Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits
The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.
The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.
It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.
The case is due to be heard before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). It is being brought by lawyers on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, who, along with their families, were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and sent back to Tripoli to be tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004.
A government spokesman said: “The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the European convention on human rights.
“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.
“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”
He said that the intelligence agencies would now work with the interception of communications commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.
Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and one of the Belhaj family’s lawyers said: “By allowing the intelligence agencies free reign to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial.
“Reprieve has been warning for months that the security services’ policies on lawyer-client snooping have been shot through with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through.
“For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years.
“Worryingly, it looks very much like they have collected the private lawyer-client communications of two victims of rendition and torture, and possibly misused them. While the government says there was no ‘deliberate’ collection of material, it’s abundantly clear that private material was collected and may well have been passed on to lawyers or ministers involved in the civil case brought by Abdel hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who were ‘rendered’ to Libya in 2004 by British intelligence.
“Only time will tell how badly their case was tainted. But right now, the government needs urgently to investigate how things went wrong and come clean about what it is doing to repair the damage.”
Government sources, in line with all such cases, refuse to confirm or deny whether the two Libyans were the subject of an interception operation. They insist the concession does not concern the allegation that actual interception took place and say it will be for the investigatory powers tribunal hearing to determine the issue.
An updated draft interception code of practicespelling out the the rules for the first time was quietly published at the same time as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling against GCHQ earlier this month in the case brought by Privacy International and Liberty.
The government spokesman said the draft code set out enhanced safeguards and provided more detail than previously on the protections that had to be applied in the security agencies handling of legally privileged communications.
The draft code makes clear that warrants for snooping on legally privileged conversations, emails and other communications between suspects and their lawyers can be granted if there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. They have to however ensure that they are not available to lawyers or policy officials who are conducting legal cases against those suspects.
To demonstrate that its policies satisfy legal safeguards, MI6 were required in advance of Wednesday’s concession to disclose internal guidance on how intelligence staff should deal with material protected by legal professional privilege.
The MI6 papers noted: “Undertaking interception in such circumstances would be extremely rare and would require strong justification and robust safeguards. It is essential that such intercepted material is not acquired or used for the purpose of conferring an unfair or improper advantage on SIS or HMG [Her Majesty’s government] in any such litigation, legal proceedings or criminal investigation.”
The internal documents also refer to a visit by the interception commissioner, Sir Anthony May, last summer to examine interception warrants, where it was discovered that regulations were not being observed. “In relation to one of the warrants,” the document explained, “the commissioner identified a number of concerns with regard to the handling of [legal professional privilege] material”.
Amnesty UK’s legal programme director, Rachel Logan, said: “We are talking about nothing less than the violation of a fundamental principle of the rule of law – that communications between a lawyer and their client must be confidential.
“The government has been caught red-handed. The security agencies have been illegally intercepting privileged material and are continuing to do so – this could mean they’ve been spying on the very people challenging them in court.
“This is the second time in as many weeks that government spies have been rumbled breaking the law.”
Like many children, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman suffered from nightmares. In his dreams, he would see flying “death machines” that turned family and friends into burning charcoal. No one could stop them, and they struck any place, at any time.
Unlike most children, Mohammed’s nightmares killed him.
Three weeks ago, a CIA drone operating over Yemen fired a missile at a car carrying the teenager, and two others. They were all incinerated. Nor was Mohammed the first in his family to be targeted: drones had already killed his father and brother.
Since president Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US has killed at least 2,464 people through drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones. The figure is courtesy of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says that at least 314 of the dead, one in seven, were civilians.
Recall that for Obama, as The New York Times reported in May 2012, “all military-age males in a strike zone” are counted “as combatants” – unless “there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”.
It sounds like the stuff of nightmares.
The week after Mohammed’s death, on February 5, Mr Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and discussed the violence of ISIL.
“Lest we get on our high horses”, said the commander-in-chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
These comments prompted a (brief) media storm, with Mr Obama accused of insulting Christians, pandering to the terrorist enemy, or just bad history.
In fact, the president was simply repeating a point often made by liberals since September 11, namely, that all religions have blots on their copy book through the deeds of their followers.
One of the consequences, however, of this invocation of the Crusades – unintended, and all the more significant for it – is to seal away the West’s “sins”, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship to the Middle East, in events that took place a thousand years ago.
The Crusades were, in one sense, a demonstration of raw military power, and a collective trauma for the peoples of the regions they marched through and invaded.
In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, a witness described how the Europeans ordered “all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses”.
He added: “No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids.”
Or take the Third Crusade, when, on August 20, 1191, England’s King Richard I oversaw the beheading of 3,000 Muslim prisoners at Acre in full view of Saladin’s army.
Just “ancient history”? In 1920, when the French had besieged and captured Damascus, their commander Henri Gourard reportedly went to the grave of Saladin, kicked it, and uttered: “Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”
But the US president need not cite the Crusades or even the colonial rule of the early 20th century: more relevant reference points would be Bagram and Fallujah.
Bagram base in Afghanistan is where US soldiers tortured prisoners to death – like 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer Dilawar. Before he was killed in custody, Dilawar was beaten by soldiers just to make him scream “Allah!”
Five months after September 11, The Guardian reported that US missiles had killed anywhere between 1,300 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. Months later, the paper suggested that “as many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention”.
When it was Iraq’s turn, the people of Fallujah discovered that US forces gave them funerals, not democracy. On April 28, 2003, US soldiers massacred civilian protesters, shooting to death 17 during a demonstration.
When that city revolted against the occupation, the residents paid a price. As Marines tried to quell resistance in the city, wrote The New York Times on April 14, 2004, they had “orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not”.Months later, as the Marines launched their November assault on the city, CNN reported that “the sky…seems to explode”.
In their bombardment and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and UK armed forces rained fiery death down on men, women and children. Prisoners were tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. No one was held to account.
It is one thing to apologise for the brutality of western Crusaders a thousand years ago. It is quite another to look at the corpses of the victims of the imperialist present, or hear the screams of the bereaved.
In his excellent book The Muslims Are Coming, Arun Kundnani analysed the “politics of anti-extremism”, and describes the two approaches developed by policymakers and analysts during the “war on terror”.
The first approach, which he refers to as “culturalism”, emphasises “what adherents regard as inherent features of Islamic culture”. The second approach, “reformism”, is when “extremism is viewed as a perversion of Islam’s message”, rather than “a clash of civilisations between the West’s modern values and Islam’s fanaticism”.
Thus the American Right was angry with Mr Obama, because for them, it is about religion – or specifically, Islam. Liberals, meanwhile, want to locate the problem in terms of culture.
Both want to avoid a discussion about imperialism, massacres, coups, brutalities, disappearances, dictatorships – in other words, politics.
As Kundnani writes: when “the concept of ideology” is made central, whether understood as “Islam itself or as Islamist extremism”, then “the role of western states in co-producing the terror war is obscured”.
The problem with Mr Obama’s comments on the Crusades was not, as hysterical conservatives claimed, that he was making offensive and inaccurate analogies with ISIL; rather, that in the comfort of condemning the past, he could mask the violence of his own government in the present.
The echoes of collective trauma remain for a long time, and especially when new wounds are still being inflicted. Think it is farfetched that Muslims would still care about a 1,000-year-old European invasion? Then try asking them about Guantanamo and Camp Bucca instead.
Ben White is a journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid
After helping US whistleblower Edward Snowden attain asylum in Russia, British journalist Sarah Harrison has left Moscow. Harrison has taken refuge in Berlin, out of concern she could be detained in the UK.
National security leakers lead a precarious existence these days. Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over a year now, unable to leave for fear of being arrested by British authorities and extradited to Sweden as part of a sexual assault investigation. Assange believes that going to Sweden would be the first step in his extradition to the US and an eventual trial there.
Meanwhile, NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden is under constant guard in Moscow after having received temporary asylum in Russia. For now, at least, Snowden has managed to avoid the fate that befell Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who was convicted on espionage charges and sentenced in June to 35 years in prison for leaking 250,000 US diplomatic cables.
Snowden’s good fortune is largely due to British journalist Sarah Harrison, a Wikileaks researcher who helped the former NSA contractor escape the long arm of the US Justice Department. Having assisted one of the US government’s top public enemies, she has now taken refuge in Berlin, reticent to return to her native England for fear of being detained by authorities under the UK Terrorism Act.
On Wednesday, Harrison published a letter calling for whistle-blowers to be shielded from prosecution, saying that “giving us the truth is not a crime.”
“Wikileaks continues to fight for the protection of sources,” Harrison wrote. “We have won the battle for Snowden’s immediate future, but the broader war continues.”
‘Snowden is safe and protected’
Harrison accompanied Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow
When Snowden first fled to Hong Kong after leaking his trove of NSA documents to US journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, Harrison flew to China at the behest of Wikileaks to help secure the whistle-blower’s safe passage and prevent his extradition to the US.
While not a lawyer by trade, she had acquired expertise on extradition matters through the case of Assange with whom she both worked and had been romantically involved.
“I’m sure that if Julian hadn’t been grounded at the embassy in London, he would have loved to have done it himself,” Jeremie Zimmermann told DW, referring to Snowden’s successful asylum application in Russia.
“I’m sure after [Assange], Sarah was the most competent,” he continued. “She’s a brilliant journalist and researcher and a brilliant person in general.”
Although Harrison didn’t elaborate on why, exactly, she left Russia, she did write that the job of securing Snowden had been completed.
“Whilst Snowden is safe and protected until his asylum visa is due to be renewed in nine months time, there is still much work to be done,” Harrison said. “The battle Snowden joined against the surveillance state and for government transparency is one that Wikileaks – and many others – have been fighting, and will continue to fight.”
