HOPE X (2014): "When Whistleblowers Are Branded as Spies: Edward Snowden, Surveillance, and Espionage" (Download)
Friday, July 18, 2014: 1:00 pm (Manning): When The Guardian and Washington Post published the first stories exposing the National Security Agency's surveillance operations based on revelations from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, the world learned that U.S. government officials told a series of misleading half-truths and outright lies to conceal what has become a U.S. surveillance industrial complex. The revelations revealed massive waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, and an equally massive loss of valuable intelligence. In response to the understandable public outrage about their mass surveillance, the NSA chose not to investigate the officials who needlessly and in secret sacrificed the privacy of hundreds of millions of innocent people. Rather, the intelligence community has spent untold resources investigating and attempting to discredit Snowden. It is a predicable response for an institution to focus on the messenger rather than the message. It can be an effective distraction to focus the media and public attention on one individual rather on exposing systematic, widespread illegality in a powerful government agency. Whistleblowers in all corporate and government spheres risk choosing their conscience over their careers, but under the Obama administration, national security and intelligence whistleblowers face choosing their conscience over their very freedom. The Obama administration has prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidential administrations combined. The Espionage Act is an arcane, vague, and overbroad World War I-era law intended to go after spies, not whistleblowers. NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake objected to mass surveillance using internal channels and was charged under the Espionage Act. Central Intelligence Agency whistleblower John Kiriakou objected to torture and was charged under the Espionage Act. He is now serving 30 months in prison. Army Private Chelsea Manning helped expose war crimes and is serving 35 years after facing Espionage Act charges. Because of this pattern of persecution, Edward Snowden was forced to leave the United States and seek asylum in Russia after the U.S. government left him stranded in the Moscow airport last year. This talk, by a member of Snowden's legal team, will address all of this and more.