Friday, July 19, 2013






Starting with NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden who remains in Russia.  Kasie Hunt and Kelly O'Donnell (NBC News) report US Senator Lindsey Graham "has told NBC News that the United States should consider boycotting the upcoming Winter Games if Russian President Vladimir Putin grants leaker Edward Snowden asylum -- a suggestion that a top U.S. Olympic official quickly rejected." First off, Putin has no say in temporary asylum.  The process involves one ministry only.  As we noted Tuesday, "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."  The temporary process also moves quickly.  As from Graham's suggestion?

Stupidest thing in the world.  Unless he's trying to get kicked out of the Senate.  In 1980, the US boycotted the summer Olympics in Moscow.  Jimmy Carter was President of the United States then.  The decision was costly in so many ways.  First off, US citizens have been training for four years.  Second off, this politicizes the Olympics which are not supposed to be politicized.  Third, do you realize how much money is at play right now?  NBC suits will not be forgiving (NBC is carrying the Winter Olympics).  That's a ton of ad revenue at stake and they've got nothing currently to plug into the schedule if the US doesn't compete.  (And if the US doesn't compete, they could still air the Olympics but the US ratings would be in the toilet.)

Again, if Graham's trying to retire from the Senate, this is the way to do it.  He will be publicly vilified for weeks should this take place.  Chris Moody (Yahoo News) reports US House Speaker John Boehner has responded, stating, "Listen, I love Sen. Graham.  We've been close friends for 20 years. But I think he's dead wrong.  Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who have been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can't find a place to call home?"

Traitor?  A traitor would be someone, for example, in Congress who took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then worked to secretly destroy the Bill of Rights.  That would qualify as a traitor.  Ed Snowden?  Nope.  But Boehner's remarks put him in the same camp as the editor of The Moscow Times' Michael Bohm.   In other words, Boehner's talking like the Kremlin.  How strange it must be for his home district.

Roger Runnigen (Bloomberg News) reports the White House's stomping feet and pity party may mean that a September summit with Putin is called off, "Canceling the Putin meeting, announced in June, would deal a blow to administration efforts to bolster already strained relations with Russia and would be a direct challenge to the Russian’s prestige on the world stage."  Whether the meeting is on or off isn't the only thing the White House is staying silent on.  Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reports:

The Obama administration is refusing to say whether it will seek to renew a court order that permits the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records on millions of Verizon customers when it at the end of this week.
Officials declined to discuss what action they intend to take about the order at the center of the current surveillance scandal, which formally expires at 5pm Friday.

Yesterday  PBS' The NewsHour (link is video, audio and text) featured a debate on the topic between whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers) and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey

DANIEL ELLSBERG, former State Department official: Pardon me, but listening to that just now, I have to smile at the thought that our friends will be very upset about the thought that Snowden had exposed that we were spying on them, which he has done.
I must say, I think a lot of them would be envious of our capability. I think Russia and China would be envious of our capability, the NSA capabilities. It's exactly what they want in countries that aren't exactly democratic.
My concern is that the very existence of this kind of capability chills free speech in a disastrous way. I cannot see how there can be investigative reporting of the national security community, when the identity, the location, the metadata, and really the contents of every communication between a journalist and every source, every journalist, every source, is known to the executive branch, especially one that has been prosecuting twice as many journalist -- sources as any president before.
Moreover, my even larger concern is, I don't see how democracy can survive when one branch, the executive branch, has all the personal communications of every member of Congress, and every judge, every member of the judiciary, as well as the press, the fourth estate that I have just been describing.
I don't see how the blackmail capability that's involved there can be -- will not be abused, as it has happened in the past, including to me, by the way, and to other -- and to journalists.
 Without that freedom to investigative or bring checks and balances, we won't have a real democracy. That's my concern.
But Snowden's whistle-blowing is having an impact on Americans.  Mark Clayton (Christian Science Monitor) reports:

Roughly 70 lawsuits have been filed since 2005 alleging that secret US surveillance programs violated someone's constitutional rights, but federal judges have dismissed most of the cases before the merits of the charges were ever heard, these experts say. In particular, plaintiffs have stumbled over the challenge of gaining legal standing to even bring suit against the government, primarily because they could not identify the secret surveillance program that they claimed had harmed them.
But fugitive leaker Edward Snowden, who in June divulged to reporters top-secret documents about two US surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA), may have provided a way to get around that hurdle, constitutional lawyers say. Since the Snowden leak (and US officials' subsequent confirmation that the documents are real), at least five lawsuits have been filed, the latest on Tuesday, alleging that the NSA program to track all Americans' telephone records violates the US Constitution.

Ed Snowden's whistle-blowing had made a real impact.  Yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing would not have taken place without those revelations.  Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte asked near the start of the hearing, "Why not simply have told the American people that we're engaging in this type of activity in terms of gathering the information?"

Asking a simple question, it turns out, is much easier than getting an answer. Ali Watkins (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: US House Rep Jerrold Nadler stating,  "The fact that a secret court unaccountable to public knowledge of what it’s doing . . . may join you in misusing or abusing the statutes is of no comfort whatsoever.  So to tell me you go to the FISA court is irrelevant."