Exile in Berlin
Assange is still holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London
Harrison has joined a growing colony in Berlin of transparency-advocates-in-exile. Poitras, who has reported on the Snowden leaks for the Washington Post and Der Spiegel, and hacker and Wikileaks supporter Jacob Appelbaum, both reside in the German capital.
“Already in the few days I have spent in Germany, it is heartening to see the people joining together and calling for their government to do what must be done – to investigate NSA spying revelations and to offer Edward Snowden asylum,” Harrison wrote in her letter.
The outcry in Germany has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks. Reports from the summer about the NSA collecting millions of Germans’ metadata have now been compounded by the revelation that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone was also allegedly hacked.
“Berlin seems to be the place of choice right now if you consider the vibrant character of the public debate here, and I’m referring to the last two front pages of Der Spiegel that sounded quite serious about it,” Zimmermann said. In a recent Der Spiegel issue, the news magazine published reports based on Snowden’s leaks, detailing possible NSA eavesdropping on Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone. The publication has also called for Snowden to be granted asylum.
Fear of UK Terrorism Act
The daughter of a middle class British family, Harrison’s father is a former executive at a clothing retailer and her mother works with children who have learning difficulties. After studying English literature at Queen Mary, she took a job as an international event manager, but ultimately decided to pursue journalism.
Greenwald’s boyfriend was held for nine hours under the terrorism act
Harrison received an internship with the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London in 2009 and landed a junior research position at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2010. Through her work at the bureau, she came into contact with Assange and later began working for Wikileaks as a researcher.
Taking the advice of legal advisers, Harrison has decided to stay in Germany, for fear of being detained in her native England under the UK Terrorism Act. In August, Glenn Greenwald’s boyfriend, David Miranda, was detained under the act for nine hours at London’s Heathrow Airport. Miranda had been on his way from Berlin back to Brazil – where he and Greenwald live – having transported materials between the Guardian journalist and Poitras.
Under the Terrorism Act, police can detain and question an individual in order to determine whether or not they are a “terrorist.” According to Harrison and other transparency activists, by detaining Miranda, London effectively defined national security reporting as “terrorism.”
“The problem is she’s now part of this net of suspicion,” Zimmerman said.
“It is likely that she would be suspected of the same kind of nonsensical charges if she even stepped foot here,” he continued. “So in a way, until further notice, she might be constrained to exile, the same way that Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras, [and] Appelbaum are today.”
Edward Snowden is safe in Russia, but the fates of journalists who helped him and published his leaks are now of more concern for WikiLeaks, Julian Assange said in an exclusive interview with RT Spanish ‘Behind the News’ host Eva Golinger.
Assange also shared his views on the NSA scandal in Latin America and the future of freedom of information.
He criticized the US and the White House for abusing its power more than any other administration in history, stressing that President Obama has prosecuted twice as many journalists under the espionage act as all previous US presidents combined since 1917.
US can blackmail almost every influential person in Latin America
Issues such as cyber warfare, espionage, surveillance, you have analyzed and written extensively about. Your organization WikiLeaks has exposed the way the US and its allies use these mechanisms to advance their power in influencing the world and the recent documents and revelations made public by Snowden, a former National Security Agency analyst, have caused a furious reaction throughout Latin America. Documents particularly pointing to mass surveillance and data collection of different Latin American nations, but especially Latin American leaders, heads of states in Brazil and Mexico, the Ecuador government, in Venezuela and strategic interests. How have you viewed the revelations by Snowden and the impact they have had on Latin America and the reaction from these Latin American governments?
screenshot from RT interview
Julian Assange: Ninety-eight percent of Latin American telecommunications to the rest of the world – that means SMS, phone, email etc. – passes through the US. That’s a function of the geography of the Americas, and as a result the US has what its intelligence agencies call a ‘home field advantage’, where they can easily intercept these communications that pass through them, index them, store aspects of them forever, and therefore gain understanding of how Latin America is behaving, where it is moving, its economic transfers, the activities of its leaders and major players.
That permits the US to predict in some ways the behavior of Latin American leaders and interests, and it also permits them to blackmail. Nearly every significant person in Latin America is blackmailable by the US, because the US has access to those telecommunications records that have passed through the US, as well as other records it has obtained within LA by planting fiber optic taps, surveillance equipment at embassies and DA bases. Even one of those revealed in Ecuador as a result of Snowden`s leaks.
So you have a situation where the US has mapped out the entire community structure, the relations between every individual who has any chance of having any influence in Latin America. And is able to shift and play off different parties against one another. If you say that it is true then why did Maduro win the Venezuelan presidential election? Why did president Correa win with a significant majority in the Ecuadorean elections, given the US attitude towards these two states?
Well it`s not a function of the US not having enough intelligence data about Latin America, it’s a function of the US taking its eye for a 10 year period off Latin America, and putting its eye on the Middle East and to a degree on to Asia as well. And during that period a number of Latin American states have developed an increased independence from the US and its activities and now unfortunately the US is turning its interests back to Latin America. But unlike 10 years ago, it has a worldwide mass surveillance apparatus to detect nearly every single person.
US controls states not invading them
EG:The President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff recently in her speech before the UN General Assembly had very harsh strong words for the US mass espionage program, and particularly for President Barack Obama, who was there in her presence when she gave the speech, and she not only denounced and condemned that espionage as a violation of sovereignty, but she also called for the creation of an independent internet and communications platform within Latin American nations, or even internationally, that is not subject to US control.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (AFP Photo / Evaristo Sa)
Countries like Venezuela have developed fiber optic cables with the Caribbean, with Cuba exclusively having also launched communication satellites into space to ensure their own communication sovereignty. Is this the solution to protecting them against this type of US invasion and violation through technological sovereignty?
JA: Look, just like there is no meaningful sovereignty without control of freedom of movement, no meaningful sovereignty without economic sovereignty, there is no meaningful sovereignty without control of your own communications. It’s freedom of movement, freedom of communication, freedom of economic interaction that defines a state. Now the US has been aggressively trying to interdict economic exchange through interception of control over Swift, Visa, MasterCard, payments going through Latin America via the Bank of America. But it’s also delving in to Latin American major computer systems, operate important segments of government and the media and Pertobras in Brazil and other major economic interests and interfering with the sovereignty of communications. That’s what it is about.
You know, when is a person or an organization is part of one state or another? Well, it’s part of a state if that state can control its movements, its economic interchange or its telecommunications interchange, the US is grabbing hold of economic interaction and telecommunications interaction and so what is left is some degree of control of the physical force in a state. Even that is being eroded.
When we look at what happened in the Edward Snowden case when the US sprayed out extradition requests, Neil McBride, the same national security prosecutor who is prosecuting me, behind that sprayed out extradition requests for Edward Snowden to Venezuela, to Bolivia, to Hong Kong, to Iceland, to Ireland. That was about trying to take advantage of treaty arrangements which force the police and judicial systems of other countries to obey the interests of the US government.
So by subordinating regulatory or policing systems in treaty arrangements to another government, that third component – the control of use of force – is also given away. In academic theory about what is happening there, we call this ‘lawfare’, which is using international treaty arrangements and multilateral organizations to get the territory or gains that you would normally get by war instead by law. When you couple that activity to telecommunications interception and economic interception then in fact you control the state without invading it. And that’s what leaders and policymakers must be aware of in Latin America. That there’s no effective sovereignty without sovereignty in the most important parts – economic interaction, telecommunications and control of police and judicial instruments.
EG:But is it possible knowing also what you know of about the US capacity in terms of its technology and its massive reach through surveillance that in Latin America they can develop sovereign technology that would be free from US control, or is it merely a dream?
JA: Well, this idea that Dilma proposed of perhaps setting up an international regulatory commission for the internet. There are some that the US is terrified of: the ITU – the international communications union – taking over regulation of key aspects of the internet. ITU is European-dominated, has been for many years. I don’t believe that the internet should be dominated by any one region and to a degree it shouldn’t be dominated by governments. I mean, the great liberty of communications for individuals and trade for businesses has come about because of a lack of control by states.
See, some of the proposals by Dilma being put forward are not a mechanism to give Brazilians greater freedom from interception, rather they are a mechanism to give the Brazilian government equal access to that intercepted information. So we must be quite careful. There’s a natural tendency by states, of course, to want to increase their own power. And they are more concerned in increasing their domestic power really, than they are typically concerned by the United States increasing its power.
Google spends more money to lobby in Washington than Lockheed Martin
EG: I want to talk about Google. Because you’ve criticized Google extensively and also referred to it as an extension of US foreign policy and power. These are strong statements to make about a service that is used around the world. And for example in many Latin American countries, even the highest levels of government, have Gmail accounts. So can you elaborate a little bit on why you perceive Google as such a danger to our society and what are the alternatives?
JA: I wrote about that this year in my book ‘Cypherpunks’ and some recent articles reviewing the chairman of Google’s book ‘The New Digital Age’. In that book it’s very clear what is happening. Google is presenting itself to Washington as a geopolitical visionary who can show the US the way forward in Latin America, in Asia, in Europe and so on. And that’s quite a reactionary piece of work. With backcover praise chosen pre-publication by Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Tony Blair, [Michael] Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency, the NSA. The primary acknowledgement is to Henry Kissinger.
So where’s that coming from? That is coming from Google that started out in California as part of grad student culture in Stanford University, pretty nice, naïve, wanting to build services that the world would use. But as Google got big it got close to government. As it tried to enter into foreign markets it became reliant on the State Department to the degree where the head of Google ideas is now immediately a former advisor of Hillary Clinton and Rice from the State Department.
This close nexus and interaction between Google and the State Department is something that we’ve documented on WikiLeaks in releases and also in cables – meetings between key State Department advisors and execs of Google. It wasn’t much of a surprise when we learnt that as far back as 2009 Google had paired up with the National Security Agency to enter into the PRISM program.
