A little more than a year ago Edward Snowden began to make public to various news organizations a slew of documents revealing the extensive metadata collection programs employed not just against foreign nationals, notable foreign public figures or even terrorists, but everyday American citizens, demonstrating the United States’ hypocritical Human Rights policies. Because of the criminal activity exposed by the Snowden leaks, people the world over now know without a doubt of the intrusive and abusive nature of the U.S. metadata spying. The U.S. has the ability to collect, store, and sort through immeasurable amounts of data on every last person on the planet. This technology was deployed against nearly every country including the United States itself and the majority of nations considered friends.
In an effort to prevent whistleblowers from coming forward, going into the future, the Obama justice department has indicted or threatened to indict more whistleblowers than several other administrations combined, including the dubious Bush administration. The indictments work in opposition to Presidential Policy Directive 19, which claims to protect leakers and offer a course for them to take when concerns over the legality of any particular intelligence program come to their attention.
On closer examination PPD-19 does not protect those like Snowden who are contractors, or like PFC Bradley (Chelsea) Manning who are involved in military intelligence, no matter the level of illegality they find. The lack of teeth to PPD-19 makes farcical President Barack Obama’s demand to Snowden, as parroted by National Security Adviser Susan Rice and John Kerry “to turn himself over, or for nations granting him asylum to turn him over to U.S. authorities for criminal prosecution.” In addition to Snowden and Manning some of the more notable whistleblowers indicted under the Obama administration or threatened with indictment are Jeffery Sterling, Edward Loomis, Kirk Wiebe and William Binney, muting such claims that the Obama administration seeks to protect whistleblowers and offer them a legally protected outlet for their revelations.
The Obama justice department has also threatened journalists who refuse to give up their sources and even collected phone records from the Associated Press in their pursuit of capping Whistlegate and preventing further leaks of its criminal activities. The attacks on whistleblowers such as Snowden and the journalists who distribute their revelations, reveal the hypocrisy of U.S. Human Rights policies. The Obama administration attacks other nations for the same activities, yet it limits the freedom of the press and hinders governmental transparency.
The NSA has officially denied the claims that Snowden made at least “10 distinct attempts to pursue official channels” regarding his concerns over PRISIM and other NSA metadata collection programs before going “rogue” and releasing the documents to journalists and other watchdog groups. “The NSA and their apologists expect us to believe that they are going to change their ways simply because Congress says so, all the while they continue to pursue Snowden, and refuse to release Manning even after they held him in solitary confinement before his trial, which is considered torture under international law,” said Ramona Africa an advocate for Political Prisoners out of Philadelphia.
An independent White House review board concerned with the way Signal Intelligence is gathered sided with Snowden and the concerns expressed over the programs revealed. The review board recommended that Congress ban all warrantless searches by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The board also recommended that the U.S. government should not keep metadata on citizens and that intelligence agencies should scrutinize their policies on foreign leaders before spying on them. As long as the U.S. continues to claim that the American Press is free, the persecution of leakers such as Snowden will be a hypocritical black mark on the U.S. Human Rights record, making any attack on the Human Rights records of countries like Russia and China far more easy for the world to ignore.
Opinion by Cory Clark