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“Beyond An Honest Whistleblower”: Edward Snowden’s Relationship With WikiLeaks Should Concern Everyone

Amid calls for the clemency of Edward Snowden, many questions remain about the 30-year-old’s flight from America and asylum in Russia.

One major unresolved issue is the relationship between “the most dangerous leaker in American history” and WikiLeaks, an organization with an admitted antagonism toward the U.S. and a cozy history with the Kremlin.

Given WikiLeaks penchant for facilitating U.S. government leaks, its early involvement in the Snowden saga deserves scrutiny.

After the NSA contractor outed himself in Hong Kong on June 9, he parted ways with the journalists he met there and went underground.

On June 12, the same day he leaked specific details of NSA hacking in China to the South China Morning Post, Snowden contacted WikiLeaks. The organization subsequently paid for his lodgings and sent top advisor Sarah Harrison to help.

Harrison accompanied Snowden as he met with Russian officials (perhaps in the Kremlin consulate), and WikiLeaks bought his ticket to Moscow on June 23.

(Some suspect Russia and/or WikiLeaks contacted Snowden before June 12, but there is no clear evidence of that.)

Snowden and his closest supporters contend that he was on his way to Latin America when the U.S. government stranded him in Moscow, but there are several reasons to doubt that claim.

First, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.”

Second, the U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport by June 22, and the unsigned Ecuadorian travel document acquired by Assange was void when Snowden landed in Moscow.

WikiLeaks told BI that the Ecuadorian document was meant to help Snowden leave Hong Kong. The organization has not explained why it would send the American to Russia knowing he was carrying a void passport and a bunk travel document.

On July 12, Snowden’s Moscow lawyer Anatoly Kucherena explained that Snowden “is in a situation with no way out. He has no passport and can travel nowhere; he has no visa.”

Third, even if Snowden had proper travel documentation, it’s unclear if Russia’s post-Soviet security services (FSB) would have allowed an NSA-trained hacker who beat the NSA vetting system and stole a bunch of intel to simply “pass through the business lounge, on the way to Cuba.”

On August 1 Kucherena, who is employed by the FSB, explained why Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum: “Edward couldn’t come and buy himself tickets to Havana or any other countries since he had no passport.”

Beyond its role in Snowden’s getaway and its friendliness with Russia, WikiLeaks is also connected to three of the main people with access to the leaked NSA files. This fact does not necessarily tarnish their reporting, but it is intriguing in light of Wikileaks’ deep involvement with Snowden.

Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, two journalists contacted by Snowden and then given tens of thousands of documents by Snowden in Hong Kong, sit on the board of a foundation that launched in December 2012 to crowd-source funding for WikiLeaks.

Jacob Applebaum, a close friend of Poitras and lead author of at least one Der Spiegel story citing the Snowden leaks, is known as “The American WikiLeaks Hacker” and has co-authored others articles drawing from “internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL.”

Applebaum is not a journalist and does not hide his disdain for the NSA. This week he ended a talk — during which he presented never-before-seen NSA documents — by saying: “[If] you work for the NSA, I’d just like to encourage you to leak more documents.”

Assange told the same audience to “join the CIA. Go in there. Go into the ballpark and get the ball and bring it out … all those organizations will be infiltrated by this generation.”

That is the same man largely credited with saving Snowden from extradition to the U.S. by sending him to Moscow. The 42-year-old Australian has also hosted a Kremlin-funded TV show. And his political party recently met with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who is staunchly backed by the Kremlin.

No wonder Greenwald told Rolling Stone that “Julian stepping forward and being the face of the story wasn’t great for Snowden.”

Snowden also hurt his own cause. Although he initiated an important debate, his statements and actions also pushed him beyond honest whistleblower.

All things considered, Snowden’s affiliation with Assange and WikiLeaks raises a legitimate question: Is the fact that his life is now overseen by a Russian security more than an extraordinary coincidence?

Given that we still don’t know how many classified documents Snowden stole or when he gave up access, that question should concern everyone.