So we can see that Google is now part of Family America. It spends more money now on lobbying in Washington than Lockheed Martin. In the Google book it even states that what Lockheed Martin was to the 20th century, hi-tech companies will be to the 21st. It’s a really quite strong form of neo-imperialism. And I don’t want to use that phrase as some sort of hackneyed Marxist expression, but that’s what it’s about – jacking in the entire world into the US economic and informational system.
Banking blockade against WikiLeaks is similar to blockade against Cuba
EG:Your organization WikiLeaks has published hundreds of thousands of documents, many of them from the US government, classified documents. You’ve come under heavy fire, the organization has come under attack. And yet you continue to publish documents. Is that going to go on, how is WikiLeaks functioning and are the attacks also continuing?
JA: The attacks are continuing. Let’s go back to 2010. Pentagon gave a 40-minute public press conference. During that press conference they made a demand to us, the organization, to me personally. “You must destroy everything that we had published in relation to the US government.” Destroy everything we were going to publish. And cease stealing with [the help of] US military whistleblowers or else we will be compelled to do so. As a result we said no, we were not going to do so. We’re a publisher, we made a promise to our sources and the public to publish fearlessly and frankly.
The US government then engaged in a three-year-long war against WikiLeaks, which continues to this day. It started up a whole government investigation, including over 12 different agencies including the CIA, publicly declaring the grand jury into WikiLeaks, that investigation the Department of Justice admits as recently as August 23 continues.
The position that we’re in is that our important source of WikiLeaks, Private Manning, has been sentenced to 35 years. A tactical victory, believe it or not, for his defense team, because the US was demanding life imprisonment without parole. And probably as a result of our intervention in the Edward Snowden matter, we know it for a fact that the sentiment in Washington against WikiLeaks as a result of the Edward Snowden matter is increasingly adverse.
But the organization continues to publish, continues to fight in courts where we’ve intervened in multiple times. In the Bradley Manning case we’ve had a series of victorious court cases against the banking blockade. Interestingly all court cases that WikiLeaks has been involved and that have come to a judgment, it has won. There have been significant victories in the European Parliament where we’ve managed to push forward legislation which outlaws this sort of banking blockade that is against us, the blockade that’s similar to that blockade that’s happening against Cuba.
Interestingly in relation to financial blockades and the freedom of economic interaction, that sovereign right for states to interact within states, to interact economically. The internet has meant that economic interaction and communication are now merged together. So when the US wants to intercept and surveil [sic] the economic interactions between people and companies, it just intercepts the internet and it gets both of these at the same time. Similarly if it wants to block off economic interaction with some bank, say in Iran, well it can just block off telecommunications with that bank.
Espionage Act: Obama prosecuted twice as many people than all previous presidents
EG:You mentioned Private Manning’s case. And in that case, now known as Chelsea Manning, she was accused of espionage for passing documents to a media organization. Classified documents. But not to the so-called traditional enemies. So this treatment now of media organizations or journalists as an enemy – is that dangerous in terms of whistleblowers for one? But also the media outlets? And do you think that this forms part of what President Barak Obama referred to in his speech before the UN recently as the exceptionalism of the US. This kind of persecution, treatment of media and whistleblowers as terrorists.
JA: Look, whenever you see a president talk about exceptionalism, what he’s trying to say is the rules of civil behaviour doesn’t apply to him. Whether that’s in invading another country or whether that’s abuse of laws at home. In relation to Barack Obama’s use of the espionage act against alleged journalistic sources and journalists, that’s something new. So it’s very important that people understand that this is not just a bit more of the same, it’s a radical change.
Barack Obama has prosecuted more people under the espionage act, more journalistic sources under the espionage act than all previous presidents combined, going back to 1917. In fact he’s prosecuted double the number. So this is a deliberate conscious decision by the White House to create a chilling effect, using the espionage act as opposed to some other mechanism. In the case of Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning there’s no allegation, has never been an allegation that he has passed information on to another country, that he has sold information, that he was intending to harm the United States or its people in any manner whatsoever. So that’s just a linguistic abuse to call speaking to the media espionage. Similarly it’s a linguistic abuse to say that WikiLeaks as a publisher, when it publishes, is conducting espionage.
US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)
EG:I want to talk about your case a little bit. We’re here in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where you’ve been for over a year, close to a year-and-a-half. And as of now there has been no resolution to the situation. You’ve been given asylum by Ecuador, but you can’t get to Ecuador because the British government would detain you if you set foot outside these doors. Recently the foreign minister of Ecuador, Ricardo Patino, has confirmed the fact that they have been working aggressively with the UK government trying to reach a solution. They’ve been unsuccessful and now they’re considering taking a case to a foreign international court: violation of sovereignty as well as the right to asylum amongst other rights that have been violated. How do you see the resolution to this situation? And is there one?
JA: It’s a political, diplomatic, legal mix. I think in a reasonably short time frame – year, year-and-a-half actually, there are some good signs that there will be a resolution. That time is on my side in this situation, because as times goes by, more of the facts of the situation are coming out. We’ve been filing criminal cases in Sweden, in Germany, in relation to intelligence activity against the organisation there. So I think the position of the some of the players involved is becoming aggressively more untenable as time goes by. And we have seen even the Conservative Lord Mayor of London Boris Johnson denounce the expenditure of the police outside this embassy spying on me. He said that now this money amount to $10 million and should be spent on frontline policing, what police are meant to do, not ringing this embassy.
EG:And both you and Edward Snowden have received asylum in Latin American nations. You in Ecuador and he’s been offered asylum in Venezuela and Bolivia and also in Nicaragua. He is in Russia with temporary asylum which your organization helped him obtain. But how do you view the fact that it has been Latin American nations, traditionally known as less powerful and developing countries, that they had the courage to stand up to US power and support both of you.
JA: It’s extremely interesting, isn’t it? We were involved in filling out asylum requests for Edward Snowden formally and informally to around 20 different nations. Some because we thought there was a decent chance, others because we wanted to show the public the refusal to generate some public debate and awareness about how the government is behaving. But you’re right, in terms of those nations that stepped forward, it was Latin America and Russia. Not all of Latin America either, but Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador showing a keen interest. What does that mean?
These are not very powerful countries. Russia we can understand, it has its own nuclear armaments, it’s geographically fairly independent. Whereas Latin America is not so. That’s really I think is an expression of Latin American democracy, where you have governments who feel the need to be responsible to their people, who feel the need to live up to the sort of values that they are preaching or they will held to account by the population.
And so I see that as a part of the democratic nature of Venezuela, Ecuador and perhaps now even Brazil, which hasn’t yet made an offer, but it’s starting to respond – in relation to the surveillance matter, in protecting Glenn Greenwald – it’s starting to respond to the public pressure there.
The Guardian’s Brazil-based reporter Glenn Greenwald (R) and his partner David Miranda in Brasilia on October 9, 2013 (AFP Photo / Evaristo Sa)
EG:Also a shift in global power and the growing sentiment of sovereignty and independence in Latin America, but I want to ask about something…
JA: You can compare in an interesting way, say Germany and Venezuela. So in Germany privacy is a really big concern, it’s probably of all the medium sized countries, privacy is the most in value in Germany, because of what happened in the WWII, and some other cultural aspects. And in Germany we had Angela Merkel up for election. So not only did these events about Edward Snowden’s asylum and then spying occur in the context where a country is interested in privacy, but in the context of a country that had federal election. And with reporters like Laura Poitras, based in Germany, working with Der Spiegel, publishing about German documents. And yet the German government did not offer Snowden asylum, did not seek to transport him or assist him in any manner whatsoever.
So I think this is an example when even if the population has the democratic desire, population has the will, that the government doesn’t properly reflect the will of the population. Whereas we can see in Ecuador and Venezuela, that the government is more…
EG:Bolivia as well…
JA: …and Bolivia… that the government is more responsive. At least in relation to sovereignty issues, to the demands of the population.
Snowden is safe, I am more worried about Sarah Harrison, Guardian journalists
EG:Unwilling to subordinate itself to US power. I can only get in one last question. I want to throw in a few things.
One is the issue if the future of journalism. Is investigative journalism under extinction because of this treatment and prosecution of journalists who are exposing US abuses and those also other powerful entities around the world and are therefore being treated as terrorists or enemies? Snowden’s possibilities in the future: what awaits him in terms of whistleblowers’ treatment? Would he come under severe prosecution by the US? And also I want to tie into all of that a question about the film that’s coming out. Is it another attempt, the same thing in terms of trying to discredit and distort the work that you’re doing, WikiLeaks is doing, Snowden is doing? Anyone, who’s trying to expose those abuses?
JA: Edward Snowden: he’s now safe in Russia. He has asylum for a one-year period formally. But assuming he doesn’t run anyone over in a car, I imagine that the Russians will be happy to extent that indefinitely. I’m more concerned in terms of present people at risk, with our journalist Sarah Harrison, who was involved in getting Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong, spent 39 days with him in the Moscow airport, protecting him filing asylum applications and is still in Russia. Now, she’s from the UK, as we know. The Guardian newspaper was raided, Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained for nine hours on account of terrorism charges here without charge. A formal investigation, a formal terrorism investigation has started up in relation to all those people.
