Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Snowden’s Grand Escape: The Limits of U.S. Power

Snowden’s Grand Escape: The Limits of U.S. Power

by Binoy Kampmark
June 24, 2013

By trying to crush these young whistleblowers with espionage charges, the U.S. government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose.
Julian Assange, quoted in New York Times, Jun 23, 2013

There is no mores striking anger than that which comes from impotence. This is well illustrated by the bullying line being taken by Washington regarding countries granting passage to Edward Snowden as he veers his way to Ecuador. Cooperate with us, or else. Precisely – and what of it?

The case of Snowden is becoming a cornucopia of diplomatic ferment and dazzling excitement. A senior Obama official, as recorded in The Guardian (Jun 22), threatened that, “If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law.” This is the obscenity of the absurd: When we spy on you through secret mass surveillance, the law is served. It isn’t if the public is told about it.

Despite the U.S. request formally requesting Hong Kong authorities to proceed with the extradition process, the whistleblower could still get on a commercial flight on Sunday (hardly anything covert about it) and head to Moscow. It was brazen, but it was still fabulously ordinary for being so open. This also came as Hong Kong legislators such as the democratic political activist Leung Kwok-hung urged residents to “take to the streets to protect Snowden.” The final call rested with Beijing, and Chinese authorities were in no mood to comply with the U.S. request.

The key in combating any clandestine culture is to treat matters as normal, open and ordinary. It is the double bluff – to deceive the deceivers by disregarding their worth, their strength, their ploys. The prosaic nature of a secret world mocks it to death. Then gather allies, mutual interests and antagonisms. Journalists getting off the plane in Moscow were thrilled to bits at the adventure, showing passengers happy snaps of Snowