Top Dems condemn Snowden

SUBHEAD: Via satellite at Bard College Snowden disputed Clinton’s claim that he bypassed whistleblower protections.

By Tom McCartney on 16 October 2015 for the Guardian -

Image above: Edward Snowden speaks, via video-conference, at Bard College in New York on Friday. Photo by Beka Geodde. From original article.

Edward Snowden has accused Hillary Clinton of “a lack of political courage” for her assertion during the Democratic presidential debate this week that the whistleblower had bypassed options for disclosing illegal government spying programs that would have protected him and not violated the law.

Speaking via satellite at a privacy conference at New York’s Bard College on Friday, Snowden said:
“Hillary Clinton’s claims are false here.”
“This is important, right?” Snowden told an audience at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College. “Truth should matter in politics, and courage should matter in politics, because we need change. Everyone knows we need change. And we have been aggrieved and in many ways misled by political leaders in the past.”

Before Snowden spoke, Clinton repeated the claim on Friday, at a campaign appearance in New Hampshire. After a voter said Snowden was “close to a patriot,” BuzzFeed reported, Clinton disagreed and said he could have received whistleblower protections but instead chose to break the law.

“He broke the laws of the United States,” Clinton said at the debate on Tuesday. “He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised.

And I think there would have been a positive response to that.”

Multiple passes at fact-checking Clinton’s claim this week have concluded that “the protections of being a whistleblower” do not exist in the real world and did not apply to Snowden.

A 1989 whistleblower law, for example, does not apply to intelligence community employees. A separate law for would-be intelligence whistleblowers has been deemed a trap because it has led not to protections but to prosecutions.

“There is, I think, in many ways a lack of political courage in the established class that we expect to champion [our rights],” Snowden said at Bard, to enthusiastic applause.
The second US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled in May that the dragnet phone metadata collection program exposed by Snowden was indeed illegal.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session that lasted the better part of two hours, Snowden also rejected the premise of a question at the debate as to whether he was a hero or traitor. He discussed his Twitter habits, criticized Facebook for taking the side of the government over the side of users, and he praised the unidentified whistleblower who provided documents relating to drone warfare published on Thursday in an exposé by The Intercept.

“Thanks to some extraordinary whistleblower who provided this information to the Intercept, we now know that these drone attacks that claimed the lives of innocents, 90% of the time, nine out of 10 of those killed are not the intended targets,” Snowden said.

He dismissed the hero-or-traitor question, which CNN host Anderson Cooper posed at the presidential debate.

“I reject both [labels],” Snowden said. “Because even though people say being a hero would be a good thing, it’s other-izing, it’s distancing, it’s, ‘This person did something I could never do in that situation’ – that’s absolutely not true.”

Asked about being a privacy advocate who has nonetheless become active on Twitter, Snowden said he uses Tor and other “privacy-enhancing technologies” to protect his personal information when he uses social media.

He did not appear to be a Facebook user. “They’re really unwilling to make a commitment to the user,” Snowden said of the site. “They really need to decide who they work for – the government, or the people who use their services.”

Asked whether he was willing to face charges for leaking classified material, Snowden said that the law under which he has been charged, the Espionage Act of 1917, would not allow him to make the case that he had acted in the public good.

Snowden said he had been in contact with the government – apparently not recently – about how some kind of plea deal would work.

“They said ‘Well, we won’t torture you’,” Snowden said. “‘But we haven’t got beyond that.’”

Sanders & Clinton condemn Snowden
SUBHEAD: Both Democratic presidential candidates say Snowden should face criminal prosecution for revealing NSA secrets.

By Sam Thielman on 13 October 2015 for the Guardian -

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred over Edward Snowden during Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate with both calling for him to face trial, but with the Vermont senator saying he thought the NSA whistleblower had “played a very important role in educating the American people”.

Clinton was unmoved by public approbation for Snowden, who exposed the depths of US and UK surveillance to media including the Guardian in 2013.

“He broke the laws of the United States,” she said. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of a whistleblower. He chose not to do that. He stole very important information that has fallen into the wrong hands so I think he should not be brought home without facing the music.”

Snowden has said he did not believe he was granted adequate protection from reprisal under whistleblower laws. Laws protecting whistleblowers in intelligence agencies are written differently from laws protecting others who oppose their employers – including in the government – on grounds of conscience, and are generally considered comparatively weak.

Sanders – Clinton’s main challenger for the Democratic nomination – was more lenient. “I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American public,” the Vermont senator said. He, too, said that Snowden had broken the law and suggested that he ought to be tried. “I think there should be a penalty to that,” he said. “But I think that education should be taken into consideration before the sentencing.”

Jim Webb, the Virginia senator and former secretary of the navy, said the decision should be left to the courts, and Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, agreed with Clinton. Lincoln Chafee, the former Rhode Island governor, was the only candidate to say he would bring Snowden back to the US as a hero; that answer drew a positive response online.

Clinton’s claim that the information Snowden made public “has fallen into the wrong hands” could be reference to a disputed Times of London story that the leak exposed undercover agents. It could also refer to Snowden’s own admission that inadequate redaction of classified images he supplied to the New York Times was “a fuck-up”.

Ewen MacAskill, the Pulitzer prize-winning Guardian journalist who worked on the Snowden story, has pointed out that no evidence has ever been put forward suggesting that the Snowden documents were hacked or that Snowden himself handed the material to any person or agency other than reputable news outlets.

When moderator Anderson Cooper asked Clinton whether she regretted voting for the Patriot Act, she gave a flat: “No.”

“I don’t,” she said. “I think that it was necessary to make sure that we were able after 9/11 to put in place the security that we needed.” Clinton did allow that the act’s notorious section 215, which allowed for essentially unlimited data collection, had been interpreted overbroadly.

The provisions of the Patriot Act, a law broadening the powers of American intelligence and law enforcement agencies passed just weeks after 9/11, have widely been criticized as too broad and being without accountability.

Among them are the expansion of the secret Fisa court system and a framework for the standards for the collection of personal information from citizens who are not suspected or accused of any crime.

Sanders – who voted against the act multiple times, including against its original incarnation in the House of Representatives – said unequivocally that he would end bulk data collection by the NSA.
Clinton demurred. “It’s not easy to balance privacy and security but we have to keep them both in mind,” she said.

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