RT interview re Snowden flying to Russia

As the news broke that NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, had fled Hong Kong for Russia today, I was invited on RT to do an interview. At that point few people had any idea of his plans.  However, it appears that the USA had charged Snowden under the Espionage Act 1917 (no surprises) and then asked Hong Kong to arrest and hold him, pending extradition. Equally unsurprisingly, Hong Kong found mistakes in the paperwork and used the opportunity to complain about US spying activity in its territory.

Anyway, this gave Snowden, with apparently the help of the whistleblowing publishing site Wikileaks, the chance to leave the country and fly to Russia, with the reported final destination being Ecuador.

So here’s my initial take on the situation:

Snowden case shows US is bully boy of world – RTTV interview from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Magna Carta versus Snoopers’ Charter

black_sheep_text_OK, this has to be a bleeding obvious point, but I feel moved to make it anyway.

After the brutal Woolwich murder of  Drummer Lee Rigby,  there were calls from the British securocrats to resurrect the discredited Communications Data bill – aka the Snoopers’ Charter.  Capitalising on the nation’s shock, they believed it was the right time to push through a particularly draconian piece of legislation, as I wrote at the time.

The aim of the Snooper’s Charter is to store all the meta-data of our communications in the UK, which means they can potentially be used as evidence against us at some nebulous future point if the legal goalposts shift – as they seem to be doing at an alarming rate these days.

Not only are activists now being called “domestic extremists” or “terrorists”, but the concept of secret courts seems to be metastasising at an alarming rate – it is not longer just a concept used in immigration and now civil courts, it has reached the giddy heights of the Supreme Court in the UK, with the secret hearings around the Iranian Mellat bank. Top UK Law Lord Neuberger was recently quoted, in the Daily Mail of all places, as saying that secret justice is no justice.

But I digress. Post-Woolwich, the securocrats were overtaken by events. The courageous Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the fact that the NSA and its pals like GCHQ are already hoovering up all our electronic communications, as well as spying on top politicians. As a result the securocrats have gone to ground, but no doubt they will try to slither out again soon.

Or perhaps not – today still further surveillance horrors emerged as a result of the Snowden disclosures: the UK listening post GCHQ, which has long had an unhealthily incestuous relationship with the NSA, has gone to the next level with the “Total Mastery of the Internet” programme, codenamed “TEMPORA”.

The reported capabilities of TEMPORA are huge – GCHQ can tap into all the information flowing through the trans-Atlantic fibre optic cables and beyond. It is truly sucking on the fire hydrant of information

This should be gobsmacking news, but the concept was already reported in The Register 4 years ago. The trouble is, nobody really cared then or just thought it was a bunch of geeks being paranoid. Now this is global news thanks to the brave actions of a whistleblower.

One has to wonder if the UK government is so keen to ram the Snoopers’ Charter into law as a retrograde justification for the endemic PRISM and TEMPORA snooping that has already been going on for years? And let’s not forget the old prototype snooping programe, ECHELON

As a leading European privacy campaigner recently wrote, by the year 1215 British barons had more basic rights under the Magna Carta than we modern day serfs can possibly aspire to now.

How can we be going backwards, so fast?

O tempora, o mores indeed….. some classicist, somewhere in the bowels of the British intelligence agencies, is having a laugh.

Edward Snowden – the Globalisation of Whistleblowing

I have held back from writing about the Edward Snowden NSA whistleblowing case for the last week – partly because I was immersed in the resulting media interviews and talks, and partly because I wanted to watch how the story developed, both politically and in the old media. The reaction of both can tell you a lot.

That does not mean that I did not have a very positive response to what Snowden has done. Far from it. The same night the story broke about who was behind the leaks, I discussed the implications on an RT interview and called what he did Whistleblowing 2.0.

Why did I say that? Well, it appeared from his initial video interview with The Guardian that he had learned from previous whistleblowing cases: he had watched the media and carefully chosen a journalist, Glenn Greenwald, with a good track record on the relevant issues who would probably fight his corner fearlessly; his information clearly demonstrated that the intelligence agencies were spinning out of control and building surveillance states; he carefully chose a jurisdiction to flee to that might have the clout to protect him legally against the wrath of an over-mighty USA; and he has used his internet and media savvy to gain as much exposure and protection as quickly as possible.

edward_snowdenPlus, he has been incredibly brave, considering the draconian war on whistleblowers that is currently being waged by the American administration. There have been three other NSA whistleblowers in recent years, all also talking about endemic surveillance. All have paid a high personal price, all displayed great bravery in the face of adversity yet, sadly, none has achieved the same level of international impact. Were we just deaf to their warnings, or has Snowden played this better?

