A note from the Editor…



Edward Snowden

With Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” playing in theaters, Edward Snowden is once again a popular topic for the news media. Prominent public figures like Bernie Sanders and news outlets like The New York Times are calling for Snowden to be allowed to return home. How come?
By this time, I would imagine most Americans have at least heard of Edward Snowden, know he has something to do with National Security Agency (NSA) leaks, and are aware that he’s living in Russia.
In case you’re one of those still in the dark, Snowden gained his notoriety after leaking a massive number of internal classified NSA documents that proved the intelligence agency was conducting mass surveillance of technological communications, from internet usage to metadata about phone calls. While, prior to the leaks, the NSA had testified before Congress that surveillance of US citizens did not occur, the documents leaked by Snowden cast very serious doubts on that claim. He fled the country just before the leaks became known and sought asylum from prosecution by the US government.
Snowden, who had access to an immense amount of material despite the fact that he only worked for the NSA as a mid-level contractor, described why he became a whistleblower in a Guardian Q&A that took place a week after the leaks went public: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything,” he said. “With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”
In the wake of these revelations, hearing things like this has become almost banal. ‘Oh, you didn’t know the government is monitoring your communications? How naïve of you.’
See, about that… United States citizens actually do have this thing in the Constitution called the fourth amendment that — at least theoretically — protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. Warrants are needed for that, and are only to be issued given “probably cause.” Even a full three years after the Snowden leaks, the NSA is still able to collect data on US citizens without a warrant. Sounds like the federal government is allowing the NSA to wipe its ass with the Constitution. That’s just me, I guess.
We’ll see whether or not this campaign to bring Snowden home is successful. I wouldn’t bet money on it. Despite all the “Hope and Change” rhetoric, the Obama administration has actually been extremely harsh on whistleblowers. Really, really harsh.
The Obama administration has used the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute eight whistleblowers. Doesn’t sound like a lot? That’s actually more than double than the number of prosecutions under all previous administrations. Combined.
Incidentally, the Espionage Act was created just after the US entered WWI and was used, along with the Sedition Act, to imprison people like the socialist Eugene V. Debs for publicly speaking out against the war. How does that old saying go? “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
–Sam Hartley, Editor-in-Chief