The hearing was on the spying and the FISA court.   The first panel was made up of DoJ's James Cole, NSA's John C. Inglis, Office of Director of National Intelligence's Robert S. Litt and the FBI's Stephanie Douglas.  The second panel was Steptoe & Johnson, LLP's Stewart Baker, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer and CNSS' Kate Martin.  We covered it in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "FISA rulings," Wally covered it in "Proof that we should be thanking Ed Snowden (Wally)" and Ava covered it in "House Judiciary Committee hearing."

Ranking Member John Conyers attempted to get some straight answers.

Ranking Member John Conyers:  If only relevant conversations can be secured under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, then why on earth would we find now that we are collecting the names of everybody in the United States of America who made any calls for the last 6 years or more?

Stephanie Douglas:  Sir, we're not collecting names.  215 only collects phone numbers, the time and date of the phone call and the duration of the phone call.

Ranking Member John Conyers:  Well how do you consider that to be relevant to anything if there is only collecting the names.  I mean, look, if this is an innocent pastime we just do to keep busy or for some other reason why on earth would be collecting just the numbers of everybody in the United States of America for at least six years?

Stephanie Douglas:  I can speak to the, uhm, applications against investigations and, in this case for 216, it would be specific to counterterrorism investigations, uhm, that information enables us to, uh, search against connections to other, uh, if there's a communication between a US-based phone number and a phone number that is overseas related to terrorism. And I know that Mr. Inglis explained to you the reasonable articula -- articulable suspicion standard by which we have to search against those phone numbers.

Ranking Member John Conyers: Well here-here we're faced with the fundamental problem in this hearing.  We're not questioning access, we're talking about the collection in the first instance. In the first instance when you collect the phone numbers of everybody in the United States for over six years, there wasn't anything relevant in those conversations.  Now you have them.  What I've been getting out of all of this is that they may -- "This access may become valuable, Mr. Ranking Member, and so that's why we do it this way." But I maintain that the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable search and seizure to mean that this mega data collected in such a super aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else.  You've already violated the law, as far as I am concerned.  And that is, in my view, the problem.  And of course to further document the first question that the Chairman of this Committee asked -- is why didn't we just tell everybody about it -- is because the American people would be totally outraged -- as they are getting now as they become familiar with this -- that every phone number that they've ever called is already a matter of record.  And we skip over whether the collection was a Fourth Amendment violation, we just say that the access proved, in one case or two, that it was very important and that's why we did it this way.

The witnesses' non-answers and rationalizing was frustrating throughout the hearing.   James Risen (New York Times) observes:

While administration officials defended the surveillance during the hearing, several lawmakers said that the data collection was unsustainable, and that Congress would move to either revoke the legislative authorization for the bulk collection now or at least refuse to renew it when it expires in 2015. Mr. [James] Sensenbrenner interrupted James Cole, a deputy attorney general, to say, “Unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed.”

Last night, Ava noted the disrespect shown the Committee by the witnesses on the first panel.  She wrote about how the Committee members were talked down to and she's correct.  The witnesses were not respectful and they behaved as if they owned the House.  Sari Horwitz and William Branigin (Washington Post) report, "The sharp and sometimes angry questioning stood in stark contrast to the tone of hearings on the surveillance programs by congressional intelligence committees in recent weeks."

In the House (as in the Senate), during rounds of questioning, each member of the Committee is limited to a set time.  (It's five minutes in the House.)  Conyers' time had expired and he wrapped up -- or thought he had when he was interrupted.

Ranking Member John Conyers: This is unsustainable, it's outrageous and must be stopped immediately.  

John Inglis:  Sir, if I may compliment the answer Ms. Douglas gave, uh, with respect to the question of relevance, of course it must be legally relevant and it must therefore have operational relevance.  I'd like to address the operational relevance and then defer to my colleagues.

Ranking Member John Conyers:  Well you don't -- Wait a minute.  We're handling this discussion.  I, uh, I asked her.  Maybe somebody else can do it.  But my time has expired.  And I appreciate you're volunteering to help out here but it's clear to me that we have a very serious violation of the law in which the Judiciary Committee deliberately put in the issue of relevance.  And now you're going to help me out and defer to somebody else?

John Inglis:  No, sir, I meant to actually provide additional information. I'd be happy to take the question for the record if time is not allowing that.

 Ranking Member John Conyers: Well in all fairness -- 

Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte: Without exception, the gentleman is recognized for an additional minute to allow another member of the panel to answer the question if he so chooses.

Ranking Member John Conyers:  No, I don't so choose.  I'm satisfied exactly with what I've gotten from the witness I asked the question to.

Former US Senator Gordon Humphrey wrote POLITIO about Ed Snowden, "Respectfully, I say to Sweden, ‘\'America has done wrong in this instance. Stand up to her. Grant Edward Snowden asylum. You will do the people of the United States a great favor to resist their government in this matter and at this moment.."

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Thursday, July 18, 2013







This morning, US House Rep Ted Deutch noted he worries "about the balance between legitimate security needs and the constituationally protected rights of all Americans" and declared, "I believe it's time to rexemine the Patriot Act, insert greater accountability into the FISA court and ensure our laws cannot be interpreted behind the backs of the American public."

