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“They are going to do everything they can to get Snowden. But I think they will lose.” – Mark Weisbrot Interview in Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia Print
Written by CEPR Staff   
Monday, 08 July 2013 14:42

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot did an interview via email with one of Greece’s leading daily newspapers, Eleftherotypia last week. The interview, which occurred prior to the news that Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia had offered political asylum to Edward Snowden, appears in Eleftherotypia today. Mark’s original responses, in English, appear below:

 

Eleftherotypia: Why do you think Snowden did it?  He has destroyed his life now. Does he have a very high sense of justice or is there something else behind it?

Mark Weisbrot: I think he explained his reasons very eloquently in his first public interview, with Glenn Greenwald, and especially this:

I’m no different from anybody else. I don’t have special skills. I’m just another guy who sits there, day to day, in the office, watches what happening­, and goes, "This is something that’s not our place to decide. The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong."

I think he strongly believes this.  He is against the idea of government deciding major issues of public policy in secret.

 

What will happen to him? How do you see the asylum requests developing?

He has at least three countries -- Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela -- that are almost guaranteed to give him asylum.  There are numerous others that would give him asylum or refugee status if he showed up in their territories, which includes their embassies.  So the main problem right now is transportation.  But I think that will be resolved, sooner or later.

 

Will the U.S. use the carrot-and-stick policy in order to make sure no country offers him asylum so they can get him back to face justice?

They are trying very, very hard to do that. But they are losing -- contrary to what you might read or hear in the international media.  First, as I mentioned, there are several countries willing to give him asylum or refuge. This includes Russia, which he rejected because of their conditions. Second, they cannot push everyone around indefinitely. France in particular was embarrassed by this latest episode where they blocked Evo Morales' plane from passing through their air space, on the false rumor that Snowden may have been aboard. Spain, which considers its relations with Latin America to be important especially because of its large investments and commerce there, also paid a price for being Washington's thug in this case. So there are costs to their strategy.

Read more...

 

 
Reviewing Rory Carroll's Reporting on Ecuador and Snowden Print
Written by Stephan Lefebvre   
Friday, 05 July 2013 09:44

Rory Carroll has been reporting on Ecuador and the Snowden case for the Guardian, but not without serious criticism.  Most outrageous was the headline on his most recent article, which may have not been the reporter’s doing: Rafael Correa not considering Snowden asylum: helping him was a 'mistake.'

This is of course very misleading; Correa made it clear in his interview that providing travel documents was a “mistake,” since this is not Ecuador’s responsibility; and that he would consider asylum for Snowden if Snowden was in Ecuadorean territory. The headline tells the reader that Correa has abandoned Snowden, but anyone who reads it can see that if Snowden arrived at an Ecuadorean embassy, his application for asylum would be seriously considered, and very likely granted.

The Guardian has since corrected the headline.

Correa himself criticized Carroll’s reporting on the interview, saying:

Translation: “My statements for The Guardian totally decontextualized. Fortunately we have it taped. [We are] to not fall into the same trap of the very same as always!"

Read more...

 

 
UNASUR Statement on Interference with Bolivian Presidential Plane Over Snowden Print
Written by Stephan Lefebvre   
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 12:38

UNASUR released a statement today in response to the incident where Evo Morales' plane was forced to land in Austria after threats to search the plane for Snowden.  EU officials are scrambling to explain why Bolivian government officials are claiming that the president's plane was blocked from flying over several countries.  These events seem to parallel the incident where U.K. government officials threatened to invade the Ecuadorian Embassy in order to capture wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Here is our translation of the UNASUR statement:

Statement from the Union of South American Nations

The Union of South American Nations – UNASUR – has taken note, with the greatest concern, of the Statement-Denunciation issued by the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, by which the government states its claim before the international community due to the surprising withdrawal of permissions over airspace and landing for the presidential airplane that carried President Evo Morales Ayma and his party, in return flight, after his participation in the Second Summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, held in the Russian Federation.

The Union of South American Countries – UNASUR – makes public its strong solidarity with the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and in particular with its President Mr. Evo Morales Ayma.  Additionally, it expresses its indignation and profound rejection of these acts which constitute unfriendly and unjustifiable acts that have also put in serious risk the security of the Bolivian head of state and his party.