 

By: Michael Kelley, Business Insider, January 4, 2014

January 6, 2014 Posted by | Edward Snowden, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Julian Assange As Tyrant”: No Different Than The Politicians He Claims To Be Holding Accountable

When asked to explain why he was running for a seat in the Australian Senate while holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Julian Assange quoted Plato: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Plato was “a bit of a fascist,” he said, but had a point.

Imagine the chagrin Mr. Assange must feel now, given that not only did he fail to win a place in the Senate in the recent election, but he was less successful than Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party. Mr. Muir, who won just 0.5 percent of the vote, is most famous for having posted a video on YouTube of himself having a kangaroo feces fight with friends.

Mr. Assange, who was born and raised in Australia, has radically redefined publishing and provoked an unprecedented global debate about state secrets by subverting established practices and common wisdoms.

It seems odd, then, that his bid for political power, carried out in his absence by the WikiLeaks Party, was drowned by the greatest and most conventional of clichés: power corrupts. His campaign was saddled with the usual backbiting, arguing, dysfunction and even leaks.

In theory, it should have turned out better for him. Australians, who have long had a soft spot for irreverent iconoclasts and an abiding suspicion of authority, have always been more sympathetic to Mr. Assange than Americans have been. A 2013 poll found 58 percent of Australians agreed with the statement “the job WikiLeaks does is more of a good thing.”  Only 29 percent thought it was “more of a bad thing.”

When Mr. Assange decided to run for the Senate, pollsters estimated he could get as much as 4 percent of the vote, with an outside chance of winning a seat, despite the fact that he would be campaigning in absentia.

The WikiLeaks Party candidates were highly skilled researchers, activists and academics. Their policies centered on protecting whistle-blowers, limiting surveillance agencies and ensuring greater transparency.

But during the campaign, after his party imploded with infighting, allegations of selling out and a host of resignations, Mr. Assange was exposed as a politician himself, with some of the same moral failings he has been skewering others for. A couple of weeks before the election, a storm erupted over preference deals, where parties that have already achieved the number of votes they need for a Senate seat can arrange to give spare votes to other parties, which usually pledge to give theirs in return. (Preferences are also passed on by parties whose votes are too low to get a seat.)

These deals are crucial paths to power for minor parties. In leaked e-mails, Mr. Assange stressed that preferences were “the single most important factor” in winning, adding: “Bar a raid on the embassy, we will not win without them.”

But WikiLeaks members alleged that Mr. Assange’s deputies had overridden the party’s governing body, the national council, to allow for preference deals that place right-wing anti-abortion or fringe parties — like the Shooters and Fishers Party — ahead of leftist parties like the Greens, which had supported WikiLeaks. The campaign manager, Greg Barns, attributed the deals to an “administrative error,” but WikiLeaks’s national council had agreed to put the Greens first, and some directors requested an immediate internal investigation. The conflict over those deals, and a delayed investigation, prompted a high-profile WikiLeaks candidate, Leslie Cannold, to resign. She said the party was not what it claimed to be: “a democratically run party that both believes in transparency and accountability.”

Ms. Cannold, an ethicist, has not spoken to Mr. Assange since. “This internal corruption revealed him to be no different,” she said, than the politicians he was claiming he’d be keeping accountable.

Mr. Assange put the resignation down to “the teething problems of a young party” and said he had been distracted by Edward Snowden. But several others resigned at the same time, including Dan Matthews, a founding member and one of Mr. Assange’s oldest friends. Mr. Matthews said in a statement that their “base evaporated” after the deals were made public and that Mr. Assange was incapable of working with a group. He was “an icon,” but he was “his own man.”

Mr. Assange’s actions were at odds with a democratic party structure. He had appointed himself president, for example, although there was no mention of this role in the WikiLeaks constitution.

When a reporter asked him why, he laughed: “I founded it. I mean seriously, this is so fantastic. Look at the name, this is the WikiLeaks Party. The prominent candidate is Julian Assange! Who founded it? I founded it. Are you serious?”