Edward Snowden (3rd R) alongside UK WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison (2nd R) and the US whistleblowers (L to R) Coleen Rowley (FBI), Thomas Drake (NSA), Jesselyn Raddack (DoJ) and Ray McGovern (CIA). (Photo by Sunshinepress/Getty Images)
EG:Well the head of MI5 has also just declared that Edward Snowden, his documents have placed national security in danger…
JA: Yeah, I mean just absurd. But also it’s a position by the UK which is clearly that they’re going after anyone who has had something to do with this matter, probably in order to show to the US that they feel their pain and that they are a part of the same club. And possibly in relation to GCHQ. So that’s a concern for us, what will happen to Sarah Harrison? But I think if we look at the bigger picture, OK, yes, there’s some development in the US and the UK, which is extremely serious. It’s obvious to everyone. The rule of law is gradually starting to collapse. The mechanisms of government are lifting off from the population, from the judicial system. The judicial processes are becoming more and more secret. Here, introduction of a secret court.
Even the Labour Party here, Ed Miliband from the Labour Party pushing legislation saying that soldiers should not be able to be criticized, adding them to hate speech legislation. This is a sort of proto-fascism. I mean, that’s a strong thing to say, but I think that’s a correct description. And the US – yes, that is making people extremely timid. It has made. The Guardian does good work here, but it has made the Guardian also very timid in its publications. It’s been holding a lot of stories back. It’s been extensively redacting, it has been holding documents back, same in the US.
From the point of view of WikiLeaks as a publisher, of course, we think that’s great, that we we’ll be the only player left in the field. From the point of view of Julian Assange as a free speech activist, I think that’s an abomination and extremely concerning. On the other hand, just because you can smell the gun powder in the air, you can smell the heat of the battle between those people, who are revealing information about the crimes of state, and war crimes and mass surveillance and so on. And those who are trying to suppress it. It doesn’t tell you which side is winning.
There’s a serious conflict going on between a growing national security system in the West and those people who are trying to expose what that system is doing. That’s for sure. Which one of these two groups is winning is not clear. We actually have some pretty important winds under our belt as well as saying many journalists are surveyed and prosecuted.
JA: OK, so the film, Fifth Estate …or actually introduced already…
EG: Do you think it’s an attempt to discredit you and your organization?
JA: I don’t sort of look at the things that way. This film comes from Hollywood. I know the book that it was based on. The books were definitely an attempt to do precisely that. DreamWorks has picked the two most discredited libellous books out of dozens of books available for it to pick. But it’s coming out of a particular milieu about.. within Hollywood and that constraints, it seems, what scripts can be written and what things would get distribution. I don’t know if that was the intent of the filmmakers. It’s certainly the result, but it’s been doing quite poorly in the reviews.
I think the information we have published about it was pretty successful in knocking out any view that is inaccurate history. It’s interesting to see that in the America’s Disney, who’s responsible for the distribution there, has been putting up posters of me with the word ‘traitor’ emblazoned across my face. You know, a laughable concept ‘cos because I’m an Australian, I couldn’t even be a traitor, in theory, to the United States. I mean it’s a type of libel.
I think ultimately people are starting to become immune to those sorts of attacks. There’s been so many as time is going by. And people who’ve been watching the WikiLeaks saga have seen many of these attacks, having seen that they’ve turned out not to be true. So I think our base is not going to be affected by the film.
John Pilger discusses the role of the media in the contemporary context of whistleblowers and war.
According to Pilger, the biggest threat to the so-called security establishment is still WikiLeaks [AP]
As part of an ongoing series of interviews for the radio show “Le Mur a Des Oreilles; conversations for Palestine“, Frank Barat talks to John Pilger, one of the most influencial journalist of the last few decades, about the war in Syria, the colonisation of Palestine, the relationship between the corporate media and government propaganda and the actions of a few very brave men, Snowden, Assange and Manning.
FB: Quick question before we start, have you finished working on a new film?
JP: Yes, I’ve almost just finished a new film, which will be premiered at the National Film Theatre here on October 3 and shown on the ITV network on the December 17. It is called “Utopia” and it is about Indigenous Australia and the secret of Australia and the way Australia has embraced an Apartheid without giving due acknowledgment for having done so. It is a subject I have written and made films about over the years but this is quite an epic film.
FB: Let’s start, so Syria is regularly headline news at the moment, what do you make of the corporate media reporting on the issue and as a reporter, do you recognise yourself in this type of journalism?
JP: Well, I’ve never recognised myself being the kind of journalism that misrepresents the Middle East as a matter of routine. I don’t see how any journalist can recognise himself or herself. This is not to say that there are not good reporters, good journalists that work in the Middle East but we rarely glimpse them in what we call the mainstream, that’s a miss known there is no mainstream of course and you’ve described it correctly as corporate media, we rarely glimpse these honourable exceptions. There is a kind of Kissinger’s styleto a lot of the reporting in the way that Kissinger made almost an art form of hypocrisy and looking the other way while the United States went about its rapaciousbusiness in the Middle East and the way he gave an impunity to Israel which we have to understand, if we are to understand, the problems of the Middle East and how they might be solved but it’s almost as if Israel doesn’t exist and yet it is the coreof the problem.
FB: Would it be a fair portrayal if I say to you that I can’t really see a difference between corporate media reporting on Syria and Government propaganda? It seems like they are the same sort of arms of the same Institutions in a way.
JP: Most of the mainstream reporting is simply an extension of what I would call an establishment prevailingview, it is not necessarily the government but generally speaking, it is the government point of view. The mainstream broadcasters for example made no secret of the fact that they framed their political and to a large degree the International coverage on how the political class, the Westminster class in Britain deals with politics and international affairs. So, you have a political reporter, he is limited to report in Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament, a so called diplomatic correspondent is limited to really reporting what the Foreign Office does. So they are by almost their own definition simply echoes of what the government or the establishment point of view.
FB: Talking about journalists such as yourself that we normally call investigative journalists, it seems like it is a dying breed, would you say that people like Snowden and Assange are the new journalists nowadays?
JP: I don’t think it is a dying breed, I think there is a great enthusiasm among young journalists to really be real journalists, in fact investigating journalist is a modern invention really, I mean journalism should be about investigating but people who do the hard work finding out things and encouraging whistle blowers and so on they are there. You’ve got people in the United States like Jeremy Scahill and Gareth Porter.Gareth Porter especially who writes only on the Internet, he is an excellent investigating journalist. So, you know, we exist, we are not dying off, we are always under threat, I suspect we always were.
What we’ve done always in the past is recognise that our greatest source has been a whistle blower, I mean the source of great scoops, great revelations, is not always but mostly someone from within, a sort of conscientious objector, Bradley Manning played that part with great distinction and courage. Snowden is an absolute exemplar of this and I suspect, in fact I know that he represents many others within, the so-called security establishment. The biggest threat is probably still WikiLeaks because it has provided a method by which leakers can leak also blowers can blow. It has a pretty moral principle behind it which Julien Assange has often expressed. So, I would regard them as part of a kind of a band of brothers and sisters if you like, journalists, whistle blowers. It is very interesting, one of the most interesting document which wikiLeaks leaked a few years ago from the Ministry of Defence in London was a document which I think entitled something like how to stop leaks and of course it was leaked, it described the biggest threats to all the wonderful things we hold here in the West, there were 3 major threats. The third threat was Russian spies, believe it or not, the second threat was terrorists but the major threats above all were investigative journalists.
FB: Coming back to the Middle East, you’ve reported on Palestine for many years. How difficult is it to report on Palestine and what do you make of channels such as the BBC calling for impartiality on the issue? Can a journalist be impartial when the situation is so unbalanced on the ground?
JP: Well, they don’t mean impartial, it is just a term that has been drained of all its diction meaning, it has no meaning, impartial means partial actually, it means putting across as I described the Western point of view and being very very aware of that unless you put across on the Israeli point of view you are going to be in trouble within your own organisations, the BBC is a particular example, you know I made a film about this in which there were producers which I have known personally talked about being terrified of a call from the Israeli Embassy. The routine intimidation of the BBC has produced without too much difficulty I have to say, has produced a partiality that they describe as impartiality, it is a sort of a Orwellian expression, there is no impartiality. In the language used, so you have a BBC report in which you have two narratives in Palestine you know, the “Israeli – Palestine” conflict and so on. There is very very rarely reporting that is framed within the law. Say it was framed within the law there would be no question of how Palestine would come out and how Israel would come out because Israel is the most lawless state in the world and what it is doing in Palestine is entirely lawless. It’s never framed in terms of law, it’s never framed in terms of dare I say what is right or wrong; it is framed in terms of an equal conflict, which it is, of course not.
FB: You made a film called “Palestine is still the issue” in 2003, if you had to make one again today, what title would you give it and why?
JP: Well, the first film I made about Palestine was in 1974 and it was called “Palestine is still the issue”, the next film I made was in 2002 “Palestine is still the issue” and if I make one now it would be called “Palestine is still the issue” for the obvious reason.
FB: You mentioned words before, for journalists and for propaganda purposes from governments or mainstream media, how important are words? You talked about Orwellian words, it seems they can actually change the meaning of wars, they would call a “massacre” a “pacification”,”ethnic cleansing” becomes “moving borders” etc, can you tell us something about that?
JP: It comes down to much more basic that the word war. A war implies that there are two kind of more or less equal states or army facing each other. So going to war in Syria, having a war in Syria, you hear that time and time again, there is no war in Syria, there is a war going on in Syria but it is a civil war, but as far as the West is concerned there is no such things as going to war because apart from trying to defend itself, Syria will be attacked just as there were no war in Iraq. A war was created, a sectarian war that was the consequence of what was a massive attack and invasion. The same thing happened in 1991, I saw the state of the Iraqi army shortly before that and it was not equipped or able to defend itself or a country or whatever. Yes, it could go on an invade Kuwait but there was no real defence there. Again, that was not a war, they did not call it a war, they called it an invasion. So they are invasion, they are rapacious, they are aggressive, they are lawless.
In Vietnam, the world involvement was used, I remember that, in the Americans press. The US involvement in Vietnam you know is a useless word, it doesn’t really mean anything. In fact, it was the US invasion of South Vietnam, the country was meant to be defending, that term was almost never used.
