Yesterday, the judge in Bradley Manning’s show trial found Manning guilty on nearly every charge but the most draconian of “aiding the enemy,” which could have brought the death penalty. If such a trial were going on in Russia today, what angle do you suppose we would hear from the U.S.’s major news outlets and from our highest public officials? That the Russian government was making sure to protect the welfare of the Russian people by going after spies out to harm the Russian people? Hardly. We’d be regaled with talk of how repressive and hypocritical Russia’s leaders and system are.
Our leaders would be patting themselves on the back about how unrepressive and unauthoritarian America is by comparison. Lucky you live America, my friend! You could instead be someplace where the government spies on everyone, turns everyone into an informer, the people live in fear of their government, the media are mouthpieces of the government and tell people colossal lies daily, and where dissidents are tortured and killed through judicial and extra-judicial action. Oh wait…!
In today’s Guardian, Glenn Greenwald reveals more information to the “enemy” (aka the American public and the world) due to Edward Snowden’s revelations. In so doing, Snowden shows once again what liars the NSA and Barack Obama and nearly the entirety of Congress are. It is exactly this kind of activity that the U.S. government is so deathly afraid of and why they are out for blood against people like Manning and Snowden.
XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’
- XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data
- NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches
- Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history
- NSA’s XKeyscore program – read one of the presentations
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.
The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.
“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
Let’s turn now to what President Obama said about this when the NSA scandal broke and Obama had to try to quell the level of discontent. He appeared on the Charlie Rose Show and specifically claimed that the NSA has to get a warrant to listen in on any Americans’ electronic communications and that they have not been doing so without a warrant.
From my June 18, 2013 article “Stop the US Government’s Attempt to Criminalize Dissent!”:
Here is a pertinent portion from the Charlie Rose interview of Obama on June 17, 2013:
Obama: … Now, with respect to the NSA, a government agency that has been in the intelligence-gathering business for a very long time —
CHARLIE ROSE: Bigger and better than everybody else.
BARACK OBAMA: — bigger and better than everybody else and we should take pride in that because they’re extraordinary professionals. They’re dedicated to keeping the American people safe. What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls and the NSA cannot target your e-mails.
CHARLIE ROSE: And have not?
BARACK OBAMA: And have not. They cannot and have not — by law and by rule. And unless they — and usually it wouldn’t be they, it would be the FBI — go to a court and obtain a warrant and seek probable cause. The same way it’s always been…
So Obama is lying about what FISA says, which Sen. [Ron] Wyden makes clear [“Under the FISA Amendments Act the government does not have to get the permission of the FISA Court to read particular emails or listen to particular phone calls”][i] , and he is also lying about the fact that the NSA is not and has not listened into the content of Americans’ conversations. See this story from ABC as an example of how the NSA is in fact listening in on content, discussed here. What Obama does not say and won’t reveal is that the NSA is recording and storing everything, available to be listened to at any time they please.
Here is an example of why whistleblowers are so valuable to societies: without them authorities could cover up what they’re actually doing and bulldoze any resistance to their activities merely by the power that being in authority provides. The mainstream of any society will go along with authorities simply because they are the authorities. This is true in “democratic” societies, in fascist societies, in religious authoritarian societies, in slave societies, and in genuinely or pseudo-socialist societies. Departing from the mainstream and striking out in a radically different direction is not something that the majority in any society are willing or able to do absent a competing moral and political authority being present and having enough support among those in the mainstream. The Obama Administration has made a fetish of how “transparent” it is but in reality it has hounded whistleblowers, journalists, and dissenters more aggressively than Bush and Cheney did.
Rather than hailing Manning and Snowden as brave truth-tellers and pursuing charges against the crimes that Manning, Snowden, and other lesser known whistleblowers have revealed, Obama et al have pilloried these courageous individuals, maligned their motives and characters, and battened down the hatches of their damaged ships of state. No one has been penalized, including those who have tortured innocent people to death and killed children, other than the messengers here. All of the criminals that have been uncovered have been left to continue their crimes and continue to be honored as society’s leaders and patriots. Needless to say, of course, actually pursuing criminal charges against those responsible for war crimes, corruption, lying, wanton murder and torture, and crimes against humanity would mean that the very highest levels of the government and members of both the Republican and Democratic Parties would be indicted.
There is honor among thieves, as the saying goes, and these thieves will not prosecute each other because it means that they themselves will find themselves in the dock. So what you have instead is a tragi-comedy or perhaps a farce in which the grandest criminals stand like Inquisitors over those who have honor and who pursue justice, trying to annihilate them and in so doing, to extinguish facts, reason, and truth.
Whose verdict will prevail? The verdict that truth-tellers are society’s greatest enemies or the verdict that those in authority responsible for grave crimes are society’s greatest threats?
That verdict is up to the people. The consequences are something that all of us and all of those who come in our footsteps will feel in our bodies and in our souls.
Dennis Loo is a member of the Steering Committee of World Can’t Wait. His website is dennisloo.com.