Solomon: Historic challenge to support the moral actions of Edward Snowden

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Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

In Washington, where the state of war and the surveillance state are one and the same, top officials have begun to call for Edward Snowden’s head. His moral action of whistleblowing -- a clarion call for democracy -- now awaits our responses.

After nearly 12 years of the “war on terror,” the revelations of recent days are a tremendous challenge to the established order: nonstop warfare, intensifying secrecy and dominant power that equate safe governance with Orwellian surveillance.

In the highest places, there is more than a wisp of panic in rarefied air. It’s not just the National Security Agency that stands exposed; it’s the repressive arrogance perched on the pyramid of power.

Back here on the ground, so many people -- appalled by Uncle Sam’s continual morph into Big Brother -- have been pushing against the walls of anti-democratic secrecy. Those walls rarely budge, and at times they seem to be closing in, even literally for some (as in the case of heroic whistleblower Bradley Manning). But all the collective pushing has cumulative effects.

In recent days, as news exploded about NSA surveillance, a breakthrough came into sight. Current history may not be an immovable wall; it may be on a hinge. And if we push hard enough, together, there’s no telling what might be possible or achieved.

The gratitude that so many of us now feel toward Edward Snowden raises the question: How can we truly express our appreciation?

A first step is to thank him -- publicly and emphatically. You can do that by clicking here to sign the “Thank NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden” petition, which my colleagues at RootsAction.org will send directly to him, including the individual comments.

But of course saying thank-you is just one small step onto a crucial path. As Snowden faces extradition and vengeful prosecution from the U.S. government, active support will be vital -- in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Signing the thank-you petition, I ventured some optimism: “What you've done will inspire kindred spirits around the world to take moral action despite the risks.” Bravery for principle can be very contagious.

Edward Snowden has taken nonviolent action to help counter the U.S. government’s one-two punch of extreme secrecy and massive violence. The process has summoned the kind of doublespeak that usually accompanies what cannot stand the light of day.

So, when Snowden’s employer Booz Allen put out a statement Sunday night, it was riddled with official indignation, declaring: “News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm.”

What are the “code of conduct” and “core values” of this huge NSA contractor? The conduct of stealthy assistance to the U.S. national security state as it methodically violates civil liberties, and the values of doing just about anything to amass vast corporate profits.

The corporate-government warfare state is enraged that Edward Snowden has broken through with conduct and values that are 180 degrees in a different direction. “I’m not going to hide,” he told the Washington Post on Sunday. “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.”

When a Post reporter asked whether his revelations would change anything, Snowden replied: “I think they already have. Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten -- and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.”

And, when the Post asked about threats to “national security,” Snowden offered an assessment light-years ahead of mainline media’s conventional wisdom: “We managed to survive greater threats in our history . . . than a few disorganized terrorist groups and rogue states without resorting to these sorts of programs. It is not that I do not value intelligence, but that I oppose . . . omniscient, automatic, mass surveillance. . . .  That seems to me a greater threat to the institutions of free society than missed intelligence reports, and unworthy of the costs.”

Profoundly, in the early summer of 2013, with his actions and words, Edward Snowden has given aid and comfort to grassroots efforts for democracy. What we do with his brave gift will be our choice.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

 (Bruce B. Brugmann,  or b3 as he signs his blogs and emails, writes and edits the Bruce blog on the San Francisco Bay Guardian website at sfbg.com. He is the editor at large of the Bay Guardian and editor and co-founder and co-publisher of the Bay Guardian  with his wife Jean Dibble, 1966-2012. He can be reached at bruce@sfbg.com.)