FB: One of your last film that is called “The war you don’t see”, the people we often don’t see are the people on the ground, the people that are fighting imperialism, fighting for an intervention. Following our interview tonight, we are going to talk to a woman activist from Nablus, a Lady called Beesan Ramadan, what would be your message to people on the ground that are suffering from Western interventions?
JP: I think we all depend on people like that; we all draw inspiration from them because it is just remarkable to me and inspiring. The Palestinians keep going, those who attack them again and again, the Israelis and Americans and former Israelis, Americans, Europeans and so on. These constant attacks on Palestine have not even divided the Palestinians yet, I mean, yes, Gaza has been physically divided from the West Bank, the Occupied Territories but even that division between people in Gaza and people in the West Bank as well as class division, of course there are but the fact that the Palestinian people keep going and this is a spectacle I find very moving, that Palestinian children going to school all dressed up in their school uniforms making their way through rubble, oftenhaving had disturbed nights and perhaps disturbing themselves by the attacks on them by the Israelis and so on.
So, because Palestine is still the issue, because unless there is a settlement, unless there is justice that is the key word, justice for the Palestinian people (when I said settlement I mean a just one), there is not going to be peace really in the region or in the broader world so we depend on the people there to keep going.
FB: Thanks John, thanks again.
John Pilger is an award winning Australian journalist and broadcaster/documentary maker primarily based in Britain.
Frank Barat is a human rights activist based in London, UK and is coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Few military lawyers believe the judge presiding the 25-year-old’s court martial will administer the maximum punishment, which would amount to a life sentence.
However, experts consulted by the Guardian said Manning could expect to be jailed for at least 10 years, and possibly two or three decades.
Manning was convicted of passing more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks. He was found guilty of 20 counts, several under the Espionage Act, but acquitted of the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy”.
The judge presiding over his court martial at Forte Meade military base, Colonel Denise Lind, who was due to begin deliberating on Monday, recently granted most elements of a defence motion that merged some of the 20 counts for which Manning has been found guilty, on grounds that they repeat each other.
Without it, Manning would have been facing a maximum jail term of 136 years in jail.
Predicting any sentence in a court martial is notoriously difficult. Unlike in civilian courts, where there are often federal tariffs or sentencing guidelines, nothing in the Manual for Courts-Martial – the rulebook for military trials – aids the judge in determining the appropriate punishment.
“All that exists is the maximum sentence,” said Eugene Fidell, a law professor at Yale. “And the minimum is zero. Other than that, it is totally down to the judge’s discretion.” He added that Manning was fortunate a judge would determine his jail-sentence. “A jury could do anything, they could really have thrown the book at him.”
What makes the Manning case particularly difficult to forecast is the scale and nature of his leaks, which are without precedent.
When he was stationed in Iraq in 2010, Manning passed 250,000 State Department cables and 470,000 Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield logs to Wikileaks, as well as other classified material.
The transparency website published material on its website and also shared documents with a consortium of news organisations led by the Guardian.
Fidell predicted Manning would receive a “double-digit” sentence, but said anything up to 20 years was also feasible. He said he would be “quite surprised” if Manning was jailed for longer than three decades.
Lind, who is expected to decide Manning’s sentence shortly, has given no clues about which way she might be leaning.
“The judge has a tremendous amount of discretion. She could sentence anything from a nominal time to 90 years,” said Liza Goitein, who co-directs the Brennan Center for Justice‘s Liberty and National Security Program.
“She has not really tipped her hand, in any way, either through any of the individual rulings or the verdict,” Goitein said. However, on Friday, in a series of written findings released after the prosecution finished their sentencing arguments, Lind provided a harsh summary of Manning’s actions.
“Manning’s conduct was of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others,” Lind told the court. “His conduct was both wanton and reckless.”
The sentencing phase of the trial, which functions like a second, mini-trial, at which both defence and prosecution make their case for the appropriate punishment, concludes Monday.
In recent weeks, the soldier’s defence team tried to show that his judgment at the time he passed information to WikiLeaks was impaired by his fragile emotional state, as he struggled with his gender identity disorder in an unforgiving military culture.
In mitigation, the defence reveal how Manning’s senior officers missed a series of “red flags” that, the argued, should have prompted senior officers to revoke the soldier’s classified security access.
The prosecution faced a series of setbacks in its bid to establish the extent of damage caused by the leaks.
A military witness conceded there was no evidence individuals had been killed by enemy forces after having been named in the releases, while Lind, in a rare victory for the defence, limited the admissibility of evidence regarding the “chilling effects” Manning’s actions had on US diplomacy.
“From what I’ve read, the sentencing hearing went as well as it could have for Bradley Manning,” Gotein said. “In the open sessions, the government really struggled to show any material harm that was admissible.”
She and other experts who have watched the case unfold said Manning’s decision last week to show remorse for his actions is likely to aid his case for a more lenient punishment.
Manning surprised some observers when he read out a statement in court last Wednesday, expressing remorse and apologising for actions that “hurt the United States“.
“While it might have broken the hearts of his followers to hear him say he regretted he did what he did, that is exactly what he needed to do in order to cut down his sentence,” Goitein said. “Depending on the judge, it can be quite important for a defendant to show some remorse, and some appreciation of the wrongfulness of his actions. It could conceivably be significant.”
But Lind will have to decide whether she believes Manning is really contrite, and not merely apologising as a pragmatic bid for a shorter sentence.
Just six months ago, in February, when Manning admitted to leaking most of the classified material, he offered more of a defence of his actions. In a statement read out to the court, Manning spoke of his shock at the “delightful bloodlust” displayed by military personnel in a video of a 2007 attack by a US helicopter gunship in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters journalists.
At that time, he told the judge, he believed that releasing classified material to stimulate a debate about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was “the right thing to do”.
Gotein declined to offer a firm prediction for Manning’s jail term, but added: ‘The charges are so serious, and there are so many of them, that is hard for me to see him getting away with less than 20 years.”
The 20-year marker has become something of an unofficial barometer for those closely following the case. If the prosecution had accepted Manning’s partial guilty plea back in February, he could have been sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Some of Manning’s supporters say privately that any sentence short than 20 years will be considered something of a victory. However, that threshold is, compared to the history of other cases brought against government leakers, extraordinary.
Daniel Ellsberg, who before Manning was perhaps the best known government whistleblower, was charged under the Espionage Act for photocopying documents about America’s involvement in Vietnam, saw the case against him collapse in 1973.
The Obama administration has overseen a much-criticised clampdown on leakers and the journalists they provide information to, although so far only a small number have been convicted, and sentences have been relatively short.
Shamai K Leibowitz, who gave secret FBI transcripts of a conversation recorded at the Israeli embassy to a blogger, was sentenced to 20 months in prison after admitting disclosing classified information.
John Kiriakou, who pleaded guilty last year to disclosing classified information about the government’s use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique, was sentenced to 30 months.
But no other leaker in US history is known to have released anything like the amount of classified information as Manning.
Jesselyn Radack, from the Government Accountability Project, which works with whistleblowers, said her personal view was that the three years Manning has already served in detention should be enough, and that he should be let free.
Radack, a former Justice Department whistleblower, was never prosecuted, despite a 10-year investigation into information she passed to Newsweek about an American who was interrogated after being captured in Afghanistan.
She said the Manning prosecution was a “show trial”, and part of a wider effort by the Obama administration to discourage officials from passing information to journalists.
She said she would be “happily stunned” if Manning was given fewer than 20 years, a sentence that would be viewed as a “victory of sorts”.
“The US government wants to send out a message,” Radack said. “You choose your conscience over not only your career, but your very freedom.”
Whatever sentence Manning receives, it will be reduced by the more than three years because of the time he has already spent in custody since his arrest in May 2010.
A further 112 days will be deducted as part of a pre-trial ruling in which Lind compensated Manning for the excessively harsh treatment he endured at the Quantico marine base in Virginia between July 2010 and April 2011.
He is also entitled to an automatic appeal to the army court of criminal appeals, which could take place within about six months of his sentencing.
Still, he is probably preparing himself for the possibility that he might not leave prison before he is an old man.
The recent disclosures of top-secret documents about the National Security Agency, released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, may complicate matters.
Fidell said there is now growing pressure to send a message that dissuades future “copycat leakers”.
“Having the Snowden case happen in this way is very poor timing for private Manning,” he said. “I’m sure the judge reads newspapers. The existence of the Snowden case, I think, raises the stakes.”
Bradley Manning has already spent 1,157 days in detention since his arrest in May 2010. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Bradley Manning, the source of the massive WikiLeaks trove of secret disclosures, faces a possible maximum sentence of more than 130 years in military jail after he was convicted of most charges on which he stood trial.
Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court martial of the US soldier, delivered her verdict in curt and pointed language. “Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty,” she repeated over and over, as the reality of a prolonged prison sentence for Manning – on top of the three years he has already spent in detention – dawned.
The one ray of light in an otherwise bleak outcome for Manning was that he was found not guilty of the single most serious charge against him – that he knowingly “aided the enemy”, in practice al-Qaida, by disclosing information to the WikiLeaks website that in turn made it accessible to all users including enemy groups.
Lind’s decision to avoid setting a precedent by applying the swingeing “aiding the enemy” charge to an official leaker will invoke a sigh of relief from news organisations and civil liberties groups who had feared a guilty verdict would send a chill across public interest journalism.
The judge also found Manning not guilty of having leaked an encrypted copy of a video of a US air strike in the Farah province of Aghanistan in which many civilians died. Manning’s defence team had argued vociferously that he was not the source of this video, though the soldier did admit to later disclosure of an unencrypted version of the video and related documents.
