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: internet

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

The persecution of Barrett Brown – and how to fight it

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Guardian
Mar. 21, 2013
By

Aaron’s Swartz’s suicide in January triggered waves of indignation, and rightly so. He faced multiple felony counts and years in prison for what were, at worst, trivial transgressions of law. But his prosecution revealed the excess of both anti-hacking criminal statutes, particularly the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and the fixation of federal prosecutors on severely punishing all forms of activism that challenge the power of the government and related entities to control the flow of information on the internet. Part of what drove the intense reaction to Swartz’s death was how sympathetic of a figure he was, but as noted by Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor in the DOJ’s computer crimes unit and now a law professor at GWU, what was done to Swartz is anything but unusual, and the reaction to his death will be meaningful only if channeled to protest other similar cases of prosecutorial abuse:

“I think it’s important to realize that what happened in the Swartz case happens in lots and lots of federal criminal cases. . . . What’s unusual about the Swartz case is that it involved a highly charismatic defendant with very powerful friends in a position to object to these common practices. That’s not to excuse what happened, but rather to direct the energy that is angry about what happened. If you want to end these tactics, don’t just complain about the Swartz case. Don’t just complain when the defendant happens to be a brilliant guy who went to Stanford and hangs out with Larry Lessig. Instead, complain that this is business as usual in federal criminal cases around the country – mostly with defendants who no one has ever heard of and who get locked up for years without anyone else much caring.”

Prosecutorial abuse is a drastically under-discussed problem in general, but it poses unique political dangers when used to punish and deter online activism. But it’s becoming the preeminent weapon used by the US government to destroy such activism.

Pentagon’s new massive expansion of ‘cyber-security’ unit is about everything except defense

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Guardian
Jan. 28, 2012
By

As the US government depicts the Defense Department as shrinking due to budgetary constraints, the Washington Post this morning announces “a major expansion of [the Pentagon's] cybersecurity force over the next several years, increasing its size more than fivefold.” Specifically, says the New York Times this morning, “the expansion would increase the Defense Department’s Cyber Command by more than 4,000 people, up from the current 900.” The Post describes this expansion as “part of an effort to turn an organization that has focused largely on defensive measures into the equivalent of an Internet-era fighting force.” This Cyber Command Unit operates under the command of Gen. Keith Alexander, who also happens to be the head of the National Security Agency, the highly secretive government network that spies on the communications of foreign nationals – and American citizens.

The Pentagon’s rhetorical justification for this expansion is deeply misleading. Beyond that, these activities pose a wide array of serious threats to internet freedom, privacy, and international law that, as usual, will be conducted with full-scale secrecy and with little to no oversight and accountability. And, as always, there is a small army of private-sector corporations who will benefit most from this expansion.

Let’s begin with the way this so-called “cyber-security” expansion has been marketed. It is part of a sustained campaign which, quite typically, relies on blatant fear-mongering.

Anonymous threatens Justice Department over hacktivist death

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CNN
Jan. 26, 2012
By Ben Brumfield

(CNN) — In anger over the recent death of an Internet activist who faced federal charges, hackers claiming to be from the group Anonymous threatened early Saturday to release sensitive information about the U.S. Department of Justice.

They claimed to have one such file on multiple servers ready for immediate release.

The hackers apparently hijacked the website of the U.S. government agency responsible for federal sentencing guidelines, where they posted a message demanding the United States reform its justice system or face incriminating leaks to select news outlets.

The lengthy, eloquently written letter was signed “Anonymous.”

Online activist, programmer Swartz dies in NY

swartz

Associated Press
Jan. 12, 2012
By VERENA DOBNIK

NEW YORK (AP) — A co-founder of Reddit and activist who fought to make online content free to the public has been found dead, authorities confirmed Saturday, prompting an outpouring of grief from prominent voices on the intersection of free speech and the Web.