UNASUR demands a clarification of these acts and an explanation as it were to arise.

This is the original, posted on the website for Peru's foreign ministry.

Read more...

 

 
The Edward Snowden Case Monitor Print
Written by CEPR Staff   
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 14:49
Amnesty International Condemns Violations of Snowden's Human Rights By U.S. Government

 7/2/2013

 

In an important development today, Amnesty International stated that “The US authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is deplorable and amounts to a gross violation of his human rights.”

This is significant because the international press coverage of the Snowden drama has almost completely ignored the question of whether Snowden’s rights are being violated by U.S. efforts to prevent him from seeking asylum under international law. 

It will be interesting to see if any of the major media outlets covering these events will report on this important and apparently well-grounded legal argument, given that they have reported on the Obama administration’s arguments that countries are legally obligated to hand Snowden over to the United States.  Also, Amnesty International is one of the most important human rights organizations in the world, and its statement should be relevant to news reporting on the Snowden case.

Read the full Amnesty International statement here.

 

Snowden’s Revelations Go from Being a “Serious Breach” to Not “Significant” as Obama Administration Shifts Message

 7/2/2013

As we have previously noted, the Obama administration has reversed course, seeking to lower the profile of the Snowden case after its threats against Russia, Ecuador, and Hong Kong backfired and after apparently realizing that public support for Snowden remains high despite a U.S. government-led effort to demonize him in the media. This has resulted in a litany of mixed messages from senior administration officials.

Is the Obama administration simply disorganized, or has the strategy changed over time as information about the Snowden case and government surveillance reaches wider and wider audiences? Also, what is the overall strategy of the government as an international effort develops to protect the right to privacy and the right to asylum?  We try to answer some of these questions here.

 

Gentlemen Don't Read Each Other's Mail

 7/1/2013

A reporter went after State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell at the State Department's Daily Press Briefing today about European anger in response to Snowden's revelations of U.S. surveillance of European officials and citizens. Here we will quote at length because the exchange was amusing and revealing:

QUESTION: When discussing this issue, the – with the Europeans or others who might be upset or are saying that they’re upset, the U.S. position is that all countries engage in intelligence gathering and this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to get into the content of that diplomatic exchange, other than to say that we’re going to have it very directly and privately with the countries concerned.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: Change topic?

QUESTION: Hold on, I’m just – but you’re not admitting any wrongdoing, though?

MR. VENTRELL: I didn’t say that. I said we’ll have our --

QUESTION: I know. I want to make sure that I understand, when these conversations happen, you’re not saying, “Oh, sorry.”

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m just not going to characterize --

QUESTION: You’re not – you’re explaining what you do, and you’re saying, “This isn’t unusual and you probably do it as well.”

MR. VENTRELL: To take the lens back a little bit, I think a number of these countries are countries we have a very strong relationship with on a number of fronts --

QUESTION: Or you did, at least, have a very strong relationship with.

Read more...

 

 
Amnesty International Condemns Violations of Snowden's Human Rights By U.S. Government Print
Written by Mark Weisbrot   
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 12:29

In an important development today, Amnesty International stated that “The US authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is deplorable and amounts to a gross violation of his human rights.”

This is significant because the international press coverage of the Snowden drama has almost completely ignored the question of whether Snowden’s rights are being violated by U.S. efforts to prevent him from seeking asylum under international law. 

It will be interesting to see if any of the major media outlets covering these events will report on this important and apparently well-grounded legal argument, given that they have reported on the Obama administration’s arguments that countries are legally obligated to hand Snowden over to the United States.  Also, Amnesty International is one of the most important human rights organizations in the world, and its statement should be relevant to news reporting on the Snowden case.

The full statement is reproduced below:

2 July 2013

USA must not persecute whistleblower Edward Snowden

The US authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is deplorable and amounts to a gross violation of his human rights Amnesty International said today.

“The US attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are deplorable,” said Michael Bochenek, Director of Law and Policy at Amnesty International. “It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.”