He was speaking at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on FISA.  The Committee Chair is Bob Goodlatte and the Ranking Member is John Conyers.  The first panel was made up of DoJ's James Cole, NSA's John C. Inglis, Office of Director of National Intelligence's Robert S. Litt and the FBI's Stephanie Douglas.  The second panel was Steptoe & Johnson, LLP's Stewart Baker, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer and CNSS' Kate Martin.

Storyteller Stewart Baker  babbled before the House Judiciary Committee and made the claim that FISA was 'constrained' under Bill Clinton and this resulted in the "wall" between intelligence and law enforcement which prevented the capture of the 9-11 hijackers.  Jamie Gorelick, tear down this wall!  Are we really back to that nonsense?  (If there was a wall, it dates back to the Reagan era.)  Baker loves fairy tales.  Let's deal with how the so-called wall allegedly caused 9-11.  From SourceWatch:

Coleen Rowley, who served as chief counsel of the FBI's Minneapolis field office, "in a 13-page memo, outlined how FBI headquarters thwarted agents' attempts to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker. The 'bombshell memo' led bureau chief Robert Mueller to reorganize the agency. Rowley testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June about the FBI bureaucracy that frustrates agents' attempts at innovative investigation and mires them in paperwork." [1]

 From Rowley's May 21, 2002 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller:

1) The Minneapolis agents who responded to the call about Moussaoui's flight training identified him as a terrorist threat from a very early point. The decision to take him into custody on August 15, 2001, on the INS "overstay" charge was a deliberate one to counter that threat and was based on the agents' reasonable suspicions. While it can be said that Moussaoui's overstay status was fortuitous, because it allowed for him to be taken into immediate custody and prevented him receiving any more flight training, it was certainly not something the INS coincidentally undertook of their own volition. I base this on the conversation I had when the agents called me at home late on the evening Moussaoui was taken into custody to confer and ask for legal advice about their next course of action. The INS agent was assigned to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and was therefore working in tandem with FBI agents.
2) As the Minneapolis agents' reasonable suspicions quickly ripened into probable cause, which, at the latest, occurred within days of Moussaoui's arrest when the French Intelligence Service confirmed his affiliations with radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and activities connected to Osama Bin Laden, they became desperate to search the computer lap top that had been taken from Moussaoui as well as conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects. The agents in particular believed that Moussaoui signaled he had something to hide in the way he refused to allow them to search his computer.
3) The Minneapolis agents' initial thought was to obtain a criminal search warrant, but in order to do so, they needed to get FBI Headquarters' (FBIHQ's) approval in order to ask for DOJ OIPR's approval to contact the United States Attorney's Office in Minnesota. Prior to and even after receipt of information provided by the French, FBIHQ personnel disputed with the Minneapolis agents the existence of probable cause to believe that a criminal violation had occurred/was occurring. As such, FBIHQ personnel refused to contact OIPR to attempt to get the authority. While reasonable minds may differ as to whether probable cause existed prior to receipt of the French intelligence information, it was certainly established after that point and became even greater with successive, more detailed information from the French and other intelligence sources. The two possible criminal violations initially identified by Minneapolis Agents were violations of Title 18 United States Code Section 2332b (Acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, which, notably, includes "creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to any other person by destroying or damaging any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States or by attempting or conspiring to destroy or damage any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States") and Section 32 (Destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities). It is important to note that the actual search warrant obtained on September 11th was based on probable cause of a violation of Section 32.1 Notably also, the actual search warrant obtained on September 11th did not include the French intelligence information. Therefore, the only main difference between the information being submitted to FBIHQ from an early date which HQ personnel continued to deem insufficient and the actual criminal search warrant which a federal district judge signed and approved on September 11th, was the fact that, by the time the actual warrant was obtained, suspected terrorists were known to have highjacked planes which they then deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. To say then, as has been iterated numerous times, that probable cause did not exist until after the disasterous event occurred, is really to acknowledge that the missing piece of probable cause was only the FBI's (FBIHQ's) failure to appreciate that such an event could occur. The probable cause did not otherwise improve or change. When we went to the United States Attorney's Office that morning of September 11th, in the first hour after the attack, we used a disk containing the same information that had already been provided to FBIHQ; then we quickly added Paragraph 19 which was the little we knew from news reports of the actual attacks that morning. The problem with chalking this all up to the "20-20 hindsight is perfect" problem, (which I, as all attorneys who have been involved in deadly force training or the defense of various lawsuits are fully appreciative of), is that this is not a case of everyone in the FBI failing to appreciate the potential consequences. It is obvious, from my firsthand knowledge of the events and the detailed documentation that exists, that the agents in Minneapolis who were closest to the action and in the best position to gauge the situation locally, did fully appreciate the terrorist risk/danger posed by Moussaoui and his possible co-conspirators even prior to September 11th. Even without knowledge of the Phoenix communication (and any number of other additional intelligence communications that FBIHQ personnel were privy to in their central coordination roles), the Minneapolis agents appreciated the risk. So I think it's very hard for the FBI to offer the "20-20 hindsight" justification for its failure to act! Also intertwined with my reluctance in this case to accept the "20-20 hindsight" rationale is first-hand knowledge that I have of statements made on September 11th, after the first attacks on the World Trade Center had already occurred, made telephonically by the FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) who was the one most involved in the Moussaoui matter and who, up to that point, seemed to have been consistently, almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents' efforts (see number 5). Even after the attacks had begun, the SSA in question was still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the World Trade Center attacks as a mere coincidence with Misseapolis' prior suspicions about Moussaoui.2

That's some of the letter.  It is not about a 'wall,' it is about people not doing their jobs.  That was too much reality for someone who chose to tell a fairy tale. 

