Wednesday, July 17, 2013







Starting with NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden. Eyder Peralta (NPR) reports, "Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked a cache of classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs, officially filed for temporary asylum in Russia on Tuesday, a human rights lawyer and WikiLeaks say."  Why temporary?  He may be planning on leaving Russia shortly.  Or he may be wanting a quick answer.  The process for temporary asylum is much quicker than if he would apply for permanent asylum.  If granted, it would provide him with a one-year temporary asylum which would give him the same standing -- during that year -- as a citizen of Russia. At the end of that year, he could apply for an extension or he could apply for permanent asylum.  That information is from a State Dept friend and goes a bit beyond what is offered by attorney Anatoly Kucherena who spoke with RIA Novosti today:

The lawyer said Snowden had chosen to apply for temporary asylum in Russia because he was tired, having been in the airport transit zone for about a month now. He added that if the leaker’s application for asylum is successful, he will get refugee status for one year, which will allow him to work and move around freely, and that status can be prolonged indefinitely.
Snowden would also need legal status in Russia in order to secure eventual passage to Latin American countries that have offered him asylum.

 The UK Register notes, "Russian president Vladimir Putin has described NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as an unwanted 'Christman present' from America."  Putin wouldn't have a formal voice in temporary asylum.  In fact, he should have no role in the decision.  Again, that's per State Dept friend, however, that's how the process is supposed to work and government processes don't always work as they are supposed to.

At today's US State Dept press briefing by Patrick Ventrell, the topic of Ed Snowden came up.

QUESTION: Patrick, new topic. Snowden?


QUESTION: So the U.S. has exhausted all options with Snowden and Russia with the extradition? Right?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we don’t have an extradition treaty with Russia. Broadly speaking, our policy remains the same, that we’d like him returned based on previous law enforcement cooperation we’ve had with Russia. We think there’s a basis to do that, and we’d like to see him come home to face justice. He should have the courage to come home to the United States and face the criminal charges against him.

QUESTION: But I mean, what’s left? How are you going to convince the Russians that he should come home?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we’ll continue to make, through law enforcement and diplomatic channels, our policy well known, and we have done so with the Russians, including up to the level of President Obama. So we’ll continue to make that case.

QUESTION: The Chinese got a kind of a free pass when they let him leave, go to Russia. We didn’t do anything and now what’s to say --

MR. VENTRELL: We expressed our very deep concern and I refer you to some of the remarks we made, indeed, during the S&ED about our deep concern about what the Chinese did. But --

QUESTION: But outside of a deep concern, what can the U.S. do to get Snowden back, besides asking?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, we look toward Russia – look to Russia for law enforcement cooperation based on some of the excellent law enforcement cooperation we’ve had in the past.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that they’re going to be cooperative in the future?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have any public readout of their thinking. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

QUESTION: But are – is the U.S. satisfied with the kind of cooperation it is getting from the Russians on the issue of Snowden?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I --

QUESTION: Are you dissatisfied with them?

MR. VENTRELL: The sooner we can get him home to face justice, the better.

QUESTION: Do you know about a lawyer, a Russian lawyer today – we saw him last week – saying that he has applied – requested temporary asylum in Russia. Do you have any confirmation?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have any confirmation on that one way or another. But we’ve said that he should come home and have the courage to come face the charges against him.

QUESTION: What would the U.S. response be if Russia does accept Snowden’s asylum request?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t want to get into a hypothetical, but I think the Russians know how strongly we feel on this case and how important it is for him to come home and face justice from our vantage point.

QUESTION: And what would they do if they didn’t accept it?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to get into a hypothetical.

While the State Dept and the White House and much of the US Congress works overtime to trash Ed Snowden, RT reports former US Senator Gordon Humphrey (New Hampshire, Republican) had e-mailed Snowden to pass on, "you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution."  When Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) contacted Humphrey to verify he had sent the earlier e-mail to Ed Snowden, he got a reply noting:

Yes. It was I who sent the email message to Edward Snowden, thanking him for exposing astonishing violations of the US Constitution and encouraging him to persevere in the search for asylum,” Humphrey wrote Greenwald. To my knowledge, Mr. Snowden has disclosed only the existence of a program and not details that would place any person in harm's way. I regard him as a courageous whistleblower,” he continued.
I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the US government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.”
Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out,” he concluded.