Comments

"if you have nothing to hide" ... imagine a seesaw ... what you have to hide on one seat and on the other what the military industrial complex/congress (MIC/C) AND the terrorist have to hide on the other; now decide which is more dangerous to the USA. You are not that important - unless you are a criminal. BUT - those making m$$$y from the MIC/C likely do. Maybe that explains why the public is being so stirred up? Fear mongering has worked in the past. However, I agree that what is being done to ensure that your personal private business is protected from exposure COULD become public IF the MIC/C are allowed to undo the laws and the collection of the info.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 8:07 am

I just re-posted Bill Moyer's interview with Tim DeChristopher with a comment related to Edward Snowden's action. I thought the comment might be relevant here at this time. // ... imho ... Those who give up freedom to achieve security ... often lose both. ... Tim DeChristopher-Bidder 70, articulates the salient role that civil disobedience fulfills in shaping ethically based, moral normative justice. ... Bradly Manning's defense cannot disclose the 'content' of the leaked documents which would substantiate his obligation to protect the normative values inherent within his understanding of the U.S. constitution. ... Edward Snowden's actions are likely to be also redacted and officially judged on similarly narrow terms; actions judged without considerng the motivations or intent allowed, ... words without meaning ... Big Data, dataveillance and the 'Eye of Power'... the conditioning of self-imposed constraints inherent within a surveillance culture fo fear... panopticism ... the waters in which we swim are toxic ... who controls the breadth of our social narrative ... Tim DeChristopher mentions 'Climate Justice', as a movement concerned with connecting the 'dots' to realize the scope of the beast which lurks hidden. ... legitimacy lost ... dangerous times indeed ... phrase

Posted by Phrase on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 10:11 am

I felt my comment to an interview of Tim DeChristopher by Bill Moyers may find some relevance here at this time. // ... imho... Those who give up freedom to achieve security ... often lose both. ... Tim DeChristopher-Bidder 70, articulates the salient role that civil disobedience fulfills in shaping ethically based, moral normative justice. ... Bradly Manning's defense cannot disclose the 'content' of the leaked documents which would substantiate his obligation to protect the normative values inherent within his understanding of the U.S. constitution. ... Edward Snowden's actions are likely to be also redacted and officially judged on similarly narrow terms; actions judged without considerng the motivations or intent allowed, ... words without meaning ... Big Data and the 'Eye of Power'... the conditioning of self-imposed constraints inherent within a surveillance culture fo fear... panopticism ... the waters in which we swim are toxic ... who controls the breadth of our social narrative ... Tim DeChristopher mentions 'Climate Justice', as a movement concerned with connecting the 'dots' to realize the scope of the beast which lurks hidden. ... legitimacy lost ... dangerous times indeed ... phrase

Posted by Phrase on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 10:17 am

I have a personal story about Booz Allen that illustrates why this total digital surveillance is so corrosive.

I looked up on the internet my old best friend from jr. High school. I knew he had moved to DC and worked for the federal government, then I looked up his linkedin and saw that he left the government and now worked for Booz Allen.

He had a new facebook page just up, so I messaged him a long message welcoming him to this amazing new technology that allowed people to connect again with just a few mouse clicks, and to tell him about an old friend of ours who had recently died, and I typed a long message about how my life had progressed

His response was terse, "Wow thats a lot of information. Thanks."

I replied that I understood that he had some kind of computer government job and probably could not talk too much online. He replied in a way that was almost an interrogation, "you seem to know quite a bit about me. How did you find this out?"

I replied that I had looked it up on his LinkedIn, how did he think I found it out?

I said I was sorry and would not contact him again, and I have tried to forget I ever knew him.

And that was that.

I still feel guilty, kind of creeped out, as though he didn't want any contact with me ever again whatsoever, because I had done something horrible years and years ago. I have felt badly ever since.

And that is the problem for me, that I can't look up old friends and say hi without their heads exploding, and without me left feeling badly about myself that I had done something horrible.

I post this here now with the serious expectation that he can monitor it and will again accept both my apology and my sense of righteous indignation.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

Oh and yesterday I broke my promise not to contact him again and sent him a link to the Booz Allen leaker's video.

Just to make his head explode again.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

McLean, Va. A nest of them.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

in (what he thinks) is one the few global cities where he cannot be readily deported.

That doesn't sound to me like a guy who is willing to own his actions.

