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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...

 

 
Why Might Ecuador Grant Snowden Political Asylum? Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 10:33

Various U.S. media outlets suggest ulterior motives for why Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa may want to consider granting political asylum to whistle-blower Edward Snowden. The Christian Science Monitor, for example, writes “In championing Snowden, President Correa is further cementing his image as a successor to Chávez who can take on the US." The Washington Post projected a similar theme with an article headlined, “Through Snowden, Ecuador seeks fight with U.S.” Public Radio International’s The World likewise headlined a piece with “Ecuador Leader Thumbs Nose at US, Trying to Help Snowden with Asylum.”

Writing in CNN online, however, Latin America scholar Steve Striffler advances an entirely different and apparently (to the media) incomprehensible notion: that Ecuador’s decision might be based on principles. Striffler writes that “The prevailing explanation among U.S. pundits … [that] Correa's stance … is all about scoring political points …is too simplistic an explanation and relies on a misunderstanding of Correa and the leftward shift that has swept Latin America during the past 25 years.”

He goes on to write:

…when Correa offered Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange asylum in 2012, he had relatively little to gain politically beyond raising his international profile. At the time, he was expected to easily win re-election (which he did), in large part because under his administration unemployment levels had reached record lows, public spending on education had more than doubled and medical care was more accessible than ever. This was despite the fact that Ecuador had been hit harder than almost any country in the region by the financial crisis of 2008.

Correa pumped money into the economy, reformed the financial system, took control of the central bank and otherwise worked, however imperfectly, to build a government and economy that serves the interests of the people.

Simply put, Correa's popularity insured that there was relatively little to be gained by taking on Assange in 2012. Quite the opposite, Correa's embrace of Assange produced an intense backlash by the media in Ecuador, which then amped up opposition during the election.

Read more...

 

 
Twenty-one U.S. Senators Ask Kerry to Conduct “Thorough Review” of Security Assistance to Honduras Print
Written by Alexander Main   
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 17:58

On Tuesday, June 18th, Secretary of State John Kerry received a letter from 21 U.S. Senate Democrats expressing “concern regarding the grave human rights situation and deterioration of the rule of law in Honduras” and questioning the State Department’s assessment that the Honduran government is taking measures to protect basic human rights and address abuses committed by security forces.  The letter, which was initiated by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), also notes “recent reports of death squads working with the police” and “a pattern of violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, members of the clergy, union leaders, opposition figures, students, small farmers and LGBT activists.”  It calls for a “thorough review” of U.S. security assistance to Honduras “to ensure that no U.S. assistance is provided to police or military personnel or units credibly implicated in human rights violations.”  Finally, it asks Kerry to “make every reasonable effort to help ensure that Honduras’ upcoming November 2013 elections are free, fair and peaceful.”

It is rare for so many Democratic senators – approximately 40% of the entire Senate Democratic caucus – to take a position on Latin America policy, particularly one that appears to run counter to administration policy.  The committee positions held by the letter signers add even more weight to the message that’s being delivered to Kerry.  Here’s a quick breakdown of the signers’ committee assignments:

  • Seven out of ten of the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee are signers, including Barbara Boxer (D-CA, second-ranking) and Ben Cardin (third-ranking). 

  • Seven of the letter signers are on the Appropriations Committee – which controls the federal government’s purse strings – including Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the full committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Appropriations (which has direct control over the funding of foreign assistance) and Dick Durbin who chairs the Subcommittee on Armed Services Appropriations. 

  • Several of the signers belong to the Armed Services Committee (also of direct relevance given the ongoing military assistance to Honduras), including Jack Reed (D-RI), second-ranking Democrat on the committee.

  • Finally, given recent controversial DEA activities in Honduras – such as the May 2012 interdiction operation during which four Miskitu villagers were killed – it’s worth noting that several Judiciary Committee members are also letter signers, including the chairman of the committee, Patrick Leahy. 
Read more...

 

 
A Timeline of Venezuelan Opposition Reactions to the Recent Elections Print
Written by Stephan Lefebvre and Dan Beeton   
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 13:54

 

October 5, 2012 Henrique Capriles’ campaign coordinator Leopoldo López is quoted in the press saying, "We have been and will continue to be respectful of the established processes," ahead of the October 7 presidential elections.
October 7, 2012 Capriles assures voters that their vote is secret.  His election campaign tweets, “Remember that the vote is secret, only you and God will know who you voted for! Vote without fear” and similar messages during election day.
  Ignacio Avalos, director of the independent Venezuelan Election Observatory is quoted in the press saying "The government and the opposition both agree that the electoral system is good in general," and, "Opposition experts concluded that you cannot cheat the system."
  When going to vote, Capriles tells reporters “if I had any doubt whatsoever of the transparency of this process I wouldn’t be here.”
  Following the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) announcement that President Hugo Chávez has won re-election, Capriles promptly concedes defeat, accepting the electoral results even though other members of the opposition reject the results, citing alleged fraud and “irregularities.”
March 5, 2013 President Chávez dies.
March 8, 2013 The MUD boycotts the swearing-in ceremony of Vice President Nicolás Maduro as interim president, and most of the opposition does not attend.
March 9, 2013 The CNE announces that elections for a new president will take place April 14.
March 25, 2013 Opposition legislators Ricardo Sánchez, Carlos Vargas, and Andrés Avelino announce they are breaking with Capriles’ campaign, warning of a MUD plan to reject the election results, and saying the Capriles campaign was “encouraging a climate of instability and violence, where the terrible and painful consequence ...intensifies the perverse division between Venezuelans.” They also referred to some opposition members’ acceptance of illegal campaign funds.
Read more...

 

 
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