Edward Snowden Invokes Nuremberg in Defending His Actions

Here’s his speech:

Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.

 

It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.

 

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

 

Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.

 

That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.

 

Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression. The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.

 

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

 

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

 

This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

16 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    The government of the United States of America should be ashamed of itself. Do you suppose that sinks in?

  2. Orestes Ippeau says:

    @What Constitution?: Not just “suppose”, I think it’s quite easy to point to all sorts of manifestations, not just in the legacy media but in official America. I’m not sure the scales have tipped reliably in Snowden’s favor (yet), the way they proved to have done with Ellsberg (As Ellsberg says, this is a different time and context.), but his prospects are improving with time.

  3. Chetnolian says:

    While it looks as though he has had help with this, it is very powerful, especially the Nuremberg reference.

  4. bell says:

    nice speech! just the kind speech one will never read in the propaganda press – nyt and wapo, lol… why educate/inform your readers when you can keep them impoverished?

  5. What Constitution says:

    @Orestes Ippeau: Ding Ding Ding! Great answer. Placing these concepts in front of the government of the United States of America is a public service of the first order. Wasn’t it the President of the United States — a Mr. Obama — who recently gave a speech about US drone “policies” and Guantanamo “policies” seasoned with the observation that “this is not who we are”, and who also gave a speech at the inception of the Snowden disclosures in which he announced that he “welcomes the discussion” made possible by the existence of actual awareness of some of the parameters of what has been going on behind the curtain “in the name of security”? I share the hope that the scales are in fact tipping.

    Let them keep rolling out the apologists. Every time they do, play this back and ask for comment about Nuremberg and the President’s rhetoric.

    And let’s get an actual understanding of what has been going on in secret and whether it’s either consistent with our nation’s principles or cost justified (or both). Mr. Snowden has done more to make that possible than all the past decade’s FOIA requests and congressional hearings combined.

    U.S. government: Stop persecuting Snowden and instead show us why what he’s made public is either false, or misunderstood, or actually OK. If it can be done. The disclosures so far clearly suggest that without the secrecy, there is no way to justify the assertions of these programs’ legitimate existence or operations.

  6. carver says:

    My POV is if the government believes that Mr. Snowden has so egregiously compromised national security, then why was this critical information handed over to a private contractor in the first place? I think the government is embarrassed that they were so sloppy in securing information that is critical to national securit.y

  7. thatvisionthing says:

    @carver: Not critical to national security. Critical to national INsecurity at the molecular level – as in you and I, totally. #paranoiawilldestroya #uhoh

  8. thatvisionthing says:

    It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America…

    Latin America’s dignity has never been higher. Ours? Exposed as worthless. #taketheglovesoff #nothingtherebutthisstupidfist

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    Nuremberg defense was tried this year in Tennessee in regard to case where a nun and two pacifists held a Transform Now Plowshares Action at Y-12 nuke bombmaking facility – they trespassed, prayed, painted slogans and waited to be arrested. Judge refused to allow jury to hear testimony from former Attorney General Ramsey Clark on Nuremberg defense, and jury convicted them all under terrorism statute.

    In which an 83-year-old nun is convicted of terrorism, her weapon is white roses, and the jury is not allowed to hear a former Attorney General testify in her defense: It’s nukes in America

    Ralph Hutchison: But, you know, a week before we had the trial here last week, we had a hearing to determine whether or not former Attorney General Ramsey Clark could testify at the trial, and the judge listened to him and eventually said, “I’m not going to allow the jury to hear that kind of testimony.” So Ramsey Clark said that the work that’s done at Y-12 violates U.S. agreements under the Nonproliferation Treaty and he called it unlawful, and then the prosecutor said, “Are you saying the people who build these bombs are war criminals?” And Ramsey Clark said, “I’ll say they’re engaged in a criminal activity.” And, I mean, that’s sort of the reality of it. And then Ramsey Clark said, “Everybody who has a part in this is responsible.”