An unbowed Mr. Assange has vowed to fight the next election in three years. But to woo the 99 percent of the Australian population who spurned him, he’ll need to stop laughing at those who suggest that appointing yourself the unquestioned leader of a party, for an unlimited term, might make you a politician after all.

And not exactly a democratic one.

 

By: Julia Baird, Opinion Writer, The New York Times, September 14, 2013

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’re Both Opportunists”: Julian Assange Loves Rand Paul’s Playtime Politics And His “Very Principled Positions”

Julian Assange, who back when he roamed the earth freely used to do things like show up on the steps of St. Paul’s to protest the wrongs of capitalism, has now apparently placed his faith in the man who is arguably the capitalists’ single biggest lickspittle in Washington, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). In and of itself, this is only mildly interesting. But Assange’s admirers on the left are so seduced by his oppositionalist posture and his desire to stick it to the man (as long as the man is the government of the United States) that they seem willing to follow him off any cliff, maybe even the cliff of voting for Paul in 2016. It’s a jejune politics, and ultimately a politics of leisure. No one whose day-to-day life is materially affected by the question of who is in office has time for such silly games, and therefore, no one who purports to be in solidarity with those people should either.

In an interview over the weekend with Campus Reform, a conservative college students’ group and website, Assange offered up a range of choice thoughts, none more interesting than this one: “In relation to Rand Paul. I’m a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues. They have been the strongest supporters of the fight against the U.S. attack on WikiLeaks and on me in the U.S. Congress. Similarly, they have been the strongest opponents of drone warfare and extrajudicial killing.” And then this: “The libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is presently the only useful political voice really in the U.S. Congress. It will be the driver that shifts the United States around.”

Assange also praised Matt Drudge in the interview, saying Drudge “should be applauded for breaking a lot of that censorship” of the mainstream news media. Drudge, it should be recalled, didn’t break any “censorship” at all. Conspiracy theorists of left and right have always had trouble distinguishing between censorship and editorial judgment, and it was Newsweek’s judgment (long before current ownership, I note) in January 1998 that its Monica Lewinsky story wasn’t ready for print. Drudge simply “reported” on that fact—or rather was spoon-fed it by disgruntled internal sources. The Lewinsky story was getting around, and so it’s a near certainty that Newsweek, or someone, would have published it soon. But Assange elevates Drudge to hero status.

It’s true that the Pauls do take one principled position, their anti-war stance. That’s one more than some people, I guess. But they get way too much credit for it, and for their supposed “libertarian” posture. Rand Paul is not a libertarian at all. A true libertarian supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry and the right of women to make decisions about their bodies. Paul is against same-sex marriage to such an extent that he compared it with interspecies marriage earlier this summer. And he’s not merely anti-abortion rights; he’s thrown in with the “personhood” movement, which would essentially grant the rights of personhood to fertilized eggs and represents the extreme wing of the anti-abortion rights movement.

What does Assange make of these positions? And what does the Assange of the St. Paul’s anti-banking protest make of Paul’s strident free-marketeerism to the extent of insisting that businesses have the right to discriminate against black people if they want to? We’ll never know, I suspect. If ever compelled to address these points, he’ll probably say they’re side issues dredged up by people devoted to the status quo—a standard and boring “fight the power” line.

I should say I’ve never admired Assange. His is the kind of black-and-white, moral absolutist thinking about politics one should grow out of after graduate school. He put American and other lives at risk with some of his 2010 leaks of classified military material. Into the bargain he may have sexually assaulted two women—innocent until proven otherwise on that one, but nevertheless it hangs out there and is part of the reason he’s holed up in that Ecuadoran Embassy.

He’s a bad actor. But at least once upon a time he was a somewhat consistent bad actor. Now he’s just an opportunist, as much an opportunist as Paul himself. Here’s what “the libertarian aspect” of the GOP is going to bring to America in the thankfully unlikely event it is to succeed at the ballot box. First, taxes so low on the wealthy as to be nearly nonexistent (actually, in some ways the most interesting of Assange’s weekend remarks were those equating taxation with “violence,” which puts him in the company of nutcases like Alan Keyes). Second, the end of any kind of business regulation. Severe cuts to all programs for the poor. These are the only issues, after Paul’s anti-war stance, on which his libertarianism is consistent. It is interesting indeed to learn that Assange agrees.

