Monday, July 29, 2013

Edward Snowden gets Whistleblower Prize:

                                                                      Edward Snowden


Edward Snowden, the American security official who leaked top-secret information on the US Government's worldwide spying activities has been awarded the 2013 Whistleblower Prize from the Federation of German Scientists and the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms (IALANA). The decision was announced in Berlin on 24 July.

                               At the Press Conference in Berlin announcing the award.

The FGS awards, together with the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA ) since 1999, every two years, the whistleblower prize. This year, for the first time, the award involved the anti-corruption organization Transparency International  whose representatives were present at the awards ceremony.

The winner of this year's Whistleblower award is Edward Snowden, which was announced in the Humboldt Unversity-Viadrina School of Governance, Wilhelmstrasse, Berlin,Germany.

The jury's statement:

This year's whistleblower award goes to the American Edward J. Snowden. He has made public the mass scrutinizing and retention of communications data by Western intelligence agencies, without previous suspicion. With the whistleblower prize, people are nominated who uncover serious wrongdoing in the public interest and dangerous developments for man and society, democracy, peace and the environment.

The whistleblower prize is awarded every two years since 1999 by the Federation of German Scientists and the German section of IALANA, International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms. The prize money is 3,000 euros. Among the previous winners include Rainer Moormann (2011: Risks of the pebble bed reactor), Rudolf Schmenger / Frank Wehrheim (2009: Frankfurt taxman) and Brigitte Heinisch (2007: Berlin geriatric nurse).
For the first time the anti-corruption organization Transparency International Germany participates in this year's association of the award.

The revelations of Edward J. Snowden allowed  the jury to view  the possiblility and inevitability  to clarify the facts and evidence intensively and to check on a secured basis in fact then determine whether and in what ways what was  uncovered by Snowden approaches domestic and foreign intelligence bodies applicable law being violated.

In  the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 10 of the Basic Law is, according to current knowledge, particularly injured as a fundamental right of defense of governmental intervention and government protection as well as the G10 Act (duty to comply with the conditions laid down therein concerning such intervention). Edward Snowden has taken to disclosure of the information despite having knowledge of the actual prosecution of whistleblowers in security service and the serious disadvantages for themselves personally in acting this way.
Hartmut Grassl of the Federation of German Scientists: "An open society requires moral courage and courageous people like Edward Snowden, so that grievances are identified and prevented."

Otto Jackel, Chairman of the German section of IALANA: "Who could be the most supportive in offering  the beleaguered  U.S. citizen asylum from state political persecution of his homeland,  except us, to at least offer a safe haven as Germany, which is apparently the NSA  target particularly affected, but, the EU as a whole is called to assist as Edward Snowden has with his whistleblowing  given Germany and the other EU Member States a great service. We should compete to take him not just out of principle, but out of gratitude "

Edda Müller, Chair of Transparency Germany: "We are supporting Edward Snowden knowing  that his brave actions have consequences. The international treaties that limit the sovereignty of Germany must be changed. Great Britain, as a member state of the European Union must explain very clearly in Brussels, where it stands on the issue as it is among the fundamental rights of EU citizens. In addition, we finally need in Germany adequate whistleblower protection through the legal arrangements ".

This positive step by prestigious organisations in Germany helps lessen the isolation of Mr Snowden which the US has been trying to enforce with threats and diplomatic bullying and even the criminal attempt to disrupt the flight plan of Bolivian President Morales returning home from a visit to Europe, and counters the attempts to portray him as a wanted criminal when, in fact, it is the US Government which is the world's major war criminal and abuser of human rights in the 21st Century.

Letter to Russia:
Mr Snowden is currently a fugitive, temporarily resident in the transit area of a Moscow airport awaiting decisions on his asylum applications to various countries including the Russian Federation. The US has mounted a campaign of vicious intimidation against Mr Snowden since the situation began and a raging campaign of vilification has been whipped up by the American Right at the same time. Since this has provoked outrage and condemnation in the countries revealed as having been spied on by the US security agencies, the diplomatic backlash has forced Washington to revise its stance and seem more focused on legalities and proper procedures than its first blustering reactions.
In a more conciliatory move, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to the Russian Minister of Justice assuring the Russian Government that the U.S. will not seek the death penalty for National Security Agency leak source Edward Snowden if he is returned to the U.S.
Seeking to push back on assertions Snowden made in his request for temporary asylum in Russia, Holder also said in the letter that the U.S. will not torture Snowden.
"We also understand from press reports that Mr.Snowden has filed papers seeking temporary asylum in Russia on the grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and would face the death penalty," Holder wrote in the letter to Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov. 
"These claims are entirely without merit."
Holder explained that the charges Snowden currently faces in the U.S. do not carry the possibility of being charged with the death penalty. 
In June, Snowden was charged with three felonies that each carry a maximum of 10 years in prison: Theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person. (These charges were rejected by the Irish High Court recently as being devoid of evidence when the US sought an arrest warrant to be issued against Snowden if he arrived in Ireland. See post July 15 on this page).
Holder went on to say that the U.S. would not torture Snowden because, simply, it is unlawful in the U.S. (Tell that to the detainees illegally held by the U.S. Government in its torture camp in Guantanamo Bay)

