Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »

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Tag Archives: human rights

Open Letter To Obama

Edward Snowden

July 26, 2013

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution

Dear Mr. President:

You are acutely aware that the history of liberty is a history of civil disobedience to unjust laws or practices. As Edmund Burke sermonized, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremburg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defense. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.

A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.

Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.

We submit that Edward J. Snowden’s disclosures of dragnet surveillance of Americans under § 215 of the Patriot Act, § 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments, or otherwise were sanctioned by Thoreau’s time-honored moral philosophy and justifications for civil disobedience. Since 2005, Mr. Snowden had been employed by the intelligence community. He found himself complicit in secret, indiscriminate spying on millions of innocent citizens contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the First and Fourth Amendments and the transparency indispensable to self-government. Members of Congress entrusted with oversight remained silent or Delphic. Mr. Snowden confronted a choice between civic duty and passivity. He may have recalled the injunction of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Mr. Snowden chose duty. Your administration vindictively responded with a criminal complaint alleging violations of the Espionage Act.

From the commencement of your administration, your secrecy of the National Security Agency’s Orwellian surveillance programs had frustrated a national conversation over their legality, necessity, or morality. That secrecy (combined with congressional nonfeasance) provoked Edward’s disclosures, which sparked a national conversation which you have belatedly and cynically embraced. Legislation has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate to curtail or terminate the NSA’s programs, and the American people are being educated to the public policy choices at hand. A commanding majority now voice concerns over the dragnet surveillance of Americans that Edward exposed and you concealed. It seems mystifying to us that you are prosecuting Edward for accomplishing what you have said urgently needed to be done!

The right to be left alone from government snooping–the most cherished right among civilized people—is the cornerstone of liberty. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson served as Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg. He came to learn of the dynamics of the Third Reich that crushed a free society, and which have lessons for the United States today.

Writing in Brinegar v. United States, Justice Jackson elaborated:

The Fourth Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

These, I protest, are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.

We thus find your administration’s zeal to punish Mr. Snowden’s discharge of civic duty to protect democratic processes and to safeguard liberty to be unconscionable and indefensible.

We are also appalled at your administration’s scorn for due process, the rule of law, fairness, and the presumption of innocence as regards Edward.

On June 27, 2013, Mr. Fein wrote a letter to the Attorney General stating that Edward’s father was substantially convinced that he would return to the United States to confront the charges that have been lodged against him if three cornerstones of due process were guaranteed. The letter was not an ultimatum, but an invitation to discuss fair trial imperatives. The Attorney General has sneered at the overture with studied silence.

We thus suspect your administration wishes to avoid a trial because of constitutional doubts about application of the Espionage Act in these circumstances, and obligations to disclose to the public potentially embarrassing classified information under the Classified Information Procedures Act.

Your decision to force down a civilian airliner carrying Bolivian President Eva Morales in hopes of kidnapping Edward also does not inspire confidence that you are committed to providing him a fair trial. Neither does your refusal to remind the American people and prominent Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate like House Speaker John Boehner, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann,and Senator Dianne Feinstein that Edward enjoys a presumption of innocence. He should not be convicted before trial. Yet Speaker Boehner has denounced Edward as a “traitor.”

Ms. Pelosi has pontificated that Edward “did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents.” Ms. Bachmann has pronounced that, “This was not the act of a patriot; this was an act of a traitor.” And Ms. Feinstein has decreed that Edward was guilty of “treason,” which is defined in Article III of the Constitution as “levying war” against the United States, “or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

You have let those quadruple affronts to due process pass unrebuked, while you have disparaged Edward as a “hacker” to cast aspersion on his motivations and talents. Have you forgotten the Supreme Court’s gospel in Berger v. United States that the interests of the government “in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done?”

We also find reprehensible your administration’s Espionage Act prosecution of Edward for disclosures indistinguishable from those which routinely find their way into the public domain via your high level appointees for partisan political advantage. Classified details of your predator drone protocols, for instance, were shared with the New York Times with impunity to bolster your national security credentials. Justice Jackson observed in Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York: “The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally.”

In light of the circumstances amplified above, we urge you to order the Attorney General to move to dismiss the outstanding criminal complaint against Edward, and to support legislation to remedy the NSA surveillance abuses he revealed. Such presidential directives would mark your finest constitutional and moral hour.

Sincerely,

Bruce Fein

Counsel for Lon Snowden

Lon Snowden

Sniper Posts Pic of Child in Crosshairs

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ABC News
Feb. 18, 2012
By Alexander Marquardt

JERUSALEM – A photo posted online by an Israeli soldier showing a child in the crosshairs of a rifle scope has created a firestorm on the internet, drawing widespread criticism.

The photo was reportedly posted on Jan. 25 by Mor Ostrovski, 20, a member of an Israeli sniper unit. It shows crosshairs zeroed in on the back of the head of what appears to be a Palestinian boy in a village. The photo has since been taken down and Ostrovski’s account has been deactivated.

“There are no other images to suggest that the photographer actually fired at the person in the image in this case,” wrote Palestinian activist Ali Abuminah who runs the site Electronic Intifada and drew much of the attention to the photo. “The image is simply tasteless and dehumanizing. It embodies the idea that Palestinian children are targets.”

Kids in the crosshairs: Photo of Palestinian children killed by IDF wins World Press Photo award

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RT
Feb. 16, 2013

A picture of two Palestinian children killed in an Israeli airstrike has won the 2012 World Press Photo award. And as if to further prove the danger to the region’s youth, an IDF sniper has posted a photo of a child in his rifle’s scope to Instagram.