Ranking Members John Conyers was a rare bright spot on the hearing.  He noted, for example, of the secret spaying, "If it weren't for a couple of people leaking, we wouldn't know any of this, as far as I'm concerned."

His concerns included the legality of the collecting of data, more so than "the uses to which it is put."  He declared tracking everyone in the country "for at least six years" was "probably the most disturbing aspect."

As noted Jameel Jaffer (ACLU) testified.  He has posted his prepared testimony (opening remarks) and we'll note it:

Over the last six weeks it has become clear that the NSA is engaged in far-reaching, intrusive, and unconstitutional surveillance of Americans' communications.

  • Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the NSA is tracking every single phone call made by a resident of the United States—who they called, when they called them, for how long they spoke. Until recently it was tracking ordinary Americans' Internet activity as well.
  • Under Section 702 of FISA, and on the pretext of monitoring people outside the United States, the NSA is using Section 702 of FISA to build massive databases of Americans' domestic and international communications—not just so-called metadata, but content as well.
These programs have been made possible by huge advances in the technology of surveillance, but in many respects they resemble the generalized surveillance programs that led to the adoption of the Fourth Amendment more than two hundred years ago. The FISA court orders resemble general warrants, albeit general warrants for the digital age.
That the NSA is engaged in this unconstitutional surveillance is the result of defects both in the law itself and in the current oversight system.

  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act affords the government sweeping power to monitor the communications of innocent people.
  • Excessive secrecy has made congressional oversight difficult and public oversight impossible.
  • Intelligence officials have repeatedly misled the public, Congress, and the courts about the nature and scope of the government's surveillance activities.
  • Structural features of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have prevented that court from serving as an effective guardian of constitutional rights.
  • And the ordinary federal courts have improperly used the "state secrets" and "standing" doctrines to place the NSA's activities beyond the reach of judicial review.
To say that the NSA's activities present a grave danger to American democracy is not an overstatement. Thirty-six years ago, after conducting a comprehensive investigation into the intelligence abuses of the previous decades, the Church Committee warned that inadequate regulations on government surveillance "threaten[ed] to undermine our democratic society and fundamentally alter its nature." This warning should have even more resonance today than it did in 1976, because in recent decades the NSA's resources have grown, statutory and constitutional limitations have been steadily eroded, and the technology of surveillance has become exponentially more powerful.
Because the problem Congress confronts today has many roots, there is no single solution to it. But there are a number of things that Congress should do right away:

  • It should amend Sections 215 and 702 to expressly prohibit suspicionless or "dragnet" monitoring or tracking of Americans' communications.
  • It should require the executive to release basic information about the government's use of foreign-intelligence-surveillance authorities, including those relating to pen registers and national security letters. The executive should be required to disclose, for each year:
    • How many times each of these provisions was used
    • How many individuals' privacy was implicated by the government's use of each provision
    • And, with respect to any dragnet, generalized, or bulk surveillance program, the types of information that were collected.
  • Congress should also require the publication of FISA court opinions that evaluate the meaning, scope, or constitutionality of the foreign-intelligence laws. The ACLU recently filed a motion before the FISA court arguing that the publication of these opinions is required by the First Amendment, but Congress need not wait for the FISA court to act. Congress has the authority and the obligation to ensure that Americans are not governed by a system of secret law.
  • Finally, Congress—and this Committee in particular—should hold additional hearings to consider further amendments to FISA, including amendments to make FISC proceedings more transparent.
Congress should not be indifferent to the government's accumulation of vast quantities of sensitive information about American's lives. This Committee in particular has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the government's efforts to protect the country do not compromise the freedoms that make the country worth protecting.
Thank you.

Many, like Chair  Gooelatte, didn't grasp why the officials continued to insist that thei was a foreign affairs matter when it came to spying on Americans making phone calls or sending e-mails to other Americans, and both parties being inside the United States?  Many words were used to justify that, none of which made sense.

What's the take away?  US House Rep Blake Farenthold noted that the Fourth Amendment was seen as not being violated by the spying and the First Amendment was not seen as being violated by the spying so possibly the only time he has a reasonable expectation of privacy is with "a letter i hand deliver to my wife in a schiff,"

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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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Tuesday, July 16, 2013







Friday, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden addressed the world and met with representatives from various human rights groups.  While he continues to seek sanctuary, he remains in Russia.  BBC News reports, "The US authorities have in effect trapped fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has said."  RT notes:

The president stressed that the US basically trapped ex-CIA employee Snowden in Russia while he was in transit to other countries.
"He arrived on our territory without an invitation, he was not flying to us - he was flying in transit to other countries. But as soon as he got in the air it became known, and our American partners, in fact, blocked his further flight," Putin said, meaning that the US government revoked Snowden’s passport shortly after he arrived at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. 

