E.Snowden: Whistleblowing is an act of political resistance

E.Snowden: Whistleblowing is an act of political resistance

Photo: Wired

"I waited 40 years for someone like you." These were the first words that o Daniel Ellsberg told me when we met last year. Dan and I felt an immediate intimacy, and we both knew what it meant to take so many risks - and to change irrevocably - by revealing hidden truths.

One of the challenges of being an informant is that you live with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just like you did, in the same offices, in the same unit, throughout the organization, who see what you saw and complied with silently, without resistance or complaint. They learn to live not just with mistakes, but with unnecessary miscarriages, dangerous mistakes, corrosive mistakes. This is a double tragedy: What begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being who wanted to protect and the reduction of democracy that would justify this sacrifice.

But unlike Dan Ellsberg, I did not have to wait 40 years to see other citizens break this silence with documents. Ellsberg gave the "Pentagon Papers" to New Y Times and other newspapers the 1971. H Chelsea Manning provided logs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and Cablegate WikiLeaks This makes it a perfect choice for people with diabetes and for those who want to lose weight or follow a balanced diet. 2010. I revealed it 2013. We are now at 2016, and another person, with courage and conscience, made available all the remarkable documents published in The Assassination Complex, the new book released today by Jeremy Scahill and The staff Intercept (The documents were originally published on October 15 in The Drone Papers).

We are witnessing a compression of the active period in which bad policies can take refuge in the shadows, the time frame in which unconstitutional activities can continue before they are revealed by acts of conscience. And this time compression matters beyond the headlines. It allows the people of this country to learn about critical government action, not as part of the historical record, but in a way that allows direct action through voting - in other words, in a way that empowers informed citizens to stand up for democracy , which they are supposed to be trying to defend "state secrets". Seeing people who are capable of disclosing information gives me hope that we will not have to stop our government's illegal activities forever as if it were a steady task, uprooting the official illegality with the frequency of mowing the lawn. (Interestingly enough, some have begun to describe remote assassination operations as "cutting the grass.")

A single act of denunciation does not change the reality that there are important government departments operating under the waterline under the public's visibility. These secret activities will continue, despite the reforms. But those who carry out these actions now have to live in the fear that if they engage in activities that oppose the spirit of society - even if a citizen acts as a catalyst to stop the machine of injustice - they could be held accountable. The thread to which good governance hangs is equality before the law, because the only fear of the person who moves the gears is that they can be found against them.

Hope lies further when we move from remarkable acts of revelation to a collective accountability culture within the intelligence gathering community. Then we will have made a substantial step towards resolving a problem that has been so long as our government.

Not all leaks are the same, nor are their perpetrators. The general David Petraeus, for example, provided his illegitimate lover and favored biographer with information so secretive that it defied any rankings, including the names of undercover agents and the president's private views on strategic matters. Petraeus was not prosecuted for the crime, as originally recommended by the Ministry of Justice, but was instead allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. If an acting mediocre soldier removed a pile of highly classified notebooks and handed them to his girlfriend just to ensure a smile, he would face decades of imprisonment rather than a pile of ingredients for his character from the Deep State foam.

There are authorized leaks as well as leaked disclosures. It is rare for senior administration officials to explicitly ask a subordinate to leak the name of a CIA agent in retaliation against her husband, as seems to have been the case. Valerie Plame. It is equally rare for a month to pass without a senior official revealing protected information that is beneficial to the political efforts of the parties, but clearly "detrimental to national security" as defined by our legislation.

This dynamics can be seen clearly in the history of al-Qaeda's "disastrous teleconference," in which intelligence officials, possibly seeking to inflate the terrorist threat and ward off criticism of mass surveillance, unveiled a neoconservative website extremely detailed reports on specific conversations that were intercepted, including the locations of the participants and the exact content of the discussions. If the allegations of the officials are believed, they irrevocably burned an excellent means of learning the precise plans and intentions of the terrorist leadership for the sake of a short-lived political advantage in a news circle. Neither a person seems to have been disciplined as a result of history that has cost us the opportunity to hear the supposed al-Qaeda phone line.

If harmfulness and empowerment make no difference, what explains the distinction between permissive and unauthorized disclosure?