Aaron Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment weeks before he was to go on trial on accusations that he stole millions of journal articles from an electronic archive in an attempt to make them freely available. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

He was pronounced dead Friday evening at home in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner.

Swartz was “an extraordinary hacker and activist,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international nonprofit digital rights group based in California wrote in a tribute on its home page.

Anonymous hackers’ Twitter account suspended, reinstated

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NBC News
Dec. 19, 2012
By Suzanne Choney

For the second time in a month, one of the Twitter accounts used by the hacking group known as Anonymous was suspended. But this time the account, @YourAnonNews, with more than three-quarter of a million followers, was reinstated.

“You can’t suspend an idea,” @YourAnonNews tweeted Wednesday.

Indeed, you can’t, but the Twitter account was suspended briefly Wednesday; Twitter told NBC News it doesn’t comment on “individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.” The @YourAnonNews account is one of the hacking collective’s most followed on the short messaging blog.

Everyone is fair game: Spy agency conducts surveillance on all US citizens

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RT
Dec. 13, 2012

The Obama administration overruled recommendations from within the US Department of Homeland Security and implemented new guidelines earlier this year that allow the government to gather and analyze intelligence on every single US citizen.

Since the spring, a little-know intelligence agency outside of Washington, DC has been able to circumvent the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and conduct dragnet surveillance of the entire country, combing massive datasets using advanced algorithms to search and seize personal info on anyone this wish, reports the Wall Street Journal this week.

There’s no safeguard that says only Americans with criminal records are the ones included, and it’s not just suspected terrorists that are considered in the searches either. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has been provided with entire government databases and given nearly endless access to intelligence on everyone in the country, regardless of whether or not they’ve done anything that would have made them a person of interest. As long as data is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information,” the agency can do as they wish.

Internet Hangs in Balance as World Governments Meet in Secret

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Wired
Dec. 3, 2012
By David Kravets

There’s a lot of sky-is-falling doomsday predictions about the World Conference on International Telecommunications, which opens Monday in Dubai with some 190-plus nations discussing the global internet’s future.

That’s because much of the accompanying proposals from the global community have been kept under lock and key, although some of the positions of nations have been leaked and published online.

The idea behind the meetings is to update the International Telecommunications Regulations governed by the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency known as the ITU, that is responsible for global communication technologies.

Julian Assange says victorious Obama ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’

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AFP
Nov. 7, 2012

LONDON: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday described re-elected President Barack Obama was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said he expected the US government to keep attacking the anti-secrecy website.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from Ecuador’s London embassy, where he sought asylum in June in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations, Assange said Obama’s victory was no cause for celebration.

“Obama seems to be a nice man, and that is precisely the problem,” the 41-year-old Australian told AFP, after the president defeated Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday night to sweep back into the White House. “It’s better to have a sheep in wolf’s clothing than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Assange complained of the “persecution” of WikiLeaks by Obama’s government. He added: “All of the activities against WikiLeaks by the United States have occurred under an Obama administration.

Anonymous Claims To Have Hacked 28,000 PayPal Passwords For Guy Fawkes Day

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Huffington Post
Nov. 5, 2012
By

Anonymous, which adopted the Guy Fawkes mask, designed by “V for Vendetta” illustrator David Llyod, as a symbol for its social crusade, has decided to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day with some good, old-fashioned hacking.

Guy Fawkes Day is observed annually on Nov. 5 in commemoration of the rebel Englishman’s demise.

Marking Nov. 5 as a day of global protest, hacker group Anonymous began its tribute on Sunday night by allegedly hacking a PayPal server and stealing 28,000 customer passwords, The Next Web reports. Anonymous announced the hack on Twitter, “linking to a set of Private Paste documents containing emails, names, and what appear to be possibly passwords from the payment service’s database,” according to TNW.

The head of public relations for PayPal, however, denied the Anonymous attack, tweeting, “We’re investigating this but to date we have been unable to find any evidence that validates this claim.”