I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of US authorities spying on EU offices. If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations. On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations.” – President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz
INTERNATIONAL news was made over the weekend when Spiegel reported that the NSA had spied on European Union offices, setting off a series of potentially damaging media stories that has the Obama administration taking fire from allies. It finally took Edward Snowden out of the firing line and put the focus where it belongs. Not that anyone should be shocked that the U.S. is spying on its allies, because it’s what countries do.
America’s NSA intelligence service allegedly targeted the European Union with its spying activities. According to SPIEGEL information, the US placed bugs in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated its computer network. Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington.
Information obtained by SPIEGEL shows that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL has in part seen. A “top secret” 2010 document describes how the secret service attacked the EU’s diplomatic representation in Washington.
It’s just that it’s very embarrassing to get caught doing it, which the Guardian reporting has broken wide open. It’s likely one reason they’ve been blocked by the U.S. Army, the news they report no longer available for troops.
“The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative ‘network hygiene’ measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks.”
The army stressed its actions were automatic and would not affect computers outside military facilities.
“The department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to visit while on a DoD system, but instead relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats,” said Van Vleet. “The DoD is also not going to block websites from the American public in general, and to do so would violate our highest-held principle of upholding and defending the constitution and respecting civil liberties and privacy.”
Glenn Greenwald cited it as an honor over the weekend in a speech he gave to a socialist conference, invoking my hero, David Halberstam, the great Vietnam war reporter who refused to be bullied by the U.S. government or military when reporting the truth about that war. I’ll never forget his reporting or the great books Halberstam wrote over his life, which changed the way I thought about journalism, as did the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, once upon a time.
Meanwhile, George Stephanopoulos got his brunch handed to him by Julian Assange. The exchange when Stephanopoulos tries to serve up Time magazine as an arbiter of judgment against Assange is classic. It’s highlighted in bold below.
Anyone else getting the feeling that the elite television media is not accustomed to interviewing people who aren’t afraid to take on and challenge conventional Washington and New York political wisdom?
From ABC’s “This Week” comes a contentious conversation on the ramifications of the NSA spying dragnet, and PRISM program, with Julian Assange and Jesselyn Radack, with Human Rights at Government Accountability Project.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … Let’s talk now to Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Joined here in New York by Jesselyn Radack, a former whistle-blower from the Justice Department who disclosed details of post-9/11 interrogation practices, now with the government accountability project. Welcome to you both.
And Mr. Assange, let me begin with you. Thank you for joining us.
What can you tell us about where Edward Snowden is right now and where he’s expected to go?
ASSANGE: Thank you, George.
I wish I could answer these questions of yours in more detail.
The situation now with Edward Snowden is very sensitive one. It’s a matter of international diplomatic negotiations. So, there’s little that I can productively say about what is happening directly.
But look, let’s pull back a bit. Why is it that Mr. Snowden is not in the United States? He should feel that he should be afforded justice in the United States. But his situation is very similar to a situation that I face and that my staff face where we have been sucked into a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, that’s where the charges for Mr. Snowden came from, Alexandria, Virginia.
What do we know about that district? It’s six kilometers from the center of Washington, D.C., the jury pool is made up of the CIA, Pentagon, et cetera. In the legal community in the United States, it’s known as the rocket docket because of the lack of scrutiny procedures have there. There’s a 99 percent chance that — a 99.97 percent chance that if you’re a target of the grand jury you’ll be indicted. And a 99 percent that if you’re indicted by a grand jury you will be convicted.
So this is not a situation — ignoring all the political rhetoric which has been terrible over the past two weeks, where Mr. Snowden can feel that he would be afforded justice in the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there any country right now that would Mr. Snowden asylum?
ASSANGE: Well, under U.N. conventions, Mr. Snowden has the right to appeal to nearly every country for asylum. Of course, asylum decision is always a mixture of the political and the legal. And I think there are several countries where it is politically possible for Mr. Snowden to receive asylum, and many countries, of course, where he’s legally entitled to that kind of protection.
