Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow
One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.
On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.
This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.
For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.
In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.
Edward Joseph Snowden
Monday 1st July 2013
Snowden is correct that the government wants to scare future potential leakers away before they even think about leaking any information, though that is not the sole objective. The current government reaction to Snowden is multifaceted.
The first objective for the government is to stop future leaks, by showing how harmful leaking is to the leaker. This will stop many from being willing to leak information even if it is of great importance to the public. Any potential leakers will definitely consider that if they are lucky they will only be exiled and ostracized. If they are unlucky they may well end up in prison for life. That threat alone will keep most quiet.
The second object is to intimidate the press from publishing leaks. The prosecutions and investigations into leaks and the press are an attempt to scare the press into complacency. If the government can cultivate fear of prosecution in the press then they can undermine the 1st amendment freedom of the press more than any court ruling ever could. The press’s fears will restrict their behavior more than the government ever could because fear can stop the press from following, investigating or publishing certain stories. Whereas the government can only address leaks once they occur, a fearful press can prevent leaks from garnering public attention in the first place.
Prevention of leaks through intimidation of future leakers and the press will serve the government’s interests best in the long run. It will stop problems before they even start.
The third objective is to discredit Snowden himself. By calling into question Snowden’s credibility they can mitigate the damage he has caused since fewer people will believe his information. This is a damage control tactic aimed at reducing the influence Snowden has over public opinion. They want to make it undesirable to listen to or believe anything Snowden says. Especially in the era of social media, individuals play a major role in spreading information and creating the public discourse. If the government can convince the public to reject Snowden then the can stifle the conversation around him and NSA surveillance.
The fourth objective is to avoid the issue by focusing on Snowden. By focusing on Snowden the government can get the public discourse to focus on a single individual and not on the information leaked by that individual. As long as we are talking about Snowden then we are not talking about the bigger questions of surveillance and the 4th amendment. It also diverts attention away from the government programs that were exposed. We are all too caught up in the drama surround Snowden and the leaks to pay attention to the broader implications. This is exactly what the government wants since discussing the surveillance programs is not beneficial for the government. In fact the government has been utilizing this tactic equisitely, there is far more focus and discussion about Snowden himself than there is about surveillance and rights. I am as guilty as any other in this regard, I too have been caught up in the drama unfolding and I have focused less on the core issue of privacy vs surveillance.
Thus the government wants to create fear surrounding leaking information to prevent individuals from leaking. The government also wants the press to fear investigation and prosecution for publishing leaks so as to prevent new sources from reporting on leaked information. Also the government seeks to discredit Snowden and thus mitigate the damage his information can cause. Finally the government seeks to shift the conversation from surveillance to Snowden in order to dodge the issue entirely.
We the people need to push back by keeping the conversation focused on our rights and the government surveillance programs. We have to try not to be distracted by the drama surrounding Snowden. We can’t focus on defending or attacking Snowden or his credibility. Instead we need to hammer home the fact that we are not happy about the surveillance programs that were revealed.