When Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, exposing the fact that senior US officials had long privately believed that the Vietnam War was unwinnable even as they ordered more American soldiers to their deaths, the Nixon Administration set out to “convict Ellsberg in the media.”
Can there be any reasonable dispute that this is what the Obama administration and its allies in Congress and the corporate media have been trying to do to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden - “convict him in the media”?
The Obama Administration’s unprecedented crackdown on government whistleblowers is a direct threat to Americans’ efforts to reform US foreign policy to make it more just. If we don't know for sure what the US government is doing, we can’t have an effective democratic debate about what US policy should be.
Recently, as part of a CodePink peace delegation to Yemen, I met with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein. I delivered a petition signed by over 18,000 Americans urging Ambassador Feierstein to work quickly to transfer the Yemenis at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release and to work quickly to curtail US drone strikes in Yemen, as President Obama has promised.
In the course of our conversation, Ambassador Feierstein claimed that there are no “signature strikes” in Yemen - no drone strikes in which the United States doesn’t know who it is targeting. This claim is completely at odds with press reports. When I told a Western journalist working in Yemen that Ambassador Feierstein had said this, she replied: “He wouldn’t dare say that to me, because he knows I’d laugh in his face.”
This disconnect between what US government officials say about the drone strikes and the record of independent reporting is only possible because of official government secrecy around the drone strikes. This secrecy is enabled by the unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. This secrecy is a key obstacle to our efforts to reform US foreign policy.
At this writing, according to press reports, former NSA contractor EdwardSnowden is trapped in the transit area of the Moscow airport as a result of his efforts to expose the unprecedented sweep of the NSA’s spying on Americans and foreigners. He has applied to Ecuador for political asylum. Meanwhile, there has been a fierce government-media campaign in the US to discredit Snowden, to portray him as an enemy of the United States, ignoring the fact that he’s taken a great personal risk to expose information about US government policy that the American people have the right to know.
To counter this government-media campaign to “convict Snowden in the media,” we’ve worked with Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Tom Hayden and Daniel Ellsberg to initiate a letter from Americans to Ecuador’s President Correa, urging him to grant Snowden’s application for asylum. At this writing, more than 9,000 Americans have signed.
Whistleblowers should be able to expose government wrongdoing without getting the Bradley Manning treatment. If you care about effective democratic control of US foreign policy, please sign our appeal to President Correa.