Holder went on to say that the U.S. would not torture Snowden because, simply, it is unlawful in the U.S.

"We believe that these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden's claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise," Holder wrote.


Following intense pressure from the Obama administration and top intelligence officials, the US House of Representatives defeated an amendment that would have placed constraints on the National Security Agency’s powers to spy on the American people.

The amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act would have blocked funding for the NSA to collect phone “metadata” that is not related to a specific investigation. Among the programs exposed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden is one in which the government obtains and stores the records on nearly every phone call placed in the United States. This allows the state to construct a detailed social and political profile of every individual swept up in the program.

The House voted 217-205  to reject the amendment, which was introduced by Michigan Republican Justin Amash. The vote was an opportunity for congressmen to posture as critics of the unpopular and illegal spying programs, with the votes pro and con carefully calibrated to ensure that the measure was defeated. The Obama administration intervened extremely aggressively to block the amendment in its early stages. Even if it had passed in the House, it would still have had to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama to become law.

As the amendment was brought forward, the White House rushed to issue a statement on Tuesday evening. “We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process.” Carney’s statement followed an extraordinary closed door meeting convened by NSA head General Keith Alexander with members of the House of Representatives, urging them to vote against the restriction on NSA surveillance authority. House members were warned that the content of the meeting was “top secret.”

The powers targeted by the Amash amendment relate only to one in a whole series of programs aimed at gathering data on the population of the United States and the entire world. This was indicated by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a critic of the NSA, who said on Tuesday that the NSA is “an always expanding, omnipresent surveillance state.” Wyden referred to multiple “secret surveillance programs.” He accused the Obama administration of “actively” misleading the public about surveillance on Americans, and said that the government is “merging the ability to conduct surveillance that reveals every aspect of a person’s life with the ability to conjure up the legal authority to execute that surveillance.”

What Wyden describes is illegal and unconstitutional activity, for which administration officials and leaders of the military-intelligence apparatus should be impeached and tried in a court of law. The crimes go far beyond those of the Nixon administration. These programs, however, have been implemented with the complicity of the entire state apparatus, including Congress and the courts. Top lawmakers from both parties, including House Speaker John Boehner (Republican); Representative Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (Republican); House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Republican); House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat); and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Democrat), staunchly opposed the amendment.

“Any amendments to defund the program on appropriations bills would be unwise,” Senators Dianne Feinstein (Democrat) and Saxby Chambliss (Republican), the chairwoman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a joint statement Tuesday, referring to the NSA’s blanket data gathering activities. Dutch Ruppersberger, representative from Maryland and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, celebrated the outcome of the vote, claiming that the amendment would have “eliminated a crucial counterterrorism tool.”

As usual, defenders of the surveillance program argued that it was necessary because the government was “at war with terrorism.” These statements are made even as the US prepares to more directly arm the opposition in Syria, which is dominated by Islamist forces associated with Al Qaeda. They follow, moreover, revelations that the US is spying on governments all over the world, including those of nominal allies such as Germany and France. The “war on terror” has for more than a decade served as a pretext for wars abroad and the abrogation of core democratic rights within the United States.

The real target of the surveillance is the American and international working class, a fact that is made clear by the nature of the programs. The Big Brother spying is part of the preparation of the American ruling class for mass social opposition. The Defense Appropriations Act allocates massive resources for war while paving the way for further attacks on the social conditions of the working class. The bill includes $512.5 billion for the Pentagon and an additional $85.8 billion in “Overseas Contingency Operations” war funding.

The White House has argued that the bill’s shortfall of $5.1 billion below current defence spending will force the administration to make new cuts to domestic spending, including health and education.
The world is warned by the Snowden revelations of the plans of the US Military-Industrial Complex (as did President Eisenhower as he left office in 1960) to abridge citizens' Constitutional rights, operate on the basis of permanent war and despoil the resources of the entire planet in its own greedy interests.

















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