That’s why these seemingly left-wing anti-establishment types should never be trusted. These are just playtime politics, luxuries for the leisure class. If you want a real left-winger, I say stick with Marx. At least he understood that politics is chiefly about economic relations. Anyone who doesn’t understand that is sending you down blind alleys, knows little about politics to begin with, and should be shunned by anyone who claims to be anywhere on the broad left side of the spectrum.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 19, 2013

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I Love The Russian People”: Edward Snowden Savors The Taste Of Liberty In Russia

Sweet freedom, at last!

I thought I’d never get out of that crummy terminal. After a month of gagging on Cinnabon fumes, even this sooty Moscow air smells like daisies.

Today I walk the streets a free man, accompanied by my two new best friends, Anatoly and Boris. They do NOT work for the KGB, OK? They’re professional tour guides who came strongly recommended by President Vladimir Putin.

By the way, Vlad (that’s what he told me to call him) has been a totally righteous dude about this whole fugitive-spy thing, unlike a certain uncool American president, who keeps trying to have me arrested and prosecuted for espionage.

The Russians have generously given me a Wi-Fi chip and free Internet, so I can go online anytime I want and see what the world is saying about me. A recurring theme in many blogs and chat rooms seems to be: What was that kid thinking?

First of all, I believe with all my heart that Americans have the right to know about the far-reaching surveillance tactics employed by our government to monitor its own citizens. I also believe I’ve restarted an important debate about national security and privacy.

Could I have handled this whole thing differently? Sure. In retrospect, there’s definitely something to be said for anonymity.

But, hey, cut me some slack. I’m only 29 and this was my first time leaking classified intelligence data.

I’ll be the first to admit that my plan wasn’t 100 percent seamless. For example, I should have figured out what new place I wanted to live in before I revealed my identity as the leaker. Clearly, I underestimated how difficult it would be to find a country that would welcome me, especially a country as free and open as the United States.

“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” I declared in a video interview.

This was weeks after I’d left my place in Hawaii and flown to Hong Kong to meet secretly with reporters. The hotel was nice, but after the stories broke I couldn’t go out anywhere.

How do you like your accommodations, Mr. Snowden? Can we bring you another pitcher of green tea? More noodles, perhaps?

I found another place to crash in Hong Kong and gave a new interview revealing that the U.S. National Security Agency had hacked government computers in China. I assumed that in gratitude for receiving this heavy-duty info, the Chinese authorities would let me stay as long as I wanted. Wrong.

No problem, Eddie Boy, says some WikiLeaks dude. We’ll get you into Cuba.

Now I was seriously jazzed because Cuba’s supposed to be a lot like Hawaii — sunshine, great beaches, good surf, a chill music scene.

First connection (or so I thought) was at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. There I scored a ticket to Havana on Aeroflot (which is sort of the Russian version of Jet Blue, minus the TVs in the seatbacks), and I’m ready to roll. Load up my iTunes with the Buena Vista Social Club but then . . .

More bad news. Apparently the Cuban regime wasn’t super excited about me moving there. I never really got the whole story. The plane left without me is all I know.

So I was stuck in the Moscow airport’s “transit” area, feeling not-so-great about how this whistleblower stuff is playing out. The security guys wouldn’t even let me into the main terminal to hit a Starbucks and check out the Sharper Image.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama kept bugging the Kremlin to hand me over. Putin basically flipped him off, which bought me some time to scout other destinations that had fewer ice storms.

The Bolivian government has offered me asylum, but I’ve been thinking about what happened down there to Butch Cassidy and Sundance. I might take a pass.

Venezuela also said I could come down, and maybe that’s where I’ll end up in a few months. At least it’s warm there. Ecuador sounds pretty sweet, too.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the Russian people. Anatoly always insists on carrying my laptop for me, and Boris gave me a cell phone with unlimited minutes.

The coverage here is so amazing that somebody usually answers even before I finish dialing!