    There was a discussion about whether to allow the defendants to argue the Nuremberg Code which says, after World War II, after the Jews were obliterated in the Nazi concentration camps, the Nuremberg trials established that every citizen has a responsibility to the law even if the government tells you otherwise. And so these people said, “Well, we went in under our Nuremberg obligation. We see our government is preparing to destroy the planet and innocent civilians would be killed if a nuclear weapon is used, and that violates the laws of war, so it’s a war crime and we want to stop the preparation for a war crime.” But the judge would not allow that testimony to happen, and eventually our [attorney] said everybody has the responsibility, and the judge said, “Well, except the judge doesn’t have responsibility, even though the prosecution can decide whether or not to bring charges, but once they do, I just have to apply the law.” And he tried to duck his responsibility. And of course the lawyer for the defendants asked Ramsey Clark, who had been at the Nuremberg trials, “Were any judges, any German judges put on trial at Nuremberg?” And Ramsey Clark said, “Yes, they were.” “And were any prosecutors put on trial?” “Yes, they were.”

    Sentencing in September; they’re facing 30 years in prison.

    Ramsey Clark testimony to judge: http://orepa.org/ramsey-clark-y12-activities-are-unlawful/
    Jury selection: http://orepa.org/transform-now-plowshares-trail-day-one/

  10. thatvisionthing says:

    … crime scene tape as weapon … theater of the absurd … illusion of security … house of cards …

    Hutchison: And when they were talking about whether or not they could be released, after they were found guilty, it was determined that their crime is classified as a crime of violence, even though their weapons were white roses and Bibles and, you know, crime scene tape that they strung around it, and nevertheless it was considered a crime of violence. And the statute under which they’re going to be sentenced falls underneath our terrorism statute. So it’s almost like a theater of the absurd when you […] back from it, that the government has gone to this extraordinary length to try to silence these people, not because the three of them themselves pose any kind of threat whatsoever, that the prosecution even admitted that as the case went on. But the message that they brought poses a great threat to the United States’ nuclear weapons establishment. They’re afraid that people will hear about this and wake up and ask themselves, “Why are we spending billions and billions of dollars on nuclear weapons that we don’t need and can’t use? Why are we building a new bomb plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee?” And if the public wakes up and recognizes that, then this whole sort of house of cards, the illusion of security through nuclear weapons, begins to deteriorate. That’ll cost Lockheed Martin and those people a lot of money, so if they have to sacrifice these three people in prison for the rest of their lives to stop that from happening, they’re happy to do that. As far as I’m concerned, if these people have taken this great risk and made this great sacrifice, my job is to honor them by doing everything I can to get the message out and to sound the alarm to wake people up.

  11. thatvisionthing says:

    From the Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/12/edward-snowden-to-meet-amnesty-and-human-rights-watch-at-moscow-airport-live-coverag

    Camera- and mic boom-wielding correspondents mobbed each of the invitees in turn as they made their way toward an airport employee holding a sign reading “G9”, previously identified in Snowden’s invitation email as the marker that would lead them to Snowden.

    G8 + 1… A new nation, Snowden? I wish. His statement almost reads like our Declaration of Independence:

    …Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression. The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum…

    Seems to be written out of a decent respect to the opinions of mankind too.

    …a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    What a hoot for the US to accuse the Russians of providing a propaganda platform for Snowden. The US, in particular, its corporate and now corporate/governmental organizations, have been waging a propaganda war on US soil since 1945. The US accusing the Russians of having a poor human rights record might be accurate; it is rather like the pot calling the kettle black.

    To verify that, we might ask the Laotians, Cambodians, Africans, Latin Americans, Middle Easterners, and European union leaders what their opinions are. For balance, we could then ask the Fortune 500, or today’s incarnation of them loitering round the Beltway.

  13. ess emm says:

    Snowden’s not only fighting against massive, pervasive surveillance, he is fighting against an Imperial America.

    Mika Brzezinski’s father remarked that Democratization is inimical to imperial mobilization. I take that to mean that the democratic instincts of ordinary American men and women would reject the ruthlessness necessary for the pursuit of imperial power. But the elites cannot resist assuming that power. Therefore, imperial power must be exercised in secret, behind our backs. Snowden is exposing Imperial America’s network of control.

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