It’s — no one is alleging that any of his acts are anything other than political, that he has acted in a manner to draw attention to a very serious problem in the United States where without the will of congress, without the will of the American population, we now have a state within a state, we have the transnational surveillance apparatus. Glenn Greenwald just last night spoke about the new technology to evolve out of the National Security Agency is going to attempt to intercept 1 billion mobile phone calls a day.
No one signed up for this, Obama does not have a mandate for that. No one has a mandate for that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: With respect, Mr. Assange, many people have said that this…
ASSANGE: …taken for a ride.
STEPHANOPOULOS: …far more than political, including Secretary of State John Kerry. He spoke out on this earlier this week saying that Snowden’s revelations are putting people at risk. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: People may die as a consequence of what this man did. It is possible the United States will be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn’t know before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that concern you at all?
ASSANGE: Well, look, we have heard this rhetoric. I myself was subject to precisely this rhetoric two, three years ago. And it all proved to be false. We had this terrible discussion about — which even exists in some of the tabloid press today — about WikiLeaks causing harm, but not a single U.S. government official, no one from the Pentagon, no one from any government says that any of our revelations in the past six years has caused anyone to come to physical harm.
And the revelations by Snowden, I mean, these are even more abstract than the nature of the war crimes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you spoken to Mr. Snowden — are you confident he is safe right now.
ASSANGE: …we have been publishing.
Our legal people have been in contact with Mr. Snowden. I can’t say anything about the present situation. But, you know, the United States canceled his passport. Joseph Biden, the day before yesterday, personally called the President Correa trying to pressure him. That’s not acceptable.
Asylum is a right that we all have. It’s an international right. The United States has been founded largely on accepting political refugees from other countries and has prospered by it.
Mr. Snowden has that right. Ideally he should be able to return to the United States. Unfortunately, that’s not the world that we live in and hopefully another country will give him the justice that he deserves.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Edward Snowden’s father has spoken out. He fears that you and WikiLeaks are manipulating his son. He said that, quote, “I think WikiLeaks, their focus isn’t necessarily the constitution of the United States, that’s a concern for me.” How do you respond to Edward Snowden’s father?
ASSANGE: Well, he didn’t say that. He said might be. Mr. Snowden’s father as a parent, of course he is worried in this situation, every father would be worried in this situation. We have established contact with Mr. Snowden’s father’s lawyer to put some of his concerns to rest.
But, I mean, this isn’t a situation that, you know, WikiLeaks is in charge of, if you like. This is a matter for states at a very serious level to understand and sort out and behave responsibly. Because I’ve had some experience in the past, with publishing, with attacks and political rhetoric from the United States with asylum and so on.
And I have personal sympathy for Mr. Snowden. We did what we could and we’ll continue to do what we can to try and–
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have put yourself in the middle of it.
ASSANGE: — and help him through.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to ask a further question on that. Glenn Greenwald has said that no matter what happens to Snowden, his secrets, the secrets that he’s taken, will get out. How? And does Wikileaks have possession of those secrets right now?
ASSANGE: Look, there is no stopping the publishing process at this stage. Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can’t be pressured by any state to stop the publication process. I mean, the United States, by canceling his passport, has left him for the moment marooned in Russia. Is that really a great outcome by the State Department? Is that really what it wanted to do? I think that every citizen has the right to their citizenship. To take someone’s principal component of citizenship, their passport, away from them is a disgrace. Mr. Snowden has not been convicted of anything. There are no international warrants out for his arrest. To take a passport from a young man in a difficult situation like that is a disgrace.
He is a hero. He has told the people of the world and the United States that there is mass unlawful interception of their communications, far beyond anything that happened under Nixon. Obama can’t just turn around like Nixon did and said, it’s OK, if the president does it, if the president authorizes it–
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what he’s saying, sir. He has also broken the law. Let me bring that now to Jesselyn Radack, who is also here with me right now. Julian Assange mentioned Edward Snowden’s father, who has also written — his attorney has written a letter to Eric Holder, the attorney general, saying that he believes that his son would be willing to come back to the United States if he would not be detained or imprisoned prior to trial, if he would not be subject to a gag order, if he would be tried in the venue of his choosing. Do you think it would make sense for Snowden to return under those circumstances?
