The Obama Victims: Edward Snowden
If there was one thing Obama and Clinton hated above anything else it was transparency, Edward Snowden former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former contractor for the United States government, copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 without prior authorization.
His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.
The ongoing publication of leaked documents has revealed previously unknown details of a global surveillance apparatus run by the United States’ NSA in close cooperation with three of its Five Eyes partners: Australia (ASD), the United Kingdom (GCHQ), Canada (CSEC) and New Zealand.
Snowden’s disclosures had created tensions between the U.S. and some of its close allies after they revealed that the U.S. had spied on Brazil, France, Mexico, Britain, China, Germany, and Spain, as well as 35 world leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said “spying among friends” was “unacceptable” and compared the NSA with the Stasi. Leaked documents published by Der Spiegel in 2014 appeared to show that the NSA had targeted 122 “high ranking” leaders.
The NSA’s top-secret “black budget,” obtained from Snowden by The Washington Post, exposed the “successes and failures” of the 16 spy agencies comprising the U.S. intelligence community, and revealed that the NSA was paying U.S. private tech companies for “clandestine access” to their communications networks. The agencies were allotted $52 billion for the 2013 fiscal year.
An NSA mission statement titled “SIGINT Strategy 2012-2016” affirmed that the NSA had plans for continued expansion of surveillance activities. Their stated goal was to “dramatically increase mastery of the global network” and “acquire the capabilities to gather intelligence on anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Leaked slides revealed in Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide, released in May 2014, showed that the NSA’s stated objective was to “Collect it All,” “Process it All,” “Exploit it All,” “Partner it All,” “Sniff it All” and “Know it All.”
On June 5, 2013, media reports documenting the existence and functions of classified surveillance programs and their scope began and continued throughout the entire year. The first program to be revealed was PRISM, which allows for court-approved direct access to Americans’ Google and Yahoo accounts, reported from both The Washington Post and The Guardian published one hour apart
On June 14, 2013, United States federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Snowden, charging him with theft of government property, and two counts of violating the Espionage Act through unauthorized communication of national defense information and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.” Each of the three charges carries a maximum possible prison term of ten years. The charge was initially secret and was unsealed a week later.
Edward Snowden was also accused of working with Russia, Obama’s obsession with damaging Russia has no bounds.
On Meet the Press in late January 2014, speculation arose from top U.S. officials in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that Snowden might have been assisted by Russian intelligence, prompting a rare interview during which Snowden spoke in his defense. He told The New Yorker “this ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd,” adding that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.” Investigations by the NSA and the FBI found no evidence that Snowden received any aid. Days later, Feinstein stated that she had seen no evidence that Snowden is a Russian spy. Germany’s Der Spiegel suggested the accusations were part of a “smear campaign” by U.S. officials. For Snowden, the smears did not “mystify” him; he said that “outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.”
Snowden was asked in a January 2014 interview about returning to the U.S. to face the charges in court, as Obama had suggested a few days prior. Snowden explained why he rejected the request: “What he doesn’t say are that the crimes that he’s charged me with are crimes that don’t allow me to make my case. They don’t allow me to defend myself in an open court to the public and convince a jury that what I did was to their benefit. … So it’s, I would say, illustrative that the President would choose to say someone should face the music when he knows the music is a show trial.
“Snowden’s legal representative, Jesselyn Radack, wrote that “the Espionage Act effectively hinders a person from defending himself before a jury in an open court, as past examples show,” referring to Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou and Chelsea Manning. Radack said that the “arcane World War I law” was never meant to prosecute whistleblowers, but rather spies who sold secrets to enemies for profit. Under this law, she states, “no prosecution of a non-spy can be fair or just.”
On October 29, 2015, the European Parliament voted 285 to 281 for a non-binding resolution for EU states to drop criminal charges against Snowden and prevent his extradition by third parties, in recognition of “his status as a whistle-blower and international human rights defender”, reflecting fears of mass surveillance from European nations. Snowden responded in Twitter by calling it a “game-changer” and “not a blow against the US government”, but rather “a chance to move forward.”