­A procession of wailing men carrying two Palestinian children to their funeral, captured with the click of a camera, has won the 2012 World Press Photo.

The photo was taken by the Swedish photographer Paul Hansen, working for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Taken in Gaza on November 20, 2012, the photo shows a group of men marching the dead bodies of a brother and sister, wrapped in white cloth, through the city. The piece portrays what became a common scene on the ground during Israel’s eight-day military conquest, Operation Pillar of Defense, against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

‘Idle No More’ plans global rallies over Canada’s aboriginals

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Press TV
Jan. 8, 2012

The ‘Idle No More’ native rights movement plans to stage worldwide rallies on Friday in solidarity with Canada’s Aboriginal communities.

Organizers are preparing to stage rallies this coming Friday, which is designated as the ‘Global Day of Action’. It coincides with the same day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to meet with some native leaders, including Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence.

Spence has been on hunger strike since December 11, 2012, and intends to continue the protest until Harper meets with the leaders of Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal rights movement Idle No More spreads beyond First Nations community

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The Gazette
Dec. 19, 2012
By Christopher Curtis

OTTAWA – Theresa Spence gets dizzy if she walks more than a few steps.

The Attawapiskat chief is getting weaker as her hunger strike is in its second week, but Spence says she won’t eat until Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees to meet with her and other aboriginal leaders across Canada.

Since she began her protest, Spence has spent her days in isolation on the tiny aboriginal territory of Victoria Island, which sits across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

These days Spence barely has enough strength to leave the teepee she’s been sleeping in. She drinks a small cup of fish broth each day to fend off sickness.

“My spirits are good,” she said, warming by a wooden fire in her makeshift home. “I hear drumming every day and people singing songs for me every day … it’s encouraging.”

Canada gets human rights failing grade from Amnesty International

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The Star
Dec. 19, 2012
By Olivia Ward

For Canada’s international human rights standing, 2012 was an annus horribilis.

This year three UN expert committees rated the country’s performance on meeting rights commitments — and returned a failing grade.

“These mandatory reviews are carried out every four or five years, and it just happened that this year Canada was the focus of three,” said Alex Neve, who heads Amnesty International Canada. “It’s a wake-up call that although we have things to be proud of, there are many fronts where we have long-standing issues that need to be addressed.”

An Amnesty report released Wednesday says that committees on racial discrimination, prevention of torture and children’s rights found “a range” of “ongoing and serious human rights challenges,” especially for indigenous peoples.

CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ terror suspect, human rights court rules

Khaled el-Masri

Guardian
Dec. 13, 2012
By

CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on, the European court of human rights said in a historic judgment released on Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling, it also found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin allegedly linked to terrorist organisations.

Masri was seized in Macedonia in December 2003 and handed over to a CIA “rendition team” at Skopje airport and secretly flown to Afghanistan.

Tibet’s Desperate Toll Keeps Climbing

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New York Times
Dec. 4, 2012
By MARK MCDONALD

HONG KONG — What pushes them to do it, these desperate Tibetans, more than 90 of them, dozens in recent days and another one on Monday, the ones drenching themselves in gasoline, sometimes even drinking the fuel beforehand, and then setting themselves on fire, their robes bursting into pennants of flame as they die such painful deaths, why, what is happening here? Are they killing themselves because of politics, sadness, despair, religion, what?

We don’t yet know what drove Lobsang Gedun, 29, a Buddhist monk who burned himself to death on Monday in the western Chinese province of Qinghai. My colleague Edward Wong reported on the death, and Radio Free Asia quoted an account of the immolation: “With his body on fire, he walked about 300 steps with hands folded in prayer posture, and raised slogans before he collapsed dead on the ground.”

Lobsang Gedun’s slogans were likely in praise of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, or condemnations of Beijing’s harsh, militarized rule in Tibet and the Tibetan areas of western China. Foreign reporters, United Nations investigators and many international relief groups are almost universally barred by the Chinese authorities from entering Tibet.

Bradley Manning lawyer argues soldier’s confinement was too harsh

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NBC News
Nov. 28, 2012
By John Bailey

FORT MEADE, Md. — During a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, the defense for Army Private First Class Bradley Manning — accused of leaking thousands of classified documents to the website Wikileaks – began making the case that Manning’s charges should be dismissed, saying the Army private’s confinement conditions constitute illegal punishment.

Pfc. Manning’s defense team alleges he was improperly classified as a high security risk and as a risk to himself while confined at Quantico, which resulted in Manning being kept on 23-hour lockdown in a small cell. At one point, his clothes were taken from him at night.

David Coombs, Manning’s lead attorney, spent more than six hours questioning retired Marine Corps Col. Daniel Choike (pronounced CHOY-kee), who was commander of the Quantico brig at the time. Coombs asked Choike about a number of emails sent among the brig staff indicating that some at the facility believed that Manning did not require such harsh confinement.

Anonymous leaks personal information of 5,000 Israeli officials

anon israel

RT
Nov. 18, 2012

Internet hacktivist group Anonymous has declared cyberwar on Israel, posting personal data of five thousand Israeli officials online.

­The group used their Anonpaste.me site to address a message to the Israeli government before linking to the page with names, ID numbers and personal emails of 5,000 officials.

The message said: “It has come to our attention that the Israeli government has ignored repeated warnings about the abuse of human rights, shutting down the internet in Israel and mistreating its own citizens and those of its neighboring countries.”