The organization also believes that the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the USA.

“No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment,” said Bochenek.

“We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.”

Senior US officials have already condemned Snowden without a trial, labelling him both guilty and a traitor, raising serious questions as to whether he’d receive a fair trial. Likewise the US authorities move to charge Snowden under the Espionage Act could leave him with no provision to launch a public interest whistle-blowing defence under US law.

"It appears he is being charged by the US government primarily for revealing its - and other governments’ - unlawful actions that violate human rights,” said Bochenek.

“No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations. Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression.”

Besides filing charges against Snowden, the US authorities have revoked his passport – which interferes with his rights to freedom of movement and to seek asylum elsewhere.

“Snowden is a whistleblower. He has disclosed issues of enormous public interest in the US and around the world. And yet instead of addressing or even owning up to these actions, the US government is more intent on going after Edward Snowden.”

“Any forced transfer to the USA would put him at risk of human rights violations and must be challenged,” said Michael Bochenek.

In an important development today, Amnesty International published a release stating that  “The US authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is deplorable and amounts to a gross violation of his human rights.”

This is significant because the international press coverage of the Snowden drama has almost completely ignored the question of whether Snowden’s rights are being violated by U.S. efforts to prevent him from seeking asylum under international law. 

“It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded,” said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International Director of Law and Policy.

It will be interesting to see if any of the major media outlets covering these events will report on this important and apparently well-grounded legal argument, given that they have reported on the Obama administration’s arguments that countries are legally obligated to hand Snowden over to the United States.

 
Snowden’s Revelations Go from Being a “Serious Breach” to Not “Significant” as Obama Administration Shifts Message Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 09:02

As we have previously noted, the Obama administration has reversed course, seeking to lower the profile of the Snowden case after its threats against Russia, Ecuador, and Hong Kong backfired and after apparently realizing that public support for Snowden remains high despite a U.S. government-led effort to demonize him in the media. This has resulted in a litany of mixed messages from senior administration officials.

The Guardian and AP reported on Saturday that when asked about Snowden, Ambassador Susan Rice, who yesterday began her new position as National Security Adviser, had responded that “I don't think the diplomatic consequences, at least as they are foreseeable now, are that significant.” But, the AP reported, “U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have called Snowden's leaks a serious breach that damaged national security. Hagel said Thursday an assessment of the damage is being done now.”

AP also noted that Rice attempted to do damage control, responding to “commentators who say Snowden's disclosures have made Obama a lame duck, damaged his political base, and hurt U.S. foreign policy.”

Rice’s statements on Snowden – which were made before revelations in Der Spiegel regarding U.S. spying on the E.U. – also contrast with rhetoric from top legislators, both Democrats and Republicans. Senator Dianne Feinstein has accused Snowden of “treason,” and House Speaker John Boehner called him a “traitor.”

The change in the White House’s tone came last week as Obama told reporters during his visit to Senegal, “I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” and “I get you that it’s a fascinating story for the press,” …but “in terms of U.S. interests, the damage was done with respect to the initial leaks.”

Read more...

 

 
Hollywood Celebrities, Prominent Whistleblowers, Latin America Experts and Others Urge Correa to Grant Snowden Asylum Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 16:12

Dozens of actors, directors, authors, former whistle-blowers, musicians, journalists, and activists have signed onto a letter addressed to President Correa urging him to grant political asylum to Edward Snowden. As Popwrapped! has noted, the many famous signatories to the letter are not the only celebrities to have openly shown their support for Snowden; others who have done so over Twitter include Tom Morello, Mark Ruffalo and Yoko Ono.