I suspect the CIA will get him out of there and back here where he can really not "hide". Unlike Assange, Snowdon is a US citizen and another nation would have to give him citizenship for him to have any kind of immunity from deportation.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

Our founding fathers all engaged in acts of treason when they signed the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock signed his name very largely so that England would know that it was he. I listened and watched Mr. Snowden's interview and couldn't help but feel that he was a patriot of the highest order. It's funny that his character and intellect is already under attack in the intelligence community, where there are questions about his level of education. All you need to do is watch the interview in Hong Kong and make your own determination if he is an educated person. His quotes in this news commentary are also indicative of a high level of intellect. I wish I could say that I possessed Mr. Snowden's courage. I commend you Sir.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 3:47 am

I read the link. Basically, the Telegraph is making a couple of (unsubstantiated) allegations, originating from the government and from Booz Allen, in order to try to discredit him. Gee? Ya think? Now why would they try to do that?

So these allegations consist of 3 main points:
1. Snowden's salary from Booz Allen was actually "about 40% less" than he claimed. Well, first of all... so what if he made only 120K instead of 200K? This proves exactly what? And note the weasel words... "from Booz Allen" - was there some supplemental income from the NSA maybe? And "about 40% less" means exactly how much? They don't really say. Perhaps the 200K figure included benefits and allowances, like certain trolls are wont to do when they talk about government salaries and want to inflate figures. Who knows. And really... who cares?
2. The house has been empty for a couple weeks. O-K. And this proves... what exactly?
3. The government says that PRISM isn't so bad. This is really my favorite. They say this is old news and ordinary citizens have nothing to worry about anyway. In other words, nothing to see here, move along. Um... no. We'll be the judge of that, thank you. I certainly didn't know about it. Are we surprised that the government is saying their spying isn't so bad? What do you expect them to say? "Ok, ok. You got us. We've set up an unconstitutional surveillance state where everyone can be monitored at any time. We weren't gonna say nuthin, but now that we've been caught red handed, we'll go ahead and resign first thing Monday morning and turn ourselves into federal court." ... afraid not.

Seriously, though. Maybe I'm wrong, but if this is the best they can come up with to discredit him, it sounds to me like he's legit.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 7:38 am

1. is simply that he lied. As any lawyer will tell you, once someone has been caught out in a lie, everything else they say is suspect

2. proves that he had planned to run away, even while claiming he has done nothing wrong. If he thought he was in the right, why run?

3. Prism is essentially old news, And I'm not sure what you expect the secret services to do given that they are supposed to be secret.

You criticize this article because it comes from the Telegraph - a moderate newspaper. Yet you read nothing significant or sinister about the story breaking in the Guardian - a notorious left-wing scandal sheet in Europe.

Seems that the Guardian didn't do much fact-checking here, so why trust them at all?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 8:01 am

I just want to briefly respond to these points, but really that's not the issue anyway.

1. Did he? Or is Booz Allen the one lying in order to discredit him? Honestly, who cares?
2. Because there is no "justice" in America's secret kangaroo courts.
3. Really? I didn't know about it, and I'm pretty well informed. Interesting argument the government is making -on the one hand, "these revelations are so terrible, this guy needs to be put away", and OTOH "nothing new here, nothing that bad anyway." The two are self-contradictory.

"You criticize this article because it comes from the Telegraph - a moderate newspaper. "

The Telegraph is not moderate, it's a Tory mouthpiece (1), and that's not why I criticize it (2). I said nothing about criticizing the source at all. I criticize the content, for the reasons I stated above.

But really, let's get back to the core issue here -the revelations themselves. It's no secret that every government shill is going to try to smear the leaker. That part is nothing new -happens every. single. time. But the content. The content is what matters. It's important to note that The Guardian published the story based not on the word of one guy, but based on the *documents* he provided, which were carefully reviewed. That's Important Point #1.

Important Point #2 is that if these documents weren't legit, the entire US government wouldn't be running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to spin them away. Clapper wouldn't be on TV saying that these revelations are "physically, literally gut-wrenching." Oh, they're legit all right. And that's what matters.

The scope of the US surveillance state make the Stasi look like amateur hour.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 8:23 am