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, The Miami Herald, August 3, 2013

August 5, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Shared History”: Edward Snowden Walked Right Into A Bizarre Alliance Between Wikileaks And Russia

One thing that has become clear as the Edward Snowden saga unfolds is that WikiLeaks and Russia have both been integral to the NSA leaker’s arrival and extended stay in Moscow.

The Kremlin and the renegade publisher haven’t overtly coordinated moves in regards to Snowden, but they certainly haven’t been working against each other.

And the two had a shared history before Snowden arrived in Moscow.

Here are a few notable details from a tentative timeline of Edward Snowden and his associates created by former senior U.S. intelligence analyst Joshua Foust:

  • November 2, 2010: An official at the Center for Information Security of the FSB, Russia’s secret police, told the independent Russian news website LifeNews “It’s essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever.”
  • December, 2010: Israel Shamir, a long-standing associate of Wikileaks traveled to Belarus, a close ally of Russia, in December with a cache of Wikileaks files. Belarussian authorities published the cables and cracked down, harshly, on pro-democracy activists.
  • April 17, 2012: Government-funded Russian TV station RT gives [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange his own talk show.
  • June 23, 2013: Izvestia, a state-owned Russian newspaper, writes that the Kremlin and its intelligence services collaborated with Wikileaks to help Snowden escape from Hong Kong (Wikileaks did not mention any official involvement in Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong in their press statements).

Ever since the 30-year-old ex-Booz Allen contractor got on a flight from Hong Kong to Moscow, Russia and WikiLeaks have been working parallel to each other.

On June 23, after the U.S. voided Snowden’s passport while he was in Hong Kong, WikiLeaks tweeted that the organization “assisted Mr. Snowden’s political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers ans [sic] safe exit from Hong Kong.”

That was followed by the update that “Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors.”

It turned out that Assange convinced Ecuador’s consul in London to provide a travel document requesting that authorities allow Snowden to travel to Ecuador “for the purpose of political asylum.” The country’s president subsequently said the document was “completely invalid.”

When Snowden arrived in Moscow with void travel papers, all signs suggest that Russia’s domestic intelligence service (i.e. FSB) took control of him.

That day a radio host in Moscow “saw about 20 Russian officials, supposedly FSB agents, in suits, crowding around somebody in a restricted area of the airport,” according to Anna Nemtsova of Foreign Policy.

WikiLeaks, meanwhile, insisted that Snowden was “not being ‘debriefed’ by the FSB.”

Snowden’s FSB-linked Moscow lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has been speaking for Snowden ever since Snowden accepted all offers for support and asylum on July 12.

On July 11 WikiLeaks had said that Snowden and it had “made sure that he cannot be meaningfully coersed [sic] by either the US or its rivals,” even though that cannot be guaranteed when Russian intelligence is in play.

On Thursday Kucherena announced that Russia has granted Snowden temporary asylum — giving him “the same rights and freedoms possessed by [Russian] citizens” — and led him to a car that would take him to a “secure location.”

PHOTO: #Snowden leaving Moscow airport today after granted 1-year temporary asylum in Russia http://t.co/Ku8SQlG3MB pic.twitter.com/IuMY1AgZeJ

— RT (@RT_com) August 1, 2013

WikiLeaks then announced that Sarah Harrison, Assange’s closest advisor, “has remained with Mr. Snowden at all times to protect his safety and security, including during his exit from Hong Kong. They departed from the airport together in a taxi and are headed to a secure, confidential place.”

And it tweeted this:

We would like to thank the Russian people and all those others who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden. We have won the battle–now the war.

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 1, 2013

(WikiLeaks’ spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT that the “war” is “a war against secrecy … a war for transparency, [and] a war for government accountability.”)

All in all, the organization’s gratitude for those “who have helped to protect Mr. Snowden” — which primarily includes the FSB and Harrison — raises the question of how much the WikiLeaks and the Kremlin have coordinated during the Snowden saga.

 

By: Michael Kelley, Business Insider, August 2, 2013

August 3, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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