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.