"They scared other countries. No one wants to accept him,” he added. 
When asked about what was next for Snowden, Putin replied: “How should I know? That’s his life, his fate.” 

Reuters quotes Putin stating, "As soon as there is an opportunity for him to move elsewhere, I hope he will do that. The conditions for granting political asylum are known to him. And judging by his latest actions, he is shifting his position. But the situation has not been clarified yet."  RIA Novosti adds:

On Monday, Putin added that Russia would not give permanent asylum to Snowden because he refused to stop a “fight for human rights” that may strain Moscow’s ties with Washington.
The Russian leader cited Snowden as saying, “I want my work to go on. I want to fight for human rights. I think the US is breaking certain legal standards, international [rules], and is intruding into private lives. My aim for now is to fight it.”
But, according to Putin, the Russian side replied, ‘Go on without is, we have [other] things to fight for.’”
At the time, more than 100 teams of U.S. analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.

The spying scandal Ed Snowden blew the whistle on, has Iraq roots.  Today Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) notes "The Washington Post this morning has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux - the heart and soul - of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story."  The article by Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick is about a program developed by Alexander in Iraq:

At the time, more than 100 teams of U.S. analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.
“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

At Salon, Marcy Wheeler offers a critique of the Post's report:

But the headline and the first paragraphs overstate the degree to which the story is about terrorism (even assuming every Iraqi targeting US troops in 2006 was a terrorist rather than a counter-occupation force). As it notes, Alexander’s urge to “collect it all” also stems from his mandate to protect against cyberattacks and—in his other role as the head of Cybercommand—to conduct offensive attacks such as the StuxNet sabotage of Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program.
Indeed, much later the story reveals a meeting where Alexander proposed having NSA operate on banks’ networks and in their databases in search of malware that might compromise their systems. What may have once been about protecting American service members in Iraq has become an imperative to protect private companies’ property at the expense of their customers’ privacy (and taxpayer dollars). “Wow. That’s kind of wild,” one of the executives present at the meeting described the financial executives’ response to the Post.
Moreover, the Post does not prove Alexander’s maximal approach worked.

It obviously did not work.  Violence actually increased after the program was implemented and the notion that the Post and Marcy Wheeler present is also wrong.  The program was not about protecting American troops, it was about lowering violence in Iraq.  The US forces were in charge of Iraq at that time, that was their mission, to provide stability.  This program was supposed to assist the US military in their mission just as much as it was supposed to provide protection for the US troops.  The program was an utter failure.  2006 and 2007 would be the most violent years in Iraq. 

Today, Iraq is repeatedly slammed with violence.  It's gone back to 2008 levels. This evening, Alsumaria reports, a suicide bomber targeted a Musayyib mosque leaving 5 people dead and 13 injured.  Attacks on any house of worship is shocking. But so much violence is taking place these days, very little of it registers individually and reports tend to focus more on the numbers and less on specific incidents.  For example,  Xinhua notes that "the death toll over the past four days to more than 160."  Prensa Latina offers, "Attacks in the first two weeks of July in Iraq have taken the lives of more than 370 people, bringing this year death toll to 2,600 so far." Iraq Body Count counts 437 violent deaths for the month so far through Sunday.  Michael Bassin (Times of Israel) explains, "The past three months have been particularly tragic for this splintered nation, during which 2,500 have been killed, including 150 in the past four days alone. According to the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the United Nations warns that the country may slide into full-fledged civil war before the end of the month." Linda Gradstein (National Post) speaks with the International Crisis Group's Maria Fantappie:

“The Iraqi government is increasingly relying on the security forces to maintain control over the country,” said Maria Fantappie who studies Iraq for the International Crisis Group and lives in Baghdad.
“The Sunni population within Iraq does not feel represented within the Baghdad central government.”
Ms. Fantiappe said a reliable census has never been done, but estimates are that between 20 and 40 percent of the population are Sunni. While Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki is a Shiite, Parliament Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi is a Sunni, and Maliki’s deputy, Roj Nuri Shawis, is Kurdish. About 17 percent of the population are Kurdish, and are fighting for a separate state in northern Iraq.
“There are more and more fears of the return of the sectarian violence because attacks have targeted both Sunnis and Shiites,” Ms. Fantiappe said. “On the social level, there is more and more mistrust among the different communities.”

On the violence, NINA reports "an anti-terrorism official" was shot dead in Baghdad, an oil engineer was kidnapped in Kirkuk, a Tuz  Khurmatu bombing left nine people injured, a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left a civilian injured, a Falluja bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured,  a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 police officer injured, a Mosul suicide bombing saw the bomber take his own life and that of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi civilian while injuring six other people, a Tikrit mortar attack claimed 7 lives and left fifteen injured, a bombing to the west of Kirkuk claimed 2 lives and left four injured, and an "anti-terrorism officer" was shot dead in Baghdad. At least some of the victims of the Tikrit attack were present to swim in the river, Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) explains and notes, "Young men used to swim at the bank of the river in the afternoon to escape the summer temperatures which usually soar to almost 50 degrees Celsius in Iraq."  AP also notes the victims were "trying to escape the blistering summer heat by swimming."

