Edward Snowden remained in the transit area of the Moscow airport as of June 26, as Washington stepped up its threats against China and Russia for not turning the NSA whistleblower over to the US.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that China’s decision to allow Snowden to leave Hong Kong would “without question” affect US-China relations and “have consequences”.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities demanded that the US come clean concerning its huge surveillance of, and hacking into, all electronic data concerning government and business transactions in Hong Kong. It is a centre for such electronic traffic for all of China.
Snowden’s exposure of these attacks has received wide publicity in China. It has infuriated the Obama administration by undercutting Washington’s assertions that China was engaged in such hacking of US government and business secrets.
Once it was known that Snowden was in the airport in Moscow, Kerry turned his fire on Russia. He demanded Russian authorities seize the whistleblower and turn him over to the US for prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act, under which Snowden could face life in prison.
Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected the US demand.
Snowden has applied for political asylum in Ecuador and possibly other countries. Frothing at the mouth, the White House has warned Latin American countries not to grant Snowden asylum or face serious “consequences”.
Kerry had the gall to claim that Russia was obligated by “law” to turn Snowden over. Whose “law”? The law is what the US says it is.
We have the spectacle of the US threatening Russia, China, and Latin America while sputtering with impotent rage.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino, speaking while on a diplomatic trip to Vietnam, criticised the US for its pursuit of Snowden.
“The one who is denounced pursues the denouncer,” Patino said. “The man who tries to provide light and transparency to issues that affect everyone is pursued by those who should be giving explanations about the denunciations that have been presented.”
The wounded beast, its vast programs of spying on every telephone call made in the US and its monitoring of electronic communications worldwide exposed by Snowden, remains dangerous. Already there are calls by some US politicians to send in the Navy Seals to capture Snowden.
White House spokesperson Jay Carney said the fact that Snowden sought refuge in China, Russia and Ecuador indicated “his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the United States”.
The White House attacks on China, Russia and Ecuador are reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War.
This appeal to anti-communism is part of the all-out effort by both the Republicans and Democrats to deflect discussion inside the US away from what Snowden’s revelations about the widespread spying.
The capitalist media, with very few timid exceptions, has gone all out in support of this bipartisan effort. The media has completely dropped discussion on the attack on the rights of all Americans that Snowden exposed.
Instead we are bombarded with outright lies from Obama that the rights of US citizens are being protected, to concentration on Snowden’s whereabouts and incessant assertions that he is a traitor and criminal.
The Big Lie repeated over and over is that what Snowden exposed will result in “Americans being killed”, in Obama’s words. This is being hammered home without even the slightest attempt to connect what Snowden actually revealed to any possible harm to US citizens.
But as Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels famously said, by incessantly repeating a Big Lie, it comes to be believed.
It is having an effect. But there are some indications that many are beginning to see through this Big Lie.
When Democratic Party leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, recently told a meeting of rank-and-file Democrats that Snowden was a criminal who must be prosecuted, she was booed.
Also, between May and June, Obama’s approval rating dropped 8 percentage points. Among young people, who had been disproportionately in Obama’s favour, the drop was 17%. Young people especially do not like their tweets, Facebook pages, phone calls and emails being swept up by the NSA.
The ruling class is going all out to get Snowden, as part of a broader campaign against whistleblowers who expose war crimes, vast Big Brother surveillance, and other attacks on civil liberties by the state.
If Snowden “gets away with it” — that is if he is not killed or jailed — the powers-that-be fear others may follow in his footsteps.
There are also threats to journalists who report the whistleblowers’ exposures. We saw the huge spying on Associate Press reporters, in search of a “leaker”.
Already, some members of US Congress are suggesting that US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the news of Snowden’s exposures to the Guardian and Washington Post, should also be charged under the Espionage Act.
Recently there were fresh exposures, this time from McClatchy News, of how far the pursuit of leaks has extended. This too came from leaks.
After US soldier Bradley Manning’s exposure of US war crimes via WikiLeaks, the White House initiated a program called “Insider Threat”. The program aims to force government employees to spy on each other and report any “suspicious” behaviour. It even encourages penalties against employees who fail to report what they see.
What is most amazing about what McClatchy News reports is that the hunt for leakers goes way beyond disclosing classified information to disclosing to the public anything a government department wants to hide.
Insider Threat covers not only the NSA and the Pentagon, but departments such as the Peace Corp, the Social Security Administration, and the Departments of Education and Agriculture. As part of the program staffers at the Departments of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have taken an online tutorial called “Treason 101”.
What are the suspicious activities to be on the lookout for? The Department of Education has told its employees “certain life experiences … might turn a trusted user into an insider threat”. These include “stress, divorce, financial problems or frustrations with co-workers or the organization”.
Any employee who notices such symptoms in another employee must report her or him.
Other symptoms of a potential leaker is someone who reads the satirical newspaper The Onion on their lunch break or isn’t “cheery” enough.
Under Insider Threat, leaks of any information, classified or not, is considered “espionage”.
A Pentagon strategy document instructs superiors in other government departments to “Hammer this fact home … leaking is tantamount to aiding enemies of the United States”.
McClatchy News warns: “The [Insider Threat] program could make it easier for the government stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations.”
[Barry Sheppard was a long-time leader of the US Socialist Workers Party and the Fourth International. He recounts his experience in the SWP in a two-volume book, The Party — the Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988, available from Resistance Books. Read more of Sheppard's articles.]