The disclosure of widespread and unregulated surveillance by the US and UK governments, including the US Prism program, is a shock for many. It has violated the right to freedom of expression and the privacy of millions people around the world. Edward Snowden, the man, who has made it come into the open, appears to grab the world media radar screen for a long time. It’s not only the information disclosed. He has made surface the issues that make people ponder over a lot of things, the ones of fundamental importance, and even reconsider the traditional views on what is right and what is wrong in the contemporary world we’re living in. There are many details and nuances of the matter and it takes a long time to make head or tail of it. But it’s worth to sum up whatever we know today in a concise form and clarify the picture to define what the whole Snowden story is about.
I find it very import that U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay came out in support of Snowden on July 12. The UN high standing official openly condemns the USA. She emphasized the need to protect people who uncovered abuses and respect the right for people to seek asylum on global scale. «Snowden's case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy», she said in a statement. «National legal systems must ensure that there are adequate avenues for individuals disclosing violations of human rights to express their concern without fear of reprisals», the UN official added. Pillay said undue surveillance could amount to infringement of human rights. As she put it, «While concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify the exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance programs, surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risks impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms». She held an opinion that according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one may be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, and the law must protect everyone against such interference, she said.
Actually the revelations related to government power abuse and human rights violations may come only from within, there is nowhere else such information may come from. It’s the government who is a wrongdoer and the whistleblowers in such cases should be protected from legal reprisals and disciplinary action the same way key witnesses for criminal prosecution are protected by special police programs. The «right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution» is a provision in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is guaranteed by the UN Refugee Convention and its Protocol. For instance, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, «No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks». Whistleblowing is the way to exercise the freedom of expression and is legally protected under Article 19 of the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights and by a number of regional human rights agreements.
Inside the US the NSA’s activities infringe the First Amendment. It silences freedom of speech, any whistleblowing attempt is tapped. The NSA also violates the Fourth Amendment since it is guilty of unreasonable search because people’s phone records are being collected without any legal justification whatsoever. Willy-nilly the Snowden’s case gives rise to the idea that the Patriot Act needs serious reforms, if not abolition. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udal (D-Colorado) have openly stated this point of view.
The NSA has violated international norms by snooping on allies, EU institutions and the UN's offices. The right to privacy is recognized under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
From purely legal point of view Ed Snowden has not harmed anybody nor put anybody at risk. The only thing he had done is exposing acts, which are illegal under the US laws. The US government has already found Snowden guilty without a trial, labeling him a traitor. So his right for fair trial is impossible to materialize. It charges Snowden under the Espionage Act, but espionage presupposes spying for someone, which is not the case. The man did what he did as a conscientious objector to illegal government policy. The US government has revoked the fugitive’s passport interfering with his right to freedom of movement and seeking asylum where ever he wishes. So it’s not Snowden but the US government who should persecuted and tried.
The revelations have many implications of ethical nature. The US call for democracy worldwide has lost any credibility, the country is the world gendarme that has no respect for others justifying any wanton action harming others. The flagrant scorn for human rights and international law is there for all to see, any attempt to go on lecturing others is doomed to failure, and the US will make a laughing stock of itself. The US acts under the presumption that almost everyone is a potential threat and it serves as a justification for violating the rights of others. It undermines the very basis of interstate relationship. There will be no more mutual trust in relationship with any other state.
Snowden has revealed the information without pursuing any personal gains. No damage to US military posture, no names of residents and operatives working undercover abroad are given away. He has not done it, so the Espionage Act is no legal ground for putting forward charges against him. There has been no spying, he gave the information to American common people, and they have an inalienable right to know the truth.
I believe anyone should have a right to expose the illegal actions of respective governments.
Snowden did it for everyone, not only for those who live in the Unites States, but all people of the world. He was courageous enough to stand up alone against the powerful repression force that big world actors are afraid of and are subject to its pressure (remember the Bolivian presidential plane made land by European big ones). «I’m willing to sacrifice all that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people all around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building», Snowden himself told The Guardian.
The American called in the Nuremberg process which stated individuals have a right to breach internal laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity.
Now we all know that even if no harm is meant, the state, or rather individuals, who represent it, can follow the example of Edgar Hoover and store the information on a person who has nothing to do with any crimes, just in case a need may come to use it in future. It can be used for political purposes, for instance, a politician can be blackmailed.
On 12 September, 2012 the UN delegations from Russia, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan sent a letter to the Secretary General proposing a dialogue on their draft proposal, «International Code of Conduct for International Security». (1) The proposal discusses the security challenges cyberspace presents to the international community and would establish rights and responsibilities of states in protecting information networks and cyber networks. The proposal says states should respect domestic laws and sovereignty, but also calls for a multilateral approach within the framework of the United Nations to establish international norms and settle disputes about cyberspace, for instance:
– To prevent other states from using their resources, critical infrastructures, core technologies or other advantages, to undermine the rights of other countries … to independent control of ICTs, or to threaten other countries’ political, economic and social security.
– to cooperate in combating criminal and terrorist activities which use ICTs [information and communications technology] including networks and curbing dissemination of information which incites terrorism, secessionism, extremism, or undermines other nations’ political, economic, and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.
Until now the progress on the proposal has been slowed down by U.S. officials. The proposal is a way to undermine U.S. and British efforts to establish their own international norms for cyberspace.
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The manhunt for Edward Snowden must be stopped, the energy directed at getting him behind bars reoriented on tackling the global problem of illegal surveillance. Russia and China are among very few the countries that have done something here in quite concrete terms internationally.
The NSA is a department of the Department of Defense. The revelations testify to the fact the US military assumes an ever greater role in civilian and political affairs, a very dangerous trend for common Americans and the world. More than 50 years ago President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the peril embodied in the «military-industrial complex». He said, «The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government». The then President emphasized, «The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist». The only safeguard of «our liberties», Eisenhower declared, was «an alert and knowledgeable citizenry». That’s what Ed Snowden did. He gave the citizenry the required warning. The very same thing was done by Paul Revere, an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting the Colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord. He is a well-remembered hero well known beyond the US. What he did is a page in world history. Ed Snowden has warned Americans too, the only difference is that it’s not the British now, but rather the top layer of US society which grabs the power and does what it wants making mockery of the founding fathers heritage, the Constitution and the values the nation cherishes and is built on. It up to Americans to decide if they want it to go on or change it. It’s up to other nations to decide if they want to be subject of the undisputable ruler watching them closely and using secrets to blackmail them into doing what it finds right or they prefer to stand up and face the challenge. Everyone is free to take own decisions, and the moment to do it is now. It’s the time take a stand for democracy and say no to the police state, this is not a decision to be delayed or swept under the rug.