Lind also accepted Manning’s version of several of the key dates in the WikiLeaks disclosures, and took some of the edge from other less serious charges. But the overriding toughness of the verdict remains: the soldier was found guilty in their entirety of 17 out of the 22 counts against him, and of an amended version of four others.
Manning was also found guilty of “wrongfully and wantonly” causing to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the US, “having knowledge that intelligence published on the internet is accesible to the enemy”. That guilty ruling could still have widest ramifications for news organisations working on investigations relating to US national security.
The verdict was condemned by human rights campaigners. Amnesty International’s senior director of international law and policy, Widney Brown, said: “The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence.
“Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government. You investigate and prosecute those who destroy the credibility of the government by engaging in acts such as torture which are prohibited under the US Constitution and in international law.”
Ben Wizner, of the American Civil LIberties Union, said: “While we’re relieved that Mr Manning was acquitted of the most dangerous charge, the ACLU has long held the view that leaks to the press in the public interest should not be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
“Since he already pleaded guilty to charges of leaking information – which carry significant punishment – it seems clear that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”
In a statement to the Guardian, Manning’s family expressed “deep thanks” to his civilian lawyer, David Coombs, who has worked on the case for three years. They added: “While we are obviously disappointed in today’s verdicts, we are happy that Judge Lind agreed with us that Brad never intended to help America’s enemies in any way. Brad loves his country and was proud to wear its uniform.”
Once the counts are added up, the prospects for the Manning are bleak. Barring reduction of sentence for mitigation, which becomes the subject of another mini-trial dedicated to sentencing that starts tomorrow, Manning will face a substantial chunk of his adult life in military custody.
He has already spent 1,157 days in detention since his arrest in May 2010 – most recently in Fort Leavenworth in Kansas – which will be deducted from his eventual sentence.
A further 112 days will be taken off the sentence as part of a pre-trial ruling in which Lind compensated him for the excessively harsh treatment he endured at the Quantico marine base in Virginia between July 2010 and April 2011. He was kept on suicide watch for long stretches despite expert opinion from military psychiatrists who deemed him to be at low risk of self-harm, and at one point was forced to strip naked at night in conditions that the UN denounced as a form of torture.
Lind has indicated that she will go straight into the sentencing phase of the trial, in which both defence and prosecution lawyers will call new witnesses. This is being seen as the critical stage of the trial for Manning’s defence: the soldier admitted months ago to being the source of the WikiLeaks disclosures, and much of the defence strategy has been focused on attempting to reduce his sentence through mitigation.
With that in mind, the soldier’s main counsel, David Coombs, is likely to present evidence during the sentencing phase that Manning was in a fragile emotional state at the time he began leaking and was struggling with issues over his sexuality. In pre-trial hearings, the defence has argued that despite his at times erratic behaviour, the accused was offered very little support or counselling from his superiors at Forward Operating Base Hammer outside Baghdad.
The outcome will now be pored over by government agencies, lawyers, journalists and civil liberties groups for its implications for whistleblowing, investigative reporting and the guarding of state secrets in the digital age. By passing to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 documents, Manning became the first mass digital leaker in history, opening a whole new chapter in the age-old tug-of-war between government secrecy and the public’s right to information in a democracy.
Among those who will also be closely analysing the verdict are Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has disclosed the existence of secret government dragnets of the phone records of millions of Americans, who has indicated that the treatment of Manning was one reason for his decision to seek asylum in another country rather than face similar aggressive prosecution in America. The British government will also be dissecting the courtroom results after the Guardian disclosed that Manning is a joint British American citizen.
Another party that will be intimately engaged with the verdict is WikiLeaks, and its founder, Julian Assange. They have been the subject of a secret grand jury investigation in Virginia that has been looking into whether to prosecute them for their role in the Manning disclosures.
WikiLeaks and Assange were mentioned repeatedly during the trial by the US government which tried to prove that the anti-secrecy organisation had directly steered Manning in his leaking activities, an allegation strongly denied by the accused. Prosecutors drew heavily on still classified web conversations between Manning and an individual going by the name of “Press Association”, whom the government alleges was Assange.
| BREAKING: Venezuela‘s president Maduro says he has decided to offer asylum to Snowden!
“I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American, Edward Snowden, so that in the fatherland of (Simon) Bolivar and (Hugo) Chavez, he can come and live away from the imperial North American persecution,” Maduro told a televised parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.
Former CIA employee Edward Snowden has carried out one of the biggest leaks in US history, exposing a top-secret NSA surveillance program to the media. Leading tech companies were revealed to be involved in intelligence gathering through PRISM spy tool.
00:11 GMT: Venezuela’s president Maduro says he has decided to offer asylum to US NSA- leaker Edward Snowden, Reuters reports.
“I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American, Edward Snowden, so that in the fatherland of (Simon) Bolivar and (Hugo) Chavez, he can come and live away from the imperial North American persecution,” Maduro told a televised parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.
Saturday, July 6
23:34 GMT: Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said on Friday that he had received an asylum request from US NSA-leaker Edward Snowden and could accept the bid “if circumstances permit.”
“We are open, respectful of the right to asylum, and it is clear that if circumstances permit it, we would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum here in Nicaragua,” Ortega said at a public event.
16:27 GMT: Edward Snowden has applied to another six states for political asylum, WikiLeaks reported. In an effort to avoid US interference, the six nations were not disclosed.
15:12 GMT: UK and Sweden have vetoed the discussion of traditional spying by the US on EU members during upcoming talks in Washington. Originally the EU envisaged two working groups – reports the Guardian – one discussing NSA and PRISM, and the other more traditional methods of espionage, but the two objectors said the EU had no authority to discuss matters of national security, particularly since policies differ widely among various member states. “Intelligence matters and those of national security are not the competence of the EU,” summed up José Manuel Barroso, the European commission president.
11:57 GMT: German Blush lingerie brand has decided to take advantage of the hype surrounding Edward Snowden, issuing a series of ads in which the whistleblower is mentioned. In one of them, the company offers him asylum in Berlin, promising that a “bed and champagne” is waiting for the NSA leaker upon arrival. Another ad features the slogan “Dear Edward Snowden, there’s still a lot to uncover” next to a female model in sexy underwear.
“We highly sympathize with what Snowden did,” said Johannes Krempl, director of Glow Advertising agency. “We owe him so much, and that’s why we thought we have to do something to express our feelings towards him and thank him, and that’s why we came up with this ad for Blush in support of his deeds.”
07:48 GMT: The US government has issued an arrest warrant for Edward Snowden to the Irish government. The request has been sent as a pre-emptive strike against Snowden’s potential attempt to fly to Havana, Cuba on a commercial flight which has a stopover in Shannon, Ireland for refueling.
06:35 GMT: The proposal to give Snowden Icelandic citizenship received limited support in Parliament on Thursday, the last day before summer recess, with only six members of minority parties in favor out of parliament’s 63 members.
Friday, July 5
21:17 GMT: A short movie on NSA leaker Edward Snowden has been filmed by a group of independent filmmakers in Hong Kong. Called “Verax,” or the truth teller in Latin, the 5-minute film has already been viewed over 130,000 times on YouTube.
Creators say the $600 budget movie was made in less than a week at the time Snowden was still in Hong-Kong.
The film depicts Snowden’s time spent in a Hong Kong hotel room while hiding from the intelligence services. The film also shows the Snowden-alike protagonist solving a Rubik’s cube – an object he reportedly identifies with.
‘Verax’ was reportedly the alias Snowden used when contacting journalists via encrypted chat services.
17:09 GMT: The Icelandic Parliament reportedly has a bill that would give Snowden Icelandic citizenship.
16:06 GMT: Paris has rejected Edward Snowden’s asylum request, AFP reports quoting ministerial officials.
So far, twelve countries including France have denied the whistleblower refuge. Egiht applications are still pending.
16:01 GMT: France’s external intelligence agency spies on French citizens‘ phone calls, emails, social media activity and web use, reports Le Monde.
15:19 GMT: Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino says Rome cannot support Snowden’s request for Asylum. She stated that any request would have to be presented in person at the border or on Italian territory, which Snowden had not done.
“As a result there do not exist the legal conditions to accept such a request which in the government’s view would not be acceptable on a political level either,” she said.
Snowden has applied for asylum in 21 countries.
14:34 GMT:EU Parliament has voted to scrap two agreements granting the US access to European financial and travel data, unless Washington reveals the full extent of its spying on Europe.
Members of the EU Parliament take part in a voting session on the implications for EU citizens’ privacy of the US Prism and other internet surveillance cases, on July 4, 2013 during a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AFP Photo/Frederick Florin)
13:20 GMT: EU lawmakers on Thursday demanded ‘immediate clarification’ of US spying on EU offices and warned the scandal could damage trans-Atlantic relations. Lawmakers however rejected a call for the postponement of talks on a EU-US trade deal, which are due to start on Monday.
12:44 GMT: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has rejected an order for the extradition of former CIA employee Edward Snowden live on Venezuelan state channel Telesur.
“I reject any request for extradition, affirmed the president, speaking about Edward Snowden,” read a tweet posted on Telesur’s Twitter account.
11:53 GMT: Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has not applied for political asylum in Russia so it is not in Moscow’s power to decide his destiny, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.“As of today, Russia has not received an application from Mr. Snowden for political asylum. We believe that without his determined personal decision in one direction or another, without his exact understanding of what is better for him, what solution he considers to be the optimal one, we are unable to decide for him. That’s all that can be said currently,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told journalists.
10:05 GMT: “Snowden, will you marry me?” Russian ‘femme fatale’ Anna Chapman asks via twitter. The red-haired tabloid darling came to world prominence after the spy scandal with ten Russians sleeper agents arrested in the US in June 2010. They were expelled from American soil after being traded on July 9 for four American spies serving jail terms in Russia, in what was the biggest prisoner swap since the fall of the Iron Curtain. After returning to Russia, Chapman has been enjoying an active media life and hosting a program on “Mysteries of the World” Russian REN TV channel.
