust that public.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Strong Crypto: An Offer in Compromise for President Obama

President Barack Obama talks with FBI executiv...
President Barack Obama talks with FBI executives after a speech during a visit to FBI headquarters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For months, US president Barack Obama played coy on the developing controversy over law enforcement bureaucrats’ demands that American tech innovators be required to build “back doors” into their products. That changed on March 11. In a talk at the Austin, Texas SXSW Interactive festival, Obama warned against “an absolutist view” of individual privacy and strong encryption.

“[I]f your argument is strong encryption, no matter what, and we can and should, in fact, create black boxes,” said Obama, “then that I think does not strike the kind of balance that we have lived with for 200, 300 years. And it’s fetishizing our phones above every other value.”

Weirdly citing the unconstitutional institution of local DUI checkpoints on our roads and the US government’s barbaric post-9/11 practice of subjecting air travelers to sexual assault by Transportation Security Administration employees in the nation’s airports, Obama appealed to the American tradition of “compromise” to support his argument. All, of course, while averring that he is “way on the civil liberties side of this thing.” With civil liberties friends like Barack Obama, who needs civil liberties enemies?

With apologies to the late Barry Goldwater, absolutism in defense of individual privacy and strong encryption is no vice, nor is moderation in their defense a virtue.

But if President Obama really is interested in a compromise, I guess I’m willing to offer one. It begins with four words:

You first, Mr. President.

In 2008, you promised Americans “the most transparent administration in history.” You’ve since not just failed to deliver on that promise, but taken things in exactly the opposite direction.

Your administration has denied or redacted parts of more Freedom of Information Act requests than any since the Act became law in 1966.

Chelsea Manning languishes in a military prison, Edward Snowden lives in exile, Julian Assange remains trapped in Ecuador’s embassy in London, and numerous other whistleblowers have been imprisoned or otherwise persecuted, all for the “crime” of telling us things about the US government that you didn’t want us to know.

You’ve even assumed the power to order American citizens assassinated — while refusing to let the rest of us know who they are or why you had them killed.

In theory, YOU work for THE REST OF US. Since when does the employee get to read the boss’s email on demand, but not vice-versa?

So show us you’re serious. Start with pardons for Manning and Snowden and an end to the pursuit of Assange. Then start fulfilling instead of denying FOIA requests. And the thing with murdering people? That needs to end, completely, permanently.

Get on those things, then we’ll talk. But I’m going to go ahead and predict that this isn’t the kind of “compromise” you meant.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

When in Rome: “Criminal Consequences” for Assange’s Tormentors?

English: Julian Assange, photo ("sunny co...
Julian Assange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“How sweet it is” and “screw the UN” seem to be the major media tag lines to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s ruling in favor of political prisoner Julian Assange: The former from Assange himself, welcoming vindication of his claim that more than five years under house arrest and/or confined to Ecuador’s UK embassy do indeed constitute illegal detention, the latter from British foreign secretary Philip Hammond and the London Metropolitan Police, neither of which apparently intend to abide by the verdict.

Less ballyhoo and nearly no analysis accompany another of Assange’s statements. His legal team, he announced, is considering possible “criminal consequences” which might attach to the detention. Think he’s blowing smoke? Think again.

The Working Group’s rulings are not, per se, binding on any government. But the Rome Statute is — at least on its signatories, which include Sweden and the UK.

When we consider the context and background — namely that Sweden and the UK have served and continue to serve as proxies for the United States in its pursuit of Assange for his role in exposing US war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — an array of possible charges before the International Criminal Court quickly begin to look quite plausible.

Among those charges are the war crime of denying a fair trial, the attempted war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer, the war crime of unlawful confinement, and the offence against administration of justice of “obstructing or interfering with the attendance or testimony of a witness, retaliating against a witness for giving testimony, tampering with or interfering with the collection of evidence …”

Are these the possible “criminal consequences” Assange foresees? There’s good reason to believe so.

In his speech, Assange notes that the ruling is based on “binding covenants which the UK, Sweden, and the United States (for the most part) have agreed to.” That’s clearly a reference to the US remaining non-signatory to the Rome Statute and holding itself out as beyond the jurisdiction of the ICC (it isn’t, at least not entirely).

 

Prior to this ruling, Assange’s persecutors might have been able to plausibly claim legal uncertainty as an extenuating circumstance. That defense is no longer available. Assange’s continued confinement after the ruling constitutes the knowing and intentional commission of several prosecutable war crimes.

Assange is no longer the hunted, but once again the hunter. And his aim is true.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY