Europe Must Protect Snowden
By Christophe Deloire and Julian Assange

The general secretary of Reporters Without Borders Christophe Deloire and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange published on July 3, 2013, an Op-Ed in Le Monde calling on the states of the European Union to protect the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

On 12 October 2012, the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize for contributing to the "advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe". The EU should show itself worthy of this honor and show its will to defend freedom of information, regardless of fears of political pressure from its so-called closest ally, the United States.

Now that Edward Snowden, the young American who revealed the global monitoring system known as Prism, has requested asylum from 20 countries, the EU nations should extend a welcome, under whatever law or status seems most appropriate.

Although the United States remains a world leader in upholding the ideal of freedom of expression, the American attitude toward whistleblowers sullies the first amendment of the US constitution.

In 2004, the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, as well as his counterparts in the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issued a joint call to all governments to protect whistleblowers from all "legal, administrative or employment-related sanctions if they act in 'good faith'". Whistleblowers were defined as "individuals releasing confidential or secret information although they are under an official or other obligation to maintain confidentiality or secrecy".

More recently, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe resolved in 2010 that "the definition of protected disclosures shall include all bona fide warnings against various types of unlawful acts". The assembly's resolution 1729 concluded that member countries' laws "should therefore cover both public and private sector whistle-blowers, including members of the armed forces and special services".

Some are calling for a manhunt for Snowden on the grounds that he is a traitor, and others are trying to cloak the issues he raised in legalistic complexities. But what serious person can deny that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower?

The digital communications specialist's revelations have enabled the international press, including the Washington Post, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, to shine a light on a surveillance system that tracks tens of millions of citizens, Europeans among them.

Targeted by an apparatus that threatens their sovereignty as well as their principles, the EU countries owe Snowden a debt of gratitude for his revelations, which were clearly in the public interest.

This young man will remain abandoned in the transit zone of the Moscow airport only if the European countries abandon their principles, as well as a major part of the raison d'etre of the EU. Expressions of diplomatic outrage will be empty gestures if the person responsible for the revelations is left isolated and abandoned.

Beyond the necessity of providing a legal shield for whistleblowers, the protection of privacy is a matter of clear public interest, especially in the realm of freedom of information. Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, noted in a report last June that "arbitrary and unlawful infringements of the right to privacy ... threaten the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression".

The confidentiality of written and oral exchanges is essential to ensuring the exercise of freedom of information. But when journalists' sources are compromised, as happened in the case of the Associated Press; when the United States abuses the Espionage Act, a 1917 law that has been invoked a total of nine times against whistleblowers, six of these cases under the Obama administration; when the government tries to silence WikiLeaks by imposing a financial embargo on the organization and by subjecting associates and friends of Julian Assange to abusive searches when they enter the United States, when the site's founder and his colleagues are threatened with US prosecution, more than American democracy is threatened.

Indeed, the very model of democracy that the heirs of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are responsible for upholding has been robbed of its essence.

By what right is the United States exempt from principles that it demands be applied elsewhere?

In January 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a historic speech in which she defined freedom of expression as a cornerstone of American diplomacy. She reiterated that position in February 2011 in another speech in which she said that "on the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness."

Eloquent words. They may have brought encouragement to dissidents in Tehran, Beijing, Havana, Asmara, Ashgabat, Moscow and so many other capitals. But how disappointing to find that the skyscrapers of American surveillance have reached a size to match China's technological Great Wall.

The White House and State Department message of democracy and defence of human rights has lost considerable credibility. One sign of widespread concern — Amazon has reported a 6,000% increase in sales of the George Orwell classic, 1984.

Now, with Big Brother watching us from a Washington suburb, the key institutions of American democracy must play their assigned roles of counterweight to the executive branch and its abuses. The system of checks and balances is more than a slogan for avid readers of Tocqueville and Montesquieu.

American leaders should realize the glaring contradiction between their soaring odes to freedom and the realities of official actions, which damage the image of their country.