The answer is control. A leak is acceptable if it can not be seen as a threat, as a challenge to institutionalized privileges. But if all the dissimilar elements of the institution - not just his head, but his arms and legs, every part of his body - should be considered to have the same power to discuss issues of concern, this is a an existential threat to the modern political monopoly of information control, especially if we are talking about revelations about serious illegalities, fraudulent activity, illegal activities. If you can not guarantee that only you can take advantage of the flow of controlled information, then the set of all the unseen secrets of the world - including yours - starts to look more like an obstacle rather than a qualification.

manning-poster Snowden

Indeed, unauthorized disclosures are necessarily an act of resistance - when they are not simply for consumption in the press, in order to "inflate" the public presence or the reputation of an institution. However, this does not mean that they all come from the lower work stratum. Sometimes the people who come forward happen to be near the top of the power. Ellsberg was at the top. He informed the Minister of National Defense. You can not go much higher unless you are the Minister of National Defense and there is simply no incentive for such a high-ranking official to engage in public interest revelations, because that person already has the influence to change politics directly.

At the other end of the spectrum is Manning, a low-ranking soldier, who was much closer to the base of the hierarchy. I was in the middle of my professional career. I was sitting at the table with the CIA chief of intelligence, informing him and his chief technology officer when they made public statements like "We're trying to collect everything and keep it forever," and everyone still thought it was a cute business slogan. In the meantime I was designing the systems they would use to achieve just that. I was not informing the political side, the Minister of National Defense, but I was informing the operational side, the technology director of the National Security Service. Formal torts can act as a catalyst for insiders with varying degrees of disclosure of information, even at great risk to themselves, as long as they can be persuaded that it is necessary to do so.

The challenge is to get in touch with these people, to help them realize that their primary faith as public servants is towards the public rather than the government. This is a major change in mentality for a government worker today.snowden

I have argued that the whistleblowers are elected by the circumstance. It's not a virtue that has to do with who you are or your background. It is a question about what you are exposed to, what you are witnessing. At that point the question is, "Do you sincerely believe that you have the capacity to remedy the problem, to influence politics?" I would not encourage people to disclose information, even for torts, if they do not believe they can do so effectively way because the right moment can be as rare as the will to act.

This is simply a pragmatic, strategic vision. Informers are at the extremes of odds, and in order to be effective as a political force, it is vital to maximize the amount of public goods produced by the rare sprouts. When I took my decision, I came to understand how a strategic vision, such as waiting until the month before the domestic elections, could be oppressed by another, such as the moral imperative to give the opportunity to interrupt a global trend he had already overdone it. I was focused on what I saw and the feeling of overwhelming deprivation of my political rights because the government, which I had believed for my whole life, had been involved in such a remarkable act of deception.

At the heart of this development is that the discovery of irregularities is a manifestation of radicalization - and with the term "radical" I do not mean "extreme". I mean it in the traditional sense of radix, the root of the problem. At some point you recognize that you can not just move a few letters around a page hoping for the best. You can not just report this problem to your supervisor, as I tried to do, because inevitably the bosses are anxious. They think of the structural risk for their career. They are worried that they will stir up the waters and get a "bad reputation". There are no incentives to produce a meaningful reform. Essentially, in an open society, change must flow from the bottom to the top.

As someone working in the intelligence community, you have sacrificed a lot to do this job. You have gladly bind yourself to tyrannical limitations. If you voluntarily submit to lie detectors, you reveal to the government everything about your life. You are estranged from many rights, because you believe that the fundamental goodness of your mission justifies the sacrifice even of anything sacred. It is a just cause.

And when you are faced with evidence - not in an extreme case, not in a peculiarity but as a basic consequence of the program - that the government undermines the Constitution and violates the ideals that you so strongly believe in, you should make a decision. When you see that the program or policy contrasts with vows and duties you have vowed against your own society and yourself then that oath and this duty can not be reconciled with the program. Who do you owe more credit?