9:13 GMT: The Bolivian government has rejected the American extradition request for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as “baseless and illegal.”
“The bizarre, legally baseless and unusual request for the extradition of a person who is not on the territory of the state in question, will be returned to the United States immediately,” said a foreign ministry statement.
The Ministry stressed that Morales had at no point “met with President Morales in Russia, nor did he get on the plane, nor is he presently on Bolivian territory”
5:02 GMT: The Bolivian President’s plane has finally landed in La Paz following its detention for over 13 hours in Vienna’s airport. The presidential craft made two stops during its journey in Brazil and the Canary Islands. President Evo Morales was greeted by a throng of supporters at the airport, who brandished banners and voiced their solidarity. The Bolivian leader addressed the crowd, declaring: “they will never intimidate us! They will never scare us!”
Four hours for President Evo Morales to arrive in Bolivia and the airport is already packed with people who want to welcome him. (Photo from Instagram/@RT)
Thursday, July 4
16:15 GMT: Protesters burn a French flag outside the French embassy in La Paz. Bolivian officials accused France, Portugal, Italy and Spain of denying entry to the President’s jet late Tuesday over “unfounded rumors” Snowden was traveling on board.
People burn a French flag in front of France’s embassy in La Paz on June 03, 2013 . (AFP Photo)
15:08 GMT: Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has asked that the Unasur group of South American nations call an urgent meeting over travel restrictions placed on Bolivian President Evo Morales by France and Portugal, Unasur’s secretary general said in a statement on Wednesday.
10:47 GMT:“An act of aggression and violation of international law” is how Bolivia’s UN envoydescribed Austria’s decision to search the Bolivian presidential jet for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The envoy has pledged to make an official complaint to the UN.
Envoy Sacha Llorentty Soliz told press in New York that he had no doubt the decision to search the plane originated from the US.
10:39 GMT: France wants a temporary two week suspension of EU-US free trade talks in the light of the looming scandal over the US National Security Agency’s alleged spying on 38 embassies, including America’s NATO European allies. “It’s not a question of halting the negotiations,” French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem noted, but “On the other hand, it would seem wise to us to suspend them for a couple of weeks to avoid any controversy and have the time to obtain the information we’ve asked for,” he said.
8:51 GMT: The Austrian authorities searched Morales’ plane for Edward Snowden, but found no stowaways on board, Austria’s deputy chancellor has said.
8:42 GMT: Spain has authorized Bolivia’s presidential jet to pass through its airspace and continue its journey to Bolivia, the Austrian President has said. The plane was grounded in Austria Wednesday morning over suspicions that Edward Snowden was on board.
The Austrian President, Heinz Fischer, announced that the Bolivian presidential jet will be on its way to La Paz “shortly” following a meeting with President Evo Morales. President Morales has spent 11 hours in the airport in Vienna waiting to resume his journey.
03:00 GMT: French officials have stated that technical problems prevented one of their airports from accepting president Evo Morales’ flight from landing. The Bolivian leader was en route from Russia following his attendance at a summit of major gas-exporting nations in Moscow.
According to the Associated Press, Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca has rejected any claims that the plane carrying the Bolivian head of state was denied entry over France and Portugal for anything other than political reasons.
“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 … We don’t know who invented this lie,” said Choquehuanca.
While attending the energy conference in Russia this week, Morales told RT that he would consider granting asylum to Snowden if the request was made.
“It is possible that they want to intimidate us due to the statement made by President Morales that we would analyze an asylum request from Mr. Snowden,” said Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra.
“We have the suspicion that [France and Portugal] were used by a foreign power, in this case the United States, as a way of intimidating the Bolivian state and President Evo Morales.”
Saavedra confirmed that Italy had also denied Bolivia’s aircraft entry into its airspace. The Bolivian president meanwhile is spending the night at a hotel in Vienna.
01:08 GMT: Austrian ministry officials have confirmed that Snowden was not on Morales’ plane, AFP reported.
“President Morales will leave early Wednesday morning for La Paz,” Austrian ministry spokesman Alexander Schallenberg said. He denied any knowledge of why the plane landed there.
00:41 GMT: Imprisoned former CIA officer John Kiriakou has written a letter supporting Snowden’s decision to leak information about the massive surveillance apparatus employed by the US. Kiriakou was the first CIA officer to publicly acknowledge that torture treated as legal under former president George W. Bush. He was convicted in October 2012 of disclosing the name of an officer who worked in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program to a reporter and sentenced to thirty months behind bars earlier this year.
Imprisoned former CIA officer John Kiriakou (Photo from tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com)
Kiriakou, in his second note published by Firedog Lake, advised Snowden to “find the best national security attorneys money can buy,” while recommending the American Civil Liberties Union and Government Accountability Project as two potential leads.
“You’re going to need the support of prominent Americans and groups who can explain to the public why what you did is so important,” Kiriakou wrote, while adding that the “most important advice” he can offer is to “not, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI.”
Image from dissenter.firedoglake.com
00:07 GMT: The Bolivian Chamber of Deputies, the country’s national legislature, expressed solidarity with President Evo Morales after his plane from Moscow was diverted away from French and Portuguese airspace because of a rumor that Edward Snowden was onboard.
“This is a lie, a falsehood. It was generated by the US government,” Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra told. “It t is an outrage. It is an abuse. It is a violation of the conventions and agreements of international air transportation.”
Ecuador also suggested an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) after the incident Tuesday.
The Bolivian presidential airplane is parked at the Vienna International Airport in Schwechat July 3, 2013. (Reuters)
Wednesday, July 3
22:24 GMT: A Bolivian Minister has announced that Morales’ plane was forced to re-route on the suspicion that Snowden was on board, according to the Associated Press.
22:21 GMT: After departing from Russia the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to make an emergency landing in Austria. Bolivian authorities denied rumors that Edward Snowden was on board, though the fugitive whistleblower did send a political asylum request to Bolivia that has yet to be answered; he also petitioned Austria but was rejected.
Reports indicated the plane made previous attempts to land in France and Portugal but was denied because of the possibility that Snowden was on board.
17:53 GMT: Snowden’s father has written an open letter to him extolling him for “summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny.” Snowden’s father has expressed concern that WikiLeaks supporters who have been helping his son seek asylum may not have his best interests at heart. The father has said he’d like his son to return to the U.S. under the right circumstances.
14:43 GMT: In his asylum request to Poland, Snowden said that he risks facing the death penalty if he returns to the US.
14:10 GMT: Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, says Venezuela is ready to consider an asylum request from Snowden.
“In any case, this young man must be protected in terms of international and humanitarian law. He has a right to be protected, because he is being pursued be the US. By its president, vice president, by the secretary of State. Why is he being pursued?What kind of crime has he committed? Has he launched a missile and killed anyone? Has he planted a bomb and killed anyone? No, he hasn’t. On the contrary, he is doing everything to prevent wars, to prevent any kind of illegal action against the whole world. Venezuela hasn’t so far received an asylum request from Snowden – when we get it we are ready to consider it,” Maduro told journalists in Moscow on Tuesday.
President Nicolas Maduro seen attending the Kremlin’s joint press conference, July 2, 2013 (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)
14:07 GMT: According to Wikileaks, Snowden has received asylum rejections from Poland, Finland, India, and Brazil. Applications made to Austria, Ecuador, Norway, and Spain are only valid if made on the countries’ home soils. Venezuela says it is willing to consider an asylum request from Snowden.
Bolivia, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Nicaragua, and Switzerland have not yet responded to Snowden’s requests for asylum.
Snowden gave up on his initial request to stay in Russia, after President Putin said his asylum bid was contingent on his cessation of “anti-American activity,” according to presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
13:35 GMT: Italy’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Snowden’s asylum application was not filed correctly because Snowden would have to be on Italian soil for it to be valid. Furthermore, his application was received by fax, which is not allowed under Italian law.
12:40 GMT: Brazil has refused the asylum request from NSA leaker Edward Snowden, a spokesperson for the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said in a statement.
12:25 GMT: Poland, America’s most faithful ally in Eastern Europe, has announced it is going to demand explanations from Washington over NSA surveillance of Polish diplomats in EU facilities and the country’s embassy in the US. “We will demand an explanation for NSA (US National Security Agency) actions towards Poland and the EU,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski wrote in a Twitter post.
10:36 GMT: India has rejected Snowden’s application for political asylum, stating they have “no reason” to accede to the request.
“Indian Embassy in Moscow did receive a request for asylum in a communication dated 30 June from Mr Edward Snowden,” Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said on Twitter.
10:00 GMT: Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo knows nothing of an asylum request from Edward Snowden, but has reiterated statements made by other states that an asylum application is only valid when made on Spanish soil.
“For an asylum petition to become a petition that the government could study, in other words for it to be legally admissible, it has to be made by a person who is in Spain,” Reuters cites Garcia-Margallo as saying.
09:00 GMT: Finnish asylum cannot be requested from abroad, according to Keijo Norvanto, Head of the Unit for Communications at Finland’s Foreign Ministry.
“We can confirm that we received the request. But we cannot consider it official. To officially seek political asylum, Snowden must first come to Finland and go to the police or migration service. But in this case the request procedure was violated, so the appeal is not going to be considered,” ITAR-TASS news agency cites Norvanto as saying.
08:30 GMT: Snowden’s request for asylum was handed over to the Austrian embassy in Moscow on Monday, but it can only be submitted in Austria directly, APA news agency cites the country’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, as saying. When asked by journalists if Snowden could be extradited once in Austria, the Minister answered that no international arrest warrant had been issued for the whistleblower.