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Sunday, July 14, 2013










This morning, the world waited to hear from NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden as media poured into the Moscow airport in anticipation of what the person who has influenced a global dialogue might say next.  Ahead of his appearing, BBC News notes, "The American is believed to have been stuck in transit since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong on 23 June, even though no pictures of his stay there have emerged."

Lidia Kelly and Alessandra Prentice (Reuters) report, "Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden asked to meet human rights groups at a Moscow airport on Friday to discuss what he called 'threatening behaviour' by the United States to prevent him gaining asylum."

Ed Snowden:  My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.
It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.
I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: "Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."
Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.
That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.
Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression. The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.
Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.
I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.
This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

On the above, it's cute to watch the reaction of the press.  Michael Hirsh (National Journal) wrote a ridiculous article blaming Ed for the circus that surrounds him -- that would be the press circus and Hirsh needs to learn to hold his own industry accountable or stop pointing the fingers at others.  If he's not getting how useless the press is being, he can examine how they covered the above with so many focusing on Ed's name.  Telegraph of London, "Snowden, apparently wants to be called Ed, not Edward." Forbes: "[. . .] letting them know that 1) he prefers to be called Ed, and 2) he's ready to get out of there" -- and we could go on and on.

So, Michael Hirsh, who's causing the circus?  Not Ed.  And the press can't even be honest about the issue of the name.

We never called Ed Snowden anything but "Ed Snowden."  Dropping back to the June 11th snapshot:

Strange times in Portland, Maine
Lobsters dancing on the docks
Switzerland's been weird since they unplugged the clocks
Man and a woman in Brooklyn Heights
Each convinced the other's in the wrong
While last year the divorce rate tripled in Hong Kong
If through all the madness
We can stick together
We're safe and sound
The world's just inside out and upside down
-- "Safe and Sound," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears on Carly's Hotcakes

The world is inside out and upside down these days.  In even the most basic ways.  Take Ed Snowden, the whistle-blower who exposed the programs Barack and Clapper are currently defending, and take Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbagi.  By the 'press rule,' Ed Snowden's name is "Edward Snowden."  Stan wrote last night about how the press stripped Glen King of his name and insisted he be called Rodney King.  Ed Snowden is very clear in the Guardian video interview that his name is Ed Snowden.  That is how he identifies himself.  The New York Times identifying him as "Edward Snowden" is not surprising to me.  That people on the left go along with it surprises me. 

How much more clear is it than someone identifying themselves on video as the NSA whistle-blower and stating their name as "Ed Snowden"?  The press has refused to call him by his name.  Today, he again stated his name.  And the press wants to pretend this is something new or novel -- as opposed to the reality that they got it wrong for over a month now.

There was a great deal to address.  At the State Dept press briefing today, Associated Press' Matthew Lee  and CNN's Elise Labott attempted to address the issues.  It was not a proud moment for Jen  Psaki or for the State Dept.

Matthew Lee: Can we start in Russia –

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee: -- with Mr. Snowden? I’m wondering if, since he has now asked the Russians for asylum, there has been any contact between this building and the Russians about your feelings about his status.

Jen Psaki: Well, I can tell you – I hadn’t seen – or I don’t have independent confirmation, I guess I should say, about any request he’s made. I can tell you that we have been in touch, of course, with Russian officials. Our Embassy in Moscow has been in direct contact on the ground. We are disappointed that Russian officials and agencies facilitated this meeting today by allowing these activists and representatives into the Moscow airport’s transit zone to meet with Mr. Snowden despite the government’s declarations of Russia’s neutrality with respect to Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee: So I’m sorry. You’re disappointed that they let someone into their own airport?

Jen Psaki: Well –

Matthew Lee: I don’t get it.

Jen Psaki:  Well, that they facilitated this event, of course.

Matthew Lee:  Well, why?

Jen Psaki:  Because this gave a forum for –

Matthew Lee:  You don’t think that he should have a forum? Has he – he’s forfeited his right to freedom of speech as well?

Jen Psaki: Well, Matt, Mr. Snowden –

Matthew Lee:  All right.

Jen Psaki:  -- as we’ve talked about – let me just state this –

Matthew Lee: Okay.

Jen Psaki:  -- because I think it’s important. He’s not a whistleblower. He’s not a human rights activist. He’s wanted in a series of serious criminal charges brought in the eastern district of Virginia and the United States.

Matthew Lee:  Okay. I’m sorry. But I didn’t realize people who were wanted on charges forfeited their right to speech – to free speech. I also didn’t realize that people who were not whistleblowers or not human rights activists, as you say he is not, that they forfeited their rights to speak, so I don’t understand why you’re disappointed with the Russians, but neither that – leave that aside for a second.  The group WikiLeaks put out a transcript, I guess, essentially, of Mr. – what Mr. Snowden said at the airport. At the top of that transcript, it contained – it said that the Human Rights Watch representative from Human Rights Watch, researcher who went to this thing, while she was on her way to the airport, got a phone call from the American Ambassador asking her to relay a message to Mr. Snowden that – basically the message that you just gave here, that, one, he is not a whistleblower, and, two, that he is wanted in the United States. Is that correct?

Jen Psaki:  It is not correct. First, Ambassador McFaul did not call any representative from Human Rights Watch. An embassy officer did call to explain our position, certainly, that I just reiterated here for all of you today, but at no point did this official or any official from the U.S. Government ask anyone to convey a message to Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee:  Did anyone from the Embassy call any of the other groups – representatives of groups that were going to this meeting – that you understood were going to this meeting?