One of the most remarkable things about the revelations of the past several years and their accelerating pace is that they have happened in the United States as the "undisputed superpower". We now have the largest undisputed military machine in the history of the world, and this is supported by a political system that is increasingly willing to allow any use of force in response to almost any jusolguidance. In the current context, this justification is terrorism, but not necessarily because our leaders are particularly worried about terrorism itself or because they think it is an existential threat to society. They acknowledge that even if we had an attack like 11 in September every year, we would continue to lose more people from road accidents and heart disease, and we do not see the same resource costs to respond to these most important threats.

Where we end up being true is the political reality that we have a political class that feels it must be vaccinated against the claims of weakness. Our politicians are more afraid of terrorism policy - accusations of not taking terrorism seriously - than it is from the crime itself.

As a result, we have reached this unparalleled possibility, unchecked by politics. We have become dependent on what was going to be the ultimate limitation: the courts. Judges, realizing that their decisions are suddenly charged with far greater political significance and impact than originally foreseen, have gone a long way in the period since 11 September to avoid revising the laws or acts of the executive in the of national security and the determination of restrictive judgments that, even if they were entirely correct, would impose limits on the government for decades or more. This means that the most powerful institution ever seen by mankind has become the least limited. However, the same instrument has never been designed to function in such a way, but has been explicitly established at the beginning of checks and balances. Our founding impulse was to say, "Although we are strong, we are willingly limited."

When you first take office at CIA headquarters, you raise your hand and swear - not to the government, not to the service, not to secrecy. You swear by the Constitution. So there is this friction, this emerging competition between the obligations and values ​​that your government is asking you to abide by, and the actual activities you are called upon to participate in.

These disclosures about the Obama administration's murder program reveal that there is a section of Americans deeply concerned about the unlimited, uncontrolled power exercise. And there is no greater or clearer expression of uncontrollable power than to claim for yourself the right to execute a person outside the battlefield and without engaging in any kind of judicial process.

Traditionally, in the context of military affairs, we have always understood that the use of fatal violence in the battle could not be subject to ex ante judicial constraints. When the armies fight against each other, there is no room for a judge in the battlefield. But now the government has decided - without public participation, without our knowledge and consent - that the battlefield is everywhere. Individuals who are not a direct threat in any meaningful sense of these terms redefine them through undermining use language so that these definitions are met.

Inevitably, this conceptual undermining results, together with the technology that allows officials to promote convenient hallucinations for surgical precision killing and non-invasive surveillance. Take, for example, the Holy Grail of use unmanned aerial vehicles (drone) lasting operation, a possibility the United States has always sought. The goal is to develop solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles that can hover in the air for weeks without going down. Once you have the ability to do this, and place any standard signal collector at the bottom to constantly monitor the origin of, for example, the different network addresses of each laptop, smartphone and iPod, you are able to know not only where a particular device is located and in which city, but also to know in which apartment there is each device, which goes at any time and through which route. Once you know the devices, you know their owners. When you start doing this for several cities, you are now watching the movements not only of individuals but of entire populations.

By exploit the modern need to stay connected, governments can reduce our dignity to something similar to that of tagged animals, with the main difference that we paid for our labels and these are in our pockets. It sounds like fantastic paranoia, but at a technical level it is so trivial to be applied so I can not imagine a future in which it will not be attempted. Initially it will be restricted to war zones, according to our customs, but surveillance technology tends to follow us at home.

Here we see the double face of our unique American brand of nationalism. We have been brought up with the principles of excellence, to think that we are the best nation with the declaratory destiny to lead. The danger is that some people will really believe this claim and some of them will expect the manifestation of our national identity, that is, our government, to behave accordingly.

Uncontrolled power can be many things, but it is not American. It is in this sense that the act of revealing illegality has become an act of political resistance. The informant rings the alarm and raises the light bulb, inheriting the tradition of a series of Americans starting with Paul Revere.

The people who make these revelations feel so strongly about what they have seen who are willing to risk their lives and their freedom. They know that we, the people, are ultimately the strongest and most reliable control of the government's power. Initiates at the highest levels of the government have excellent ability, excellent resources, immense access to influence and the monopoly of violence, but in the ultimate account there is only one scheme that matters: every citizen separately.

And we are more than us:

Article Source: https://theintercept.com

Translation:  https://medialibre.net

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E.Snowden: Whistleblowing is an act of political resistance

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