08:00 GMT: Edward Snowden gave up on his initial request to stay in Russia, after President Putin said his asylum bid was contingent on his cessation of “anti-American activity”, said presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The whistleblower continues to remain in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport and has never crossed the Russian border, Peskov continued. He reiterated that Russian intelligence had never worked with the whistleblower, nor had Snowden ever been a Russian intelligence agent. Peskov stressed Russia will never hand over anyone to a country where capital punishment is enforced.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a meeting with the Venezuelan delegation, led by President Nicolas Maduro, at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 2, 2013. (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)
00:00 GMT: In a statement released through WikiLeaks, Snowden thanked his supporters and decried the Obama administration’s method of trying to intimidate countries that would consider granting him political asylum.
“For decades the United States of America [has] been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum,” Snowden wrote. “Sadly, this right laid out and voted for by the US in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon.”
“Although I am convicted of nothing,” the statement continues, “it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me in a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me [from] exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
Tuesday, July 2
18:30 GMT: Speaking to RT Spanish, Bolivian president Evo Morales has said that Edward Snowden has not requested political asylum from his country.
“If there were a request, of course we would be willing to debate and consider the idea,” said Morales.
The president further explained that Bolivia was prepared to “assist” the whistleblower.
Bolivian president Evo Morales visiting RT Spanish TV channel (RT photo / Semyon Khorunzhy)
“Why not? Well, he’s left much to be discussed … and a debate on the international level, and of course, Bolivia is there to shield the denounced, whether it’s espionage or control, in either case, we are here to assist.”
16:00 GMT: US President Barack Obama said Washington and Moscow had held high level discussions regarding the issue of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, adding that he hoped Russia would help resolve the issue on the basis of international standards.
US President Barack Obama, July 1, 2013. (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)
Obama, noting that the US does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, said that Snowden had arrived in the country without a valid passport, and hoped Moscow would thus make a decision which was on par with the regular protocols of international travel and cooperation between law enforcement agencies.
Obama would not confirm reports that law enforcement agencies in both countries had been ordered to find a solution regarding Snowden.
15:32 GMT: Edward Snowden has not applied for asylum in Russia, according to the Russian Immigration Service.
The statement comes after a New York Times report which cited “a Russian immigration source close to the matter” as saying that Snowden has, in fact, sought asylum.
15:30 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would not hand over former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the United States, but added that if Snowden wanted to say in the country he “must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners”.
“Russia has never extradited anyone and is not going to do so. Same as no one has ever been extradited to Russia,” Putin stated.
“At best,” he noted, Russia exchanged its foreign intelligence employees detained abroad for“those who were detained, arrested and sentenced by a court in the Russian Federation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 1, 2013. (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Klementiev)
Snowden “is not a Russian agent”, the president continued, stressing that Russian intelligence services were not working with the American whistleblower.
Putin added that Snowden should choose his final destination and go there.
13:56 GMT: Presidents Putin and Obama have instructed their nations’ securities services – Russia’s FSB and American FBI respectively – to solve the situation around the Snowden case, said the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev.
12:53 GMT: France and Germany have demanded the US account for leaked reports of massive-scale US spying on the EU. French President Francois Hollande called for an end to surveillance while Germany said such “Cold War-style behavior” was “unacceptable.”
The German government summoned the US ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy, to Berlin on Monday to explain the incendiary reports. Chancellor Merkel’s spokesperson said the government wants “trust restored.”
While French President Francois Hollande said the spying should “stop immediately.”
Francois Hollande (AFP Photo / Patrick Kovarik)
09:13 GMT: Juergen Trittin, German parliamentary leader and candidate for chancellor of the Greens – the country’s third largest party – told German television that whistleblower Edward Snowden should be granted safe haven in Europe and not seek asylum in “despotic” countries.
“It’s painful for democrats that someone who has served democracy and, in our view, uncovered a massive violation of basic rights, should have to seek refuge with despots who have problems with basic rights themselves,” Trittin said.
“Someone like that should be protected,” he continued. “That counts for Mr. Snowden. He should get safe haven here in Europe because he has done us a service by revealing a massive attack on European citizens and companies. Germany, as part of Europe, could do that.”
The deputy did not specify which “despots” he had in mind.
Tritten’s comments come amidst reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) monitors half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany during an average month, far outpacing US surveillance of any other European state.
McLEAN, Va. — The father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, frustrated by his inability to reach out directly to his son, on Tuesday wrote him an open letter, extolling him for “summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny.”
The letter was written jointly by Lon Snowden and his lawyer, Bruce Fein.
After flirting with sanctuary in Russia, the leaker of secrets changes his mind, and so do several countries.
It comes a day after Edward Snowden issued a statement through WikiLeaks ripping the Obama administration for leaving him “stateless” and revoking his passport. Snowden is in Russia and has been seeking asylum in multiple countries.
Snowden’s father has expressed concern that WikiLeaks supporters who have been helping his son seek asylum may not have his best interests at heart. The father has said he’d like his son to be able to return to the U.S. under the right circumstances. Wikileaks is an anti-secrecy website that has published several documents deemed classified by governments.
In the letter, Fein and the father tell Snowden that “(w)hat you have done and are doing has awakened congressional oversight of the intelligence community from deep slumber” and “forced onto the national agenda the question of Whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause. … You are a modern day Paul Revere: summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government.”
On Friday, Lon Snowden told NBC News that his son had technically broken the law but was not a traitor and was motivated by legitimate concerns about the programs. He also expressed frustration that WikiLeaks may not be giving his son the best advice. WikiLeaks has been helping Snowden apply for asylum in a variety of countries. Snowden has applied for asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries, according to WikiLeaks,
Lon Snowden and Fein have been trying to arrange for the younger Snowden to be able return to the U.S. under circumstances that they believe would guarantee fair treatment and a fair trial, including a promise that he would not be detained prior to trial and would not be subject to a gag order. Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency systems analyst, released sensitive documents on U.S. intelligence-gathering operations.
Fein said in a phone interview Tuesday that he received a call Saturday, after Lon Snowden’s televised interview, from Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange. In it, Assange purported to deliver a message from son to father asking that elder Snowden keep quiet. Fein, meanwhile, said he is continuing to work to establish a direct link between father and son that does not require WikiLeaks as an intermediary.
The letter Tuesday was written by Fein but signed by both he and Lon Snowden. It goes on to say: “Irrespective of life’s vicissitudes, we will be Unflagging in efforts to educate the American people about the impending ruination of the Constitution and the rule of law unless they abandon their complacency or indifference. Your actions are making our challenge easier.
We encourage you to engage us in regular exchanges of ideas or thoughts about approaches to curing or mitigating the hugely suboptimal political culture of the United States. Nothing less is required to pay homage to Valley Forge, Cemetery Ridge, Omaha Beach, and other places of great sacrifice.”
Fein said he hopes the letter can help focus the public on the debate that Snowden initially hoped to foster when he leaked details about the surveillance programs. That debate over the proper role of surveillance in American society “is being obscured by the debate on where to seek asylum.”
The asylum debate, meanwhile, is one of keen interest to Assange, who has said repeatedly that he expects to face criminal charges in the U.S. and has been seeking asylum from Ecuador.
In the statement released by WikiLeaks, Snowden claimed the US president had employed the ‘old, bad tools of political aggression’. Photograph: Reuters/The Guardian
Edward Snowden has accused Barack Obama of deception for promising in public to avoid diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over his extradition, while privately pressuring countries to refuse his requests for asylum.
Snowden, the surveillance whistleblower who is thought to be trapped in the legal limbo of a transit zone at Moscow’sSheremetyevo airport, used his first public comments since fleeing Hong Kong to attack the US for revoking his passport. He also accused his country of bullying nations that might grant him asylum.
“On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic ‘wheeling and dealing’ over my case,” Snowden said in a statement released by WikiLeaks.
“Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the president ordered his vice-president to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions. This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression.”
Snowden’s increasingly desperate predicament became further apparent on Monday night with the leak of a letter he had written to Ecuador praising its “bravery” and expressing “deep respect and sincere thanks” for considering his request for political asylum.
But the change in mood in Quito, already apparent at the end of last week, was underlined by an interview Rafael Correa, the president, gave to the Guardian on Monday in which he insisted Ecuador will not now help Snowden leave Moscow and never intended to facilitate his attempted flight to South America.
Correa blamed earlier signs of encouragement on a misunderstanding by its London embassy.
“That we are responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical. The country that has to give him a safe conduct document is Russia,” Correa said at the presidential palace in Quito. Correa said his government did not intentionally help Snowden travel from Hong Kong to Moscow with a temporary travel pass. “It was a mistake on our part.”
In his statement through WikiLeaks, which has been assisting him since he left Hong Kong on 10 June, Snowden contrasted the current US approach to his extradition with its previous support of political dissidents in other countries.
“For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum,” he said. “Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the US in article 14 of the universal declaration of human rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country.”
Snowden also accused the Obama administration of “using citizenship as a weapon”, which has apparently left him unable to leave the airport in Moscow.
“Although I am convicted of nothing, [the US] has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person,” he said. “Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
Moscow confirmed earlier on Monday that Snowden had applied for political asylum in Russia. The LA Times said Snowden had made similar applications to a total of 15 countries.
The former NSA contractor struck a defiant tone on Monday night. “In the end, the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake,” he said. “We are stateless, imprisoned or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you.
“It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised – and it should be. I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.”
His statement also came shortly after one of Obama’s top intelligence officials, US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was forced to apologise to Congress</a> for “erroneous” claims that the US did not collect data on its own citizens.
Snowden paid tribute to those who had helped him force such disclosures.
“One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth,” he said.
“My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.”