It's good to see people standing up for Ed.  He is under attack.  Mike observed last night, "I'm getting really tired of the people who can't focus on Ed Snowden.  They can't support him, they can't realize he was trying to help all of us. If you're not interested in Ed Snowden and you're on the left, it feels like, to me, you're not interested in saving yourself."  Melissa Harris Lacewell-Perry-for-now used her low rated MSNBC talk show to attack Ed (but she did get his name right, to her credit) with an embarrassing hectoring she passed off as an "open letter."

Fits of madness, pools of grief
Fevers of desire
How peculiar these remain
Salvaged from the fire

For some I crumpled
Some I burned
Some I tore to shreds
Lifetimes later, here they are
The ones I saved instead
Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent to you
Letters I never sent
Letters never sent to you

-- "Letters Never Sent," lyrics by Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, music by Carly, first appears on Carly's Letters Never Sent album

Gary Leupp (CounterPunch) responds to Melissa's open letter with one of his own (this is his third open letter to Melissa) and his response includes:

Do you not understand that, in the first few days following his revelations, the spin-doctors incensed at his whistle-blowing, searching around in their fevered minds, opted to portray this very low-key guy as an ego-driven publicity seeker?
I mean, you seem to be asking, by default: why else would a person in a position to know about what you yourself call “information…about surveillance [that] raises serious issues about the behaviors of our leaders and how they justify and hide those practices from the public” reveal that information, other than to draw attention to himself?
Is there no such thing as old-fashioned morality? And selfless attention to what’s right? And in this case, doing the right thing at colossal personal cost?
You’re not making sense, Melissa. All you’re doing is swearing a loyalty oath to people who do not deserve your loyalty. You’re known for fighting against harmful stereotypes of black women that make it difficult for them to assert their political rights. (Bravo.) But you are using your own rights and privileged access to the camera to promote the character assassination of a young man whose sole crime has been to offend “your” president—the one who has now eight times invoked the World War One-era “espionage” act to punish whistle-blowers.
You’re the bully here. Snowden’s not picking on you; you’re picking on him, and apparently relishing it. Feels so good, doesn’t it, standing up for the system like that, being so safe?

Last night, Ann noted Norman Solomon's latest column and she offered:

We can only do so much when the MSNBC whores who pretend to be left make a point of attacking him.  The airwaves are filled with attacks on Ed. So we need to make part of our effort in exposing these hypocrites like Melissa Harris Perry. She -- and people like her -- are ensuring that no real movement is going to take place.  Now or ever. These people need to be exposed for the frauds they are.

So let's again note that (Rebecca noted this) that Vanity Fair calls Ed Snowden a "turncoat" and that In These Times published Louis Nayman's crap ("In Defense of PRISM") which argues, as all the politically closeted must, that to call out Blessed Barack is to do the work of the Republicans.  In other words, there are whores and then are used up, worn out whores like Louis Nayman.  In These Times readers need to seriously consider whether the rag is worth anything anymore.
Melissa also felt the need to attack Glenn Greenwald:

We could be talking about whether accessing and monitoring citizen information and communications is constitutional, or whether we should continue to allow a secret court to authorize secret warrants using secret legal opinions. But we’re not. We’re talking about you! And flight paths between Moscow and Venezuela, and how much of a jerk Glenn Greenwald is.

We could also be talking about what kind of a mother Melissa Harris-Lacewell-Perry is.  That makes about as much sense, right?  Understand,  Ava and I were very kind at Third:

Melissa, especially needs stability.  Her family life is falling apart and if she doesn't like that being known she might ask her daughter not to talk so much at school about what goes on in the house.  We'll be really kind and leave it at that.

