Obama’s reelection marks the 899th day of detention without charge for Pfc. Manning.

Here’s to four more years of drone strikes, the war on whistleblowers, indefinite detention of Americans in military camps without trial or charge, more Guantanamo renovations, the expansion of the prison industrial complex, billions in funding for the Israeli apartheid, public education cuts, the ever-expanding targeted kill/capture list, the failed War on Drugs, etc. etc. etc.!

Now, let’s organize. 

When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. A legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.
—  ACLU’s Ben Wizner - Source
Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

Barack Obama, 2008.

My, how the times have changed.

The US government killed three secure email services this week

August 9, 2013

Yesterday, the encrypted email service Lavabit announced it would shut down rather than comply with any court orders that would result from the conclusion of a secret legal battle it’s been fighting for six weeks. Now, Silent Circle, a company that offers encrypted phone, video, and text services, has announced it will shut down its email service in a preemptive move to avoid being compelled by the US government to hand over user data.

In a blog post, Silent Circle’s Jon Callas wrote that the company has initially debated whether to offer an email service at all, because unlike Silent Circle’s other products, email is much harder to secure. But because of customer demand, the company decided it would offer email with the caveat that it might not be totally secure.

The company has since thought better of the decision (emphasis mine):

We’ve been thinking about this for some time, whether it was a good idea at all. Today, another secure email provider, Lavabit, shut down their system lest they “be complicit in crimes against the American people.” We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.

Callas wrote that the company had been “debating this for weeks,” and it appears that the Lavabit news was the last straw. In both cases, the government’s increasingly instrusive access to personal data—just today, the New York Times poked yet another hole in the bullshit claim that the NSA only scans metadata, not content, without court orders—was enough to convince the companies that they could no longer offer their services as advertised.

What’s worrisome is that we’re beginning to see the chilling effects of government surveillance that we’ve all been worried about for some time now. First it was with whistleblowers—following aggressive pursuit and prosecution of B. Manning and others, as well as Edward Snowden’s current stint in political purgatory, how many potential whistleblowers will now think twice?

But now we’re talking about private, legitimate companies shutting down their services, not because of government regulation or anything open to debate or public discourse, but because of government intrusion and secret strong arming backed by the word of secret courts.

This is the US government’s attack on privacy taken to its logical conclusion. Add in the FBI’s compromising of Tormail, and we’ve lost three (perhaps not so) secure email services inside of a week. These types of services are valuable because they’re easy for the average privacy-minded person to use. When are more going to fall? 

That’s the end game of the government’s attacks on privacy. Government agencies, supported by judges who don’t think privacy is a right, want to dismantle every barrier to privacy that Americans have, all in the name of fighting terrorism or crime. The internet is the main target right now, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the US government can access an enormous amount of what we do online.

What happens if and when its online access is effectively complete? You can’t even expect to move through public anymore without your movements being warrantlessly scanned and tracked. And as we move into a post-privacy society, what does the government plan to do with all of that data? Unfortunately, we don’t know, because it won’t tell us.


Your Government is Treasonous, Not Edward Snowden | AmericaWakieWakie

June 29th, 2013

Americans abide in a state of illusion. We are a republic no longer able to comprehend the need for transparency in government, much less what it takes to protect our civil liberties like our constitutionally afforded guarantees to privacy.

With the Obama administration’s rhetoric calling Edward Snowden a traitor in full swing, and the American media following as close as Tom to Jerry, it’s no wonder the illusion of trading liberty for security has become self-reinforcing and ubiquitous. Every time you check into CNN or Fox News you see Wolf Blitzer or Shepard Smith perpetuating the idea that Snowden did we United States citizens a life-endangering disservice. The fact remains though, it is not Snowden who has violated our rights, it is and continues to be our own government.

Who then is treasonous? 

As we witness Snowden’s unfolding narrative we can be reminded of how this may play out by looking back over the Obama administration’s crackdown of whistleblowers like Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, and Bradley Manning, the young soldier brave enough to leak hundreds of thousands of US cables.  

In 2010 WikiLeaks’ release of a seventeen minute video depicting an unwarranted attack by United States military forces on several Iraqi civilians, reporters, and even children, catapulted the news organization into the sights of our government. Since then Julian Assange has now been relegated to the Ecuadorian embassy for over a year, avoiding extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual misconduct. Assange refuses to face those charges because he suspects they are a smokescreen to extradite him into US custody. Manning, who leaked the video, has been remanded to solidarity confinement for more than a year, and is just now having a chance to exercise his right to a trial.   

Snowden fears the same wrath. The irony is United States prides itself as the shining light of democracy in the world. But if critical questions cannot be asked and the answers sought, that light has been extinguished. Our constitution protects freedom of speech and press under the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” (United States Constitution). Instead of our first amendment rights though, we are getting freedom “of what the U.S. government wants us to know,” and apparently if that isn’t good enough, too bad. Either remain ignorant or go to jail, and you’re lucky if it’s not Guantanamo.

After Wikileaks published the video, in a statement to the Associated Press, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “To the extent that we can find anybody who was involved in the breaking of American law, who put at risk the assets and the people I have described, they will be held responsible; they will be held accountable,”  then calling Wikileaks an “ongoing criminal investigation.” 

Sounds like deja vu. Last week FBI director Robert Muller said of Snowden, “As to the individual who has admitted making these disclosures, he is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. Mueller continued: “We are taking all necessary steps to hold the person responsible for these disclosures.”

This is all superfluous language to reiterate that our government is simply seeking to silence whistle-blowers.

And we allow ourselves to be persuaded. With the bobble-heads of the 24 hour news cycle constantly demonizing men like Snowden, Assange and Manning, it is easy for us to forget the tradition of reigning in our government through meaningful unabridged transparency. We need people like Edward Snowden like we needed Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers

On June 13, 1971, the Times began printing a 7,000 page document which depicted lies to the American public preceding the Vietnam War, ultimately embarrassing the Nixon administration beyond repair. The event aided public support for leaving the war. Then The Pentagon Papers, like Snowden’s NSA leak now, exposes the truth that government cannot be trusted. 

Ellsberg himself has praised Snowden too, saying “I think there has not been a more significant or helpful leak or unauthorized disclosure in American history ever … and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers.”

Per the usual course, the Obama administration has continued attacks on Snowden as they try to defend the NSA’s surveillance apparatus. 

We Americans have to look past the illusion that our government is so benevolent as to always have our best interests at heart. The truth is the Obama administration is wielding its political clout to suppress our first amendment rights, and because yet again the American public is in denial about our government, we are letting it happen. Wake up folks, the tyranny is right here—it is called Washington, D.C. 

(Photo Credit: The Guardian/AP)