For readers who have not yet signed up to my monthly newsletter, here is the excerpt about Edward Snowden from my June edition, with a little update at the end:
The Edward Snowden saga is riveting for me on so many levels.You’ll no doubt be aware of the case, unless you have been living in a cupboard for the last few weeks. Snowden is the brave young NSA contractor who has blown the whistle on a range of global surveillance programmes that the Americans and the Brits have developed over the last few years to fight the war on terrorism spy on all of us.
The sheer scale of his disclosures so far is incredible and has huge implications for what remains of our democratic way of life. Just today more information emerged to show that the NSA has been spying on key EU institutions – which might go some way to explaining why so much recent EU legislation appears to favour the interests of US corporatism over those of European citizens….
Pundits have been calling him the most significant whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam war 40 years ago. But I would go further. In my view Edward Snowden is the most significant whistleblower in modern history because, while Ellsberg disclosed vital information, it was largely a matter that affected the Americans and the hapless Vietnamese. What Snowden has exposed, just to date, impacts all of us around the world.
Snowden has confirmed the darkest fears of legal experts, geeks and concerned global citizens about the sheer scale of the surveillance society we all now live under. Not only are our intelligence agencies running amok, they do so using the infrastructure of the global internet megacorps. What he has laid bare is the fact that we are all already living under full-blown fascism.
He played it so well with that early film stating very clearly his motivation to go public – to defend a way of life that he saw was under threat. He appears to have learned from the mistakes of previous whistleblowers. He chose a journalist who understands the issues and has the fire in the belly and the international profile to fight his corner. Glenn Greenwald is a fearless campaigning lawyer-turned-journalist who for years has been defending the work of Wikileaks, with the irony being that he is now the new Assange, being attacked, threatened and smeared for reporting the disclosures.
Of course, I and many other former whistleblowers have been swamped by the usual frenzied media tsunami, called up for interview after interview. For me this began just as I was about to turn in for the night at 11.30pm on 9th June, when RT rang me up asking for an urgent live interview just as the identity of Snowden was emerging across the world’s media. After a frantic 15 minutes sorting out the makeup and the tech (in that order, naturally), I was wide awake again and speaking on live TV. From that came a slew of other requests over the next few days, including many programmes on the BBC, Sky News, and multiple radio and newspaper interviews. I could barely find time to leave my phone and computer to get to the bathroom…. Then the wave receded for a few days before Snowden fled to Russia, when the whole cycle began again.
Reading about Snowden going on the run also brought back a number of personal memories for me. In 1997 I fled the UK with David Shayler only 12 hours ahead of his initial disclosures about MI5 criminality breaking in the UK media. We were pursued across Europe, and had a month literally on the run, followed by a year living in hiding in la France Profonde before David was arrested, pending extradition, at the request of the British government. He spent almost 4 months in a Paris prison before the French released him – their view being that he was a whistleblower, which was deemed to be a political offence for which France specifically does not extradite. We lived more openly in Paris for another two years, although David was trapped in France – had he travelled to another country the whole ghastly extradition process would have started again.
Well, there are worse places than France to be trapped in exile, but even so it was difficult for him. How much more so for Edward Snowden, whose options are more seriously constrained and who faces life in prison in the US if he is caught? Knowing the penalties he faces and being aware of the tracking capabilities and the ruthless disregard for the law and human rights of the modern US intelligence infrastructure, his bravery in exposing the global US surveillance state is truly breath-taking.
To finish, here is one of my recent Sky News interviews about the Edward Snowden case:
Addendum: today’s news told us that Bolivian President, Evo Morales’s official, diplomatically protected, plane have been barred from flying home from Moscow over much of Euro airspace, where he had been participating in high-level talks. The reason being that Edward Snowden might have been be on board. Morales was grounded in Austria and had to submit to a police search of the plane, against all diplomatic protocol. No Snowden was found, naturally.
I see this as a very clever move by persons unknown – testing exactly what the international response would be if Edward Snowden tries to fly out of Russia. And the Europeans, under undoubted pressure from the US, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
The US-Euro complicit patsies have been flushed out by this diplomatic scandal. Demonstrations are apparently already occurring against the French embassy in Bolivia. And this on the same day that the French President, Francois Hollande, used the Snowden disclosures to delay the rightly-maligned US-EU trade agreement.
So, even as the French use the Snowden disclosures for political advantage, they apparently refuse to assist the source. Which is unfortunate – my memory of French law is that whistleblowing is deemed a political act and the French specifically do not extradite for alleged political offences.
Perhaps the French constitution and law have changed since Sarkozy took France into NATO….