I think a bit of both.  He’s a geek, a young geek, he will have seen what happened to other whistleblowers and appears to have taken steps to avoid the same pitfalls. He has gone public to protect his family and prevent harm to his former colleagues in any ensuing witch-hunt. And he has fled the country in order to remain at liberty to argue his case, which is key to keeping the story alive for more than a week in the gadfly minds of the old media. I know, I’ve been involved in the same process.

He has blown the whistle to protect an American way of life he thinks “worth dying for”. Yet he has broadened out the issues internationally – what happens in America impacts the rest of the world. This, in my view, is crucial.  I have been writing for years that the US is increasingly claiming global legal hegemony over the entire internet, as well as the right to kidnap, torture and murder foreigners at will.

The Patriot Act has not only shredded the US constitution, it also now apparently has global reach for as long as our craven governments allow it to. Now we know that this is not some abstract concept, theory or speculation – we are all potentially being watched

Edward Snowden argued his case very effectively in a live chat on The Guardian newspaper website. It became clear that he is indeed a new generation of whisteblower. This is not someone who witnessed one crime and immediately felt he had to speak out. This is a technical expert who watched, over time and with dismay, the encroaching Big Brother surveillance state that is taking over the world via the NSA and its clones.

He is young, he had faith that a new government would mean change, but in the end felt compelled to take considered action when he witnessed the unaccountable mission creep, the limited and ineffectual oversight, and the neutered politicians who rush to reassure us that everything is legal and proportionate when they really have no idea what the spy agencies get up to.

In both the US and the UK the spies repeatedly get away with lying to the notional oversight bodies about mistakes made, rules bent, and illegal operations. Former senior CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, has catalogued the US lies, and here are a few home-brewed British examples. The internet companies have also been wriggling on the hook over the last week.

Snowden appears to be very aware not only of potential state level surveillance but also the global corporatist aspect of the subversion of the basic companies most people use to access the internet – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Skype et al. A few pioneers have been discussing the need to protect oneself from such corporatist oversight for years, and such pioneers have largely been ignored by the mainstream: they’re “just geeks” they are “paranoid”, “tin foil hat” etc.

Edward Snowden has laid bare the truth of this globalised, corporatist Big Brother state. From his public statements so far, he seems very alive to the international aspects of what he is revealing. This is not just about Americans being snooped on, this affects everybody. We are all subject to the brutal hegemony that US securocrats and corporations are trying to impose on us, with no rights, no redress under the law.

Big_Brother_posterWe have already seen this with the illegal US state take-down of Kim Dotcom’s secure cloud service, Megaupload, with the global persecution of Wikileaks, with Obama’s war on whistleblowers, with the NDAA, with the asymmetric extradition cases, with the drone wars across the Middle East and Central Asia…..  where to stop?

Snowden, through his incredible act of bravery, has confirmed our worst fears. It is not just corporations that have gone global – surveillance has too. And now, thankfully, so too are whistleblowers.

What troubles me somewhat is the way that the old media is responding – even The Guardian, which broke the story. Glenn Greenwald is an excellent, campaigning journalist and I have no doubt whatsoever that he will fight to the wire for his source.

However, the newspaper as an entity seems to be holding back the free flow of information. Charitably, one could assume that this is to maximise the impact of Snowden’s disclosures. Less charitably, one could also see it as a way to eke out the stories to maximise the newspaper’s profits and glory. Again, it’s probably a bit of both.

However, I do not think this will ultimately work in the best interests of the whistleblower, who needs to get the information out there now, and get the whole debate going now.

Plus, today it was reported that a D-Notice had been issued against the UK media last week. I have written before about this invidious self-censorship with which the British media collaborates: senior editors and senior military personnel and spooks meet to agree whether or not stories may act against “national security” (still a legally undefined phrase), and ban publications accordingly. And this is “voluntary” – what does that say about our press holding power to account, when they willingly collude in the suppression of information?

Plus, some of the key journalists at The Guardian who were involved in the Wikileaks stitch-up are also now pecking away at the Snowden story. The old media are still continuing to act as a bottleneck of the free flow of information from whistleblowers to the public domain. In the post-Wikileaks era, this is a retrograde step. It is not for them to assess what the public needs to know, nor is it down to them to analyse and second-guess why any whistleblower is doing what they are doing.

As Edward Snowden stated: “The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed“.

RT interview about whistleblower Edward Snowden

The whistleblower behind last week’s PRISM leaks dramatically went public last night.  Edward Snowden gave an interview to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian explaining calmly and cogently why he chose to expose the NSA’s endemic data-mining. An immensely brave man.

Here is an interview I did about the case last night for RT:

And here is the transcript.