Jen Psaki: As I’m sure would be no surprise, and as you know because we even had a civil society event when the Secretary was there, we are in regular touch, as we have been today. I don’t have an update on the exact list of calls, though, for you.

Matthew Lee: But you can say pretty conclusively that this one call did happen, and that it wasn’t the Ambassador. So were there others? Do you know?

Jen Psaki: We have –

Matthew Lee:  Did calls go to other groups?

Jen Psaki:  -- been in touch with –

Matthew Lee: Okay.

Jen Psaki:   -- attendees.

Matthew Lee:  Yes.

Jen Psaki:  I don’t have any specifics for you, though.

Matthew Lee:  Okay. And the – and you have made no secret of the fact that any country or government that gives Mr. Snowden asylum or allows him to transit through, that there would be some serious consequences for – grave consequences in their relationship with the United States.

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee:  Have you made the same – and presumably that would apply to individuals who would help him stay – help him avoid returning here to face justice. Is that – that’s correct?

Jen Psaki:  I’m not sure what that exactly means.

Matthew Lee:  Well, I’m – what I’m getting at is these groups, the human rights groups that are respected human rights groups –

Jen Psaki: : Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee:  -- which you yourself, as well as previous spokespeople have quoted from –

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee:  -- in relation to other situations, have taken a side in support of Mr. Snowden, and I’m wondering if there are any consequences for them if you – if they aid and abet Mr. Snowden in staying away – out of the reach of U.S. authorities.

Jen Psaki:  Well, we obviously don’t think this was a proper forum or a proper elevation of him. Beyond that, the way that I think it’s been asked, but also the way we’ve thought about it, is more about governments and our relationships with them and their aid or decisions to aid Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee:  Right, but I guess the question is: If you think this was an inappropriate forum, did you try to dissuade these groups from going there?

Jen Psaki:  From attending?

Matthew Lee:  Yeah.

Jen Psaki:  Not that I’m aware of, Matt. Obviously –

Matthew Lee:  Okay. So the call –

Jen Psaki:  -- they were invited to attend.

Matthew Lee: So the calls were just a reminder of your position. Did you say to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International that if you guys help Mr. Snowden, support him in some way so that – to keep him from facing justice back in the United States, that there would be consequences for them?

Jen Psaki:  I don’t have any readouts of these calls. Our focus remains on –

Matthew Lee:  Okay. Well, then can you say –

Jen Psaki:  -- conveying to the Russian Government the fact that they have the ability to help return Mr. Snowden to the United States.

Matthew Lee:  Did you tell them in the calls that you did not think that Mr. Snowden should have the opportunity to express his view?

Jen Psaki:  Matt, I don’t have any readout for these – of these calls for you. We did --

Matthew Lee: Okay. Well, forget about the calls, then.

Jen Psaki:  We did convey the broad point that I’ve made.

Matthew Lee: Okay. Well, then forget about what you said or what the Embassy people said in these specific phone calls. Do you believe that Mr. Snowden should not have had the opportunity to express his views at the airport in Moscow today?

Jen Psaki: Well, Matt, I think we broadly believe in free speech, as you know.

Matthew Lee: Except when it comes to this.

Jen Psaki: But we cannot look at this as a – I know we like to ask about sweeping scenarios in here, but --

Matthew Lee: No, this is not sweeping at all. This is very specific, related to one guy in one place in one city, one airport, one time. So I just – do you think that it was inappropriate for Mr. Snowden to speak publicly? Do you – I mean, not that – whether you’re disappointed in the Russians. Do you think that he should not have had the opportunity to speak publicly?

Jen Psaki: Our focus, Matt, is on how our concern about how Russian authorities clearly helped assist the ability of attendees to participate in this.

Matthew Lee: Mm-hmm.

Jen Psaki:  That is of concern to us. Our focus is on returning Mr. Snowden to the United States. Beyond that, I just don’t have anything more.

Matthew Lee:  Okay. I’m just – I’m trying to get – you are saying that this essentially – it wasn’t a press conference, but it might as well have been. And you don’t think the Russians should have helped to facilitate a --

Jen Psaki:  Facilitated a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden.

Matthew Lee:  -- a propaganda platform. Okay. So this is, to your mind, something like them bringing out a defected spy from the Cold War and putting him on a platform and having him rail against the United States. Is that what the Administration believes?

Jen Psaki:  I’m not going to draw comparisons along those lines. But let me say --

Matthew Lee:  “A propaganda platform” is close enough.

Jen Psaki: -- that Mr. Snowden could – should return to the United States to face these charges that – where he will be accorded a fair trial. That’s where our focus is.

Elise Labott: Well, is this a propaganda platform or is this kind of putting in train a process for asylum? Because last week, or two weeks ago, the Russians said that they would consider his request for asylum if Mr. Snowden would stop leaking material about – or leaking information about U.S. surveillance programs. Now, he wouldn’t do that before, and he tried some other areas for asylum.
Now, in this propaganda platform, as you call it, he said that he has decided to – not to leak any more information, or he doesn’t have any more information, but he’s done. So are you concerned now that this is him accepting conditions for Russian asylum publicly as opposed to just some kind of propaganda? I mean, is that your real concern here, that these are the conditions for asylum and now he’s publicly meeting them?