If Melissa wants to start a bitch-fest, we don't have to be kind and, warning to Lie Face Melissa, we will always out bitch her.  We've already sent her packing from Princeton does she really want us bending the ear of her MSNBC boss as well?

In fact, Lie Face Melissa probably shouldn't go after Glenn or anyone because she inhabits the ultimate glass house.  She began working on Barack's campaign in 2007 but went on Democracy Now! in January 2008 as an 'independent analyst' who 'forgot' to disclose that she was working on a campaign.  You're required to disclose.  In March 2008, she went on Charlie Rose to participate in a 'journalist' panel and all the other journalists weren't backing anyone -- only Melissa was working for a campaign -- a fact she 'forgot' to disclose -- and she also attacked Tavis Smiley and insisted to Charlie that people were attacking him -- forgetting to disclose that 'people' was Melissa with her bad blog post and her myriad of sock puppets.

She may think Glenn's "a jerk" and she's entitled to her opinion but if she wants to express it, she should realize that her unethical behavior has already cost her and she's damn lucky that for three years only Ava and I were calling her out.  Not on opinion, calling her out for ethical violations (we also shared with Princeton her public remarks about the students she was teaching -- her insulting public remarks about the students she was teaching).

I don't doubt that Glenn can have his "jerk" moments.  (I have mine and worse.  Most of us do.)  But that's really not an issue.  The issue is he broke the story that still stays in the news cycle all these weeks later.  Brendan Sasso (The Hill) reports, "A Unitarian church, a gun rights group and a host of other activist organizations on Tuesday sued to end the National Security Agency's massive phone record collection program."  The Electronic Freedom Foundation issued the following:

San Francisco - Nineteen organizations including Unitarian church groups, gun ownership advocates, and a broad coalition of membership and political advocacy organizations filed suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) today for violating their First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting their call records. The coalition is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group with years of experience fighting illegal government surveillance in the courts.
"The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA's mass, untargeted collection of Americans' phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years."
At the heart of First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA is the bulk telephone records collection program that was confirmed by last month's publication of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) further confirmed that this formerly secret document was legitimate, and part of a broader program to collect all major telecommunications customers' call histories. The order demands wholesale collection of every call made, the location of the phone, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other "identifying information" for every phone and call for all customers of Verizon for a period of three months. Government officials further confirmed that this was just one of series of orders issued on a rolling basis since at least 2006.
"People who hold controversial views – whether it's about gun ownership policies, drug legalization, or immigration – often must express views as a group in order to act and advocate effectively," said Cohn. "But fear of individual exposure when participating in political debates over high-stakes issues can dissuade people from taking part. That's why the Supreme Court ruled in 1958 that membership lists of groups have strong First Amendment protection. Telephone records, especially complete records collected over many years, are even more invasive than membership lists, since they show casual or repeated inquiries as well as full membership."
"The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles has a proud history of working for justice and protecting people in jeopardy for expressing their political views," said Rev. Rick Hoyt. "In the 1950s, we resisted the McCarthy hysteria and supported blacklisted Hollywood writers and actors, and we fought California's 'loyalty oaths' all the way to the Supreme Court. And in the 1980s, we gave sanctuary to refugees from civil wars in Central America. The principles of our faith often require our church to take bold stands on controversial issues. We joined this lawsuit to stop the illegal surveillance of our members and the people we serve. Our church members and our neighbors who come to us for help should not fear that their participation in the church might have consequences for themselves or their families. This spying makes people afraid to belong to our church community."
In addition to the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, the full list of plaintiffs in this case includes the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Calguns Foundation, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, People for the American Way, and TechFreedom.
EFF also represents the plaintiffs in Jewel v. NSA, a class action case filed on behalf of individuals in 2008 aimed at ending the NSA's dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. Last week, a federal court judge rejected the U.S. government's latest attempt to dismiss the case, allowing the allegations at the heart of the suit to move forward under the supervision of a public federal court.
For the full complaint in First Unitarian v. NSA:

Rebecca Jeschke
   Media Relations Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Dave Maass
   Media Relations Coordinator
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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