Members of Congress must be capable of holding back the tide of security provisions of the Patriot Act by recognizing the legitimate rights of men and women who sound the alarm. The Whistleblower Protection Act must be amended to ensure effective protection for whistleblowers who act in the public interest — an interest completely separate from immediate national concerns as intelligence services interpret them.

Jurgen Trittin: Edward Snowden deserves shelter in Germany

The man who revealed that our US and UK allies are spying on us ought to be given refuge by an EU country

The article by Deloire and Assange also appeared in the UK Guardian on July 3, 2013. Here are some of the comments:

Dick Cheney disclosed the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame and nothing happened to him. That was classified information. Every agent who was working with her had to be flown back to the US that day. Their lives and the lives of her contacts were put in danger. Dick Cheney put the lives of multiple CIA agents and assets at risk by disclosing TOP SECRET information. Snowden is labelled a traitor by the government while "[Vicious] Dick" gets a secret service escort to his book signings and after-dinner speeches.

Isn't it about time that the world stated the truth about America?

1. Its 'democratic system' is neither democratic nor does it lead to representation of the will of the people. It is an ingrained pantomime controlled by oligarchical banking dynasties with a ridiculous Presidential campaign stretching over 21 months.
2. Its global spying network is the apotheosis of the denial of freedoms for everyone on earth. We in Britain supposedly, purportedly, have a 'special relationship'. That's why they spy on us all from Fylingdales, West Yorkshire and why the US has refused to pay its taxes for its embassy for years, is it??
3. Any regime which doesn't bow down to American interests is fair game for military coup. Has been for 60 years. America is the most brazenly anti-democratic country on earth when it comes to respecting the will of foreign elections. No-one else comes close in terms of organised manipulation of democratic wishes worldwide. No-one.
4. Every time sometime tries to reason with America, you get thuggery, threats if you are lucky. You get murder if you're unlucky. Isn't leadership about setting an example, respecting the wishes of others and understanding the concept of boundaries? Not if the world regards American hegemony as 'leadership'.
5. The American Constitution is a document created in the late 18th century when the Internet, Satellites, microwave communications technologies were probably science fiction in the minds of a few visionaries. It needs radical revision and fundamental discussions are required about checks and balances to power in the internet age.
6. The Declaration of independence is a document which the whole world should read and, where appropriate, throw in America's face if they are violating its objectives when applied to foreign people in their pursuit of foreign policy. All countries need to do is replace the term 'George III/The King' with 'the United States of America'. You'll see what I mean if you do so...

If and only if the majority of the world unite in this regard and tell America where to get off, we may get some form of freedoms in the 21st century. There is a risk of America going ballistic and organising 25 coups, as they are junkies addicted to such activities. There is a better hope if the world seeks to address the American people directly, rather than wasting their time appealing to the better impulses in the American Executive, which will always fall down before realpolitik.

There is, however, no question, that the time to challenge American sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy is right now.

It will need to be led from outside Britain as Britain is run by secret sects close to American power. They do not represent British public opinion but they have no interest in so doing. Their sole interest is unrepresentative, elite-based powermongering.

The primary consideration should be the limitation of powers of the joint stock company and the oligarchical government which always accompanies such unaccountable groupings, questioning whether the fundamental freedoms which people all yearn for are promoted, unaffected by- or destroyed by the ever-larger multinational joint stock companies which control the world to an ever more frightening degree with each passing year...

For people wanting to be a little bit more pro-active in condemning US foreign policy, they might like to consider boycotting US companies. Information is available, for example on:

Priya Basil (2013-09-16): Merkel must ensure Germany takes a strong moral stand against NSA spying

How can we just shrug at the fact that our private lives are subject to unsanctioned state surveillance? We are in danger of forgetting that there is a crucial distinction between us choosing to have some personal data in a space where it might be accessible to strangers, and all our personal data being available for foreign spy agencies to view without permission, and without us having a clue. Article 10 of the German constitution enshrines the right of citizens to privacy — no surveillance of an individual is possible without court approval. This emphasises that only those who may be guilty should be watched. We cannot be complacent about how this basic law is being undermined by the NSA.

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