Jen Psaki:  Our concern here is that he’s been provided this opportunity to speak in a propaganda platform, as I mentioned a few seconds ago, that Russia has played a role in facilitating this, that others have helped elevate it. But we still believe that Russia has the opportunity to do the right thing and facilitate his return to the United States.

Elise Labott:  Well, but --

Jen Psaki:  I don’t have any independent knowledge, as would be no surprise, of what he has officially requested, what has officially been --

Elise Labott:  Well, it’s pretty public that Russia --

Jen Psaki:  -- accepted or not.

Elise Labott:  Okay, but it’s pretty public that Russia said that they would consider his asylum petition if he said that – if he would agree publicly to stop leaking information. Now he’s done that.

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Elise Labott:  So is that propaganda, or is that publicly agreeing to Russia’s conditions and kind of moving the asylum petition along?

Jen Psaki:  I’m just not going to make an evaluation of what Russia’s conditions are and whether he meets --

Elise Labott:  Well, you don’t have to make an evaluation. They’ve said it publicly.

Jen Psaki:  -- let me finish – whether he meets them. That’s not the point here. The point is Russia helped facilitate this. They have the ability and the opportunity to do the right thing and help return Mr. Snowden to the United States. It’s not about what the conditions are.

Elise Labott:  But you don’t – I mean, is it – I mean, your concern now is that this is – that Russia’s – by facilitating – I mean, are you really upset that this is propaganda, or are you really upset that Russia is moving closer to accepting to this guy’s asylum?

Jen Psaki:  Well, we don’t know that. This is a step that was taken today. Obviously, we continue to call for his return. They have a role they can play in that. Beyond that, I’m not going to speculate what they are or aren’t going to do.

[. . .]

Matthew Lee: Can I just --

Jen Psaki: Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee: In the conversations that the Ambassador, or whoever it was the Embassy had – not with the Human Rights people, but with the Russian Government --

Jen Psaki:  Mm-hmm.

Matthew Lee: -- did you tell them that facilitating this appearance by Mr. Snowden was problematic, that you thought that they shouldn’t do it?

Jen Psaki:  I --

Matthew Lee:  Did you ask them not to do it?

Jen Psaki:  We made our concerns and our view on Mr. Snowden clear.

Matthew Lee:  No, but I – specifically about giving him this propaganda platform, as you called it.

Jen Psaki:  I just – I don’t have any more to read out for you from the private phone calls, Matt, just that there – we have been in touch.

Matthew Lee:  Well, I mean, did you ask the Russians, please don’t do this, we think he’s a criminal and needs to come back? Did you – did – I mean, did you ask and they rejected the request?

Jen Psaki:  Well, Matt, we’ve been clear publicly --

Matthew Lee:  Yeah.

Jen Psaki:  -- countless times what our view is --

Matthew Lee: I understand that, but --

Jen Psaki: -- and we’ve consistently made the same points privately, today and any other day.

Matthew Lee: Right. But did you say that you would look negatively on them providing him a, quote-unquote, “propaganda platform?”

Jen Psaki:  I just don’t have any more on the specifics of the calls.

Matthew Lee:  Well, is the United States Government now in the business of trying to discourage people or governments from facilitating people having – meeting with human rights activists? I don’t get it.

Jen Psaki:  Matt, this is not a universal position of the United States. This is an individual --

Matthew Lee:  So it’s just in this one case.

Jen Psaki:  -- who has been accused of three – of felony charges.

Matthew Lee: But surely – Jen --

Jen Psaki: This is not a unique --

Matthew Lee: Okay. He’s been accused. Do you remember the old line that we’re supposed to all know – he has not been convicted of anything yet.

Jen Psaki:  And he can return to the United States and face the charges.

Matthew Lee:  But he can also surely – people who are accused of crimes are allowed their right of free speech, are they not?

Jen Psaki:  Matt, I think we’ve gone the round on this.

Elise Labott: No, I mean, it’s a legitimate question. I mean, you talk about even in Russia that journalists have been persecuted and political activists have been persecuted and you call for free speech around the world. But you’re not saying that Mr. Snowden has the right of free speech?
Jen Psaki: That’s not at all what I was saying. We believe, of course, broadly in free speech. Our concern here was that this was – there was obvious facilitation by the Russians in this case. We’ve conveyed that. We’ve conveyed our concerns. I’m saying them publicly.

Elise Labott: So you’re upset – you’re not upset about the press conference; you’re upset that the Russians facilitated it.

Jen Psaki: We certainly are upset that there was a platform for an individual who’s been accused of felony crimes.

Elise Labott: But what does that matter, really? I mean, people that are in jail or are on trial in the United States, they give press conferences or they speak out all the time. I mean, it sounds to me like what you’re not really upset with the act that he spoke; you’re upset with the fact that the Russians did something on his behalf.

Jen Psaki:  I think I’ve expressed what we’re upset about.

Elise Labott: I don’t --

Jen Psaki: And you keep saying what we’re upset about. But I think I’ve made clear what we’re upset about.

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