Edward Snowden, True Hope for Change

Amid shock waves from the revelations of mass global NSA spying, the US government reaction to leaker Edward Snowden took a dramatic turn. From media smearing to overcharging him with espionage, this followed the predictable pattern of Obama’s war on whistleblowers; shooting the messengers by demonizing and discrediting them in order to kill the message or distract people from it.

This has occurred numerous times with the Obama administration with the aggressive attacks on WikiLeaks and its source Bradley Manning, as well as other NSA whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and imprisoned former CIA officer John Kiriakou.

The US government’s recent manhunt for Snowden went too far in that it tried to intimidate a number of sovereign countries who were defending the universal right to asylum. A prime example was seen in the recent ‘jet aggression’ of stopping the Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane, followed by the hacking of the emails of senior authorities in Bolivia. This desperate action showed the true colors of the Obama administration. It exposed to the world the real viciousness of this regime and their disdain for international law and basic human rights. Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan ‘Yes We Can’ scammed the American people with the secret practice of Stasi 2.0, ‘Yes, We Scan’.

When the story of the mass NSA surveillance first broke out, Obama swiftly moved to defend this secret program as his officials continued to lie about its extent and their justification for it. He portrayed it as a choice between security and freedom, conflating the two issues as he argued how we “can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy…”

Here we are seeing an administration that blatantly violates the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution; “unreasonable searches and seizures”, justifying it with secret courts and secret interpretations of the law. When their wrongdoing was exposed, they diverted public attention through a coordinated mass propaganda using the tired bipartisan sound-bites of ‘threats to national security’.

Snowden’s saga triggered a tidal wave of awakening that no campaign of lies can put to rest. As US officials continuously repeat the baseless rhetoric of ‘aiding the enemy’, calling the young whistleblower a traitor, questions have emerged regarding the legitimacy of the Obama regime itself.

The overarching question is: Who really broke the law? Who engaged in acts that were clearly unconstitutional? Who has not only harmed national security, but the security of the whole world? Who has undermined diplomacy among nations, encouraging them to play to age-old cold war games? Who uses a colonial mentality, bullying small countries and undermining their sovereignty? Who has brought terror, turning the world into a battlefield, killing innocent people with assassination drone attacks and signature strikes?

“Truth is treason in an empire of lies” said George Orwell, whose uncanny insight predicted a future Big Brother police state in his novel 1984. The act of speaking truth to power demonstrated by a courageous whistleblower like Snowden is treated as a criminal offense. Now just practicing journalism in the spirit of the First Amendment is viewed by those in government as committing a crime. Despite US efforts to frame Snowden as a fugitive and traitor, once truth of this magnitude is revealed, it cannot be hidden with the usual parade of lies. A new poll showed that a majority of Americans see Snowden as a whistleblower rather than a traitor and more and more people support and regard him as a hero. Internationally, Snowden has also garnered significant support from concerned citizenry. He was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a professor in Sweden.

As Snowden spoke through limited channels while seeking to secure asylum, people had a chance to listen to his own voice rather than just the government and corporate media’s portrayal of him. Clarifying his motives to a reporter of the South China Morning Post, the 30-year-old former NSA contractor said that he is “neither traitor nor hero”, and instead described himself as an American. In an interview with Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, he spoke of America as fundamentally a good country with good people, yet he went on to say how “the structures of power that exist are working to their own ends to extend their capabilities at the expense of the public”. He stated that no actions he takes or plans to take were “meant to harm the US” and he clarified that he wants “the US to succeed.”

At a meeting with human rights campaigners in Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Snowden invoked the Nuremberg conventions in defending his actions:

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.’

If anything, Snowden’s act is calling for a new sense of patriotism, one that is not simply concerned with narrow national interests, but one that recognizes our allegiance to the world and to responsibilities as individuals who belong to the greater species of humanity.

In light of this higher ground of worldwide fellowship that binds us, Obama’s fiercely arrogant attitude toward Snowden shows the vacant authority of Washington. Isn’t Obama’s empty claim that Snowden was ‘aiding the enemy’ a judgment that is actually more about himself? By violating his own oath to the Constitution, he may have become a traitor to his own people and to the ideals that this country was founded on.

The United States once was a beacon of freedom in the world; now its leaders are openly hostile to basic democratic principles. The US government is not only violating the Fourth Amendment, but also is forfeiting the First Amendment. They expressed hostility over Snowden’s meeting and press conference with local human right activists. They hypocritically accused Russia of providing a “propaganda platform” for him. They use the word propaganda to describe this man communicating to the press about his bid for asylum. Here the US is suggesting Russia should deny the basic right to free speech and prevent Snowden from telling his side of the story, which is profoundly hypocritical considering the US tradition and supposed support of free speech globally.

Snowden’s act of whistleblowing revealed how far we have drifted into a corrupt surveillance state. But fundamentally, his courageous truth-telling presents a mirror for us to see what was concealed in the cynically packaged Obama campaign ads of ‘hope and change’.

Snowden spoke at one point of the process he went through and how he himself, like many others have waited for leaders and elected officials to act in conscience, hoping they would implement better policies. Indeed he described how the 2008 election had given him hope and that he had believed Obama would make these kinds of disclosures unnecessary. Yet, he saw no change and gradually came to the realization that true leadership means to take the lead without waiting for others to. He said; “You can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Snowden risked his safety and his liberty to invite people to engage in discussion. The leaked NSA files triggered a huge shift in the public view of government and its surveillance. It created a worldwide debate about the severity and illegality of spying and unaccountable power of government. Reforms and redress are in the works. The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed multiple lawsuits against the NSA mass surveillance. Disclosures made by Snowden enabled the EFF to gather sufficient evidence that Americans are being spied on in blatant violation of the Constitution. Similar moves have been taken in the United Kingdom and France. In Brazil, debate has heated up over NSA spying with serious move to reform.

His revelations are clearly having a lasting effect that goes much deeper than the alarming government policies that he and others exposed. It has exposed the hollowness of campaign promises and at the same time revealed the real source of power.

Obama’s “hope and change” turned out to be an empty slogan, if not a cynical lie used to subvert true democracy. Now perhaps people are finding hope in the deeds of the ordinary citizen. Snowden’s act of conscience awakened the truth in millions of people around the world that it is always the people that have the real power.

Speaking further of the motives behind his actions, Snowden relayed how the public needs to decide whether the current practice of US global surveillance is right or not. “The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed”, in this spirit, he felt this information needed to be shared in order for the public to engage in the democratic process of decision-making.

Just as Snowden followed his own conscience, hope can only be found within each one of us. It is not something given or found from outside, whether from politicians, celebrities, or religious leaders. It can only be kindled through each person believing in what they already know in their hearts and then allowing this to lead their actions.

Revelation of the Snowden files is just a beginning. People who have been asleep are now awakening. Yes We the People Can. This time we are participating in world events to determine policies that affect our own future. Snowden’s act of courage has brought true hope and has reminded us of our own significance.

Nozomi Hayase, Ph.D., is an essayist and author of WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening (Libertarian Books, 2018). Find her on twitter @nozomimagine. Read other articles by Nozomi.