RADACK: I actually don’t. I have represented people like Thomas Drake, who was an NSA whistle-blower, who actually did go through every conceivable internal channel possible, including his boss, the inspector general of his agency, the Defense Department inspector general and two congressional committees, and the U.S. turned around and prosecuted him. And did so for espionage and threatened to tie him up for the rest of his life in jail. I think Snowden’s outlook is bleak here, and instead of focusing on Snowden and shooting the messenger, we should really focus on the crimes of the NSA. Because whatever laws Snowden may or may not have broken, they are infinitesimally small compared to the two major surveillance laws and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution that the NSA’s violated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But these surveillance programs, as the president has pointed out, were passed by the Congress, are overseen by a court.
RADACK: Well, both of those are incorrect. Congress has not been fully informed. Only the–
STEPHANOPOULOS: They passed the laws, there is oversight, or there is (inaudible).
RADACK: OK, but there is a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which nobody knows, except for the Intel Committee of Congress, and even they say that they think most Americans would be appalled by that. And to say that it’s been approved by the courts is a misnomer, because it gives the impression that federal courts have approved this, when in reality, it’s the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has rubber-stamped every single–
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which is a federal court.
RADACK: No, it is a secret court set up at the Justice Department that has federal judges on it. But last year, it approved 2,000 out of 2,000 applications. They hear only the government’s side, and they have never — they have rejected an application one time since 1978.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring this back to Julian Assange. Back in 2010, an email that was revealed from you by Bart Gellman in “Time” magazine, said that you hoped the revelations from Wikileaks would bring about, quote, “the total annihilation of the current U.S. regime.” Is that still your goal, and what did you mean by that?
ASSANGE: I did not say that and there is no such email. That is simply false.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s quoted in “Time” magazine in December 2010.
ASSANGE: Yes. Well, I mean, “Time” magazine. But this is — it’s very interesting that you raised such a thing like that. We are in a situation where we have these extraordinary revelations that are causing great embarrassment to a new national security state that is arising in the U.S. It’s not just the U.S. Similar national security states are rising in other countries, but it is trying to evade democratic will. It’s treating Congress like a bunch of fools. And we saw Clapper up there lying, bald-face lying to Congress. We have secret interpretations of the law. What does the law mean if there are secret interpretations in secret courts?
We have Bradley Manning’s trial starting — continuing tomorrow. A young man, a good man, as far as anyone can tell, motivations are entirely political as far as anyone argues. The same with Snowden. Being put through this meat grinder, where a new precedent is trying to be set, which is communicating with the press is committing espionage. And it’s not just a precedent that is trying to be set on these whistle-blowers. It’s a precedent that’s trying to be set on journalists and politicians as well. We saw that in the case of–
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, Mr. Assange, meantime, you’re being–
ASSANGE: — James Rosen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — safe harbored (ph) by the Ecuadorian government. That — the Correa administration has been admonished by human rights organizations for restricting press freedoms, prosecuting journalists. The Inter American Press Association calls its new media law, quote, “the most serious setback for freedom of the press in the recent history of Latin America.” So does it make you uncomfortable to be harbored by a government that goes after journalists, and do you see a double standard there?
ASSANGE: Well, these accusations are largely blown up. There are of course all sorts of problems in any particular country. But why are they even spoken about? What has happened here is a mass revelation of illegal transnational spying by the National Security Agency, the collection of the communications records of every single person in the United States, laying out the entire community structure of the United States. And these sort of attempts are merely a mechanism to try and shift ground. But you know, going to CPJ, the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, they list the number of journalists in Ecuadorian prisons — zero. And it has been zero for a very long time. It’s 48 in Turkey. So we’ve got to keep things in some kind of perspective (ph). There is no allegation that Ecuador–
ASSANGE: — no allegation that Ecuador is involved in a mass transnational surveillance or assassination programs and so on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julian Assange, Jesselyn Radack, thanks very much for joining me this morning.
RADACK: Thank you.