The letter is signed by Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Tom Hayden, Daniel Ellsberg, Danny Glover, John Cusack, Amber Heard, Shia LaBeouf, Roseanne Barr, Naomi Klein, Boots Riley, Juan Cole, Cenk Uygur, Jacob Appelbaum (developer of The Tor Project), Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans (Cofounders of CODEPINK), Ann Wright (retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat), Ray McGovern (Former U.S. Army officer and longtime senior CIA analyst (ret.)), Walter Riley (attorney; Civil Rights activist and Chair of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund and the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute), Bill Fletcher, Jr. (writer and activist), Kevin Gosztola (journalist with Firedoglake.com), John Pilger (filmmaker and journalist), Ignacio Ramonet (journalist and author), Kent Spriggs (Guantanamo habeas counsel), Kevin Martin (Executive Director of Peace Action), Kathy Kelly (Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence), Mark C. Johnson (Executive Director of Fellowship of Reconciliation), Rabbi Michael Lerner (editor, Tikkun and Chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressives), Norman Solomon (Cofounder of RootsAction.org) and over 10,000 others.

The letter was circulated by Just Foreign Policy and is posted on their website.

In addition to “Pentagon papers” whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and Iraq war whistle-blower Joe Wilson, the letter is signed by Thomas Drake (the former NSA Senior Executive and whistleblower) and Coleen Rowley (retired FBI agent & former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel, and one of three “whistleblowers” named Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002).

Read more...

 

 
Ecuador Ruins U.S. Policymakers Fun Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:02

As we noted yesterday, there has been a chorus from policymakers, media outlets, and others urging a cutting of U.S. trade preferences for Ecuador if the Ecuadorean government grants Edward Snowden political asylum – despite that one of the main goals of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) is to reduce coca cultivation. As the Wall Street Journal reported today, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez issued a stern and patronizing warning to Ecuador:

"Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior," said Mr. Menendez in a news release. If Ecuador grants Mr. Snowden asylum, Mr. Menendez said he would lead the effort to cut Ecuador's duty-free access to the U.S. market. "I urge President [Rafael] Correa to do the right thing by the United States and Ecuador, and deny Snowden's request for asylum."

But now the Ecuadorean government has ruined Congress’ fun by giving up the ATPDEA benefits before Senator Menendez et al had a chance to take them away. The move is not merely symbolic. Before the whole Snowden issue came up the government of Ecuador and its embassy in the U.S. launched a large campaign to emphasize the importance of the ATPDEA, with events around Washington and ads like this one in the D.C. Metro:

 

Read more...

 

 
Obama Team Doing Better With Media than Diplomacy in Snowden Battle Print
Written by Mark Weisbrot   
Thursday, 27 June 2013 08:36

In my last post I wrote about how dumb it was for our Secretary of State to try and threaten other countries, especially those as big and independent as Russia and China, into rendering Edward Snowden. Apparently some of the geniuses in the White House and State Department have figured this out after the last couple of days of embarrassing failures.   From the New York Times:

Discussions between American and Russian officials continued on Wednesday, and the White House further softened its language in the hope of an outcome that does not further damage ties between the two countries.

“We agree with President Putin that we don’t want the situation to harm our relations,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, referring to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Obama team has been doing better in the more important media efforts than they have in diplomacy, mainly because they have reliable allies in the media with a lot of power to manipulate public opinion.

Read more...

 

 
U.S. Threats to Other Countries on Snowden Not Working Very Well Print
Written by Mark Weisbrot   
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 14:34

What’s up with John Kerry, or whoever is writing his talking points?  Did he really think he was going to publicly threaten Russia and bully its government into capturing Snowden and rendering him to the U.S.?  (Wikileaks has correctly noted that such a capture and hand-over would be a “rendition,” analogous to the people the U.S. and allied governmental agencies have captured and turned over to countries like Egypt and Syria to be tortured).

There would be “consequences,” warned Kerry, if the Russians didn’t do what he wanted – and for China and Hong Kong, too.  Russia doesn’t even have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and even if it did, it would be Kerry’s threats to interfere with the laws of asylum and refugees that were the real violation of international law here, not Russia’s allowing him to remain in Russia, or pass through its airport.

An amateur could have told Kerry that if he really wanted to threaten Russia, he should have at least had the sense to do it in private.  A public threat just makes it even less likely that any leader would embarrass himself by following U.S. orders.  Not that Putin was likely to do that anyway.

Putin poked fun at these threats yesterday when he declared that Snowden is a “free man,” and brushed aside the whole affair as like “shearing a piglet – a lot of squealing but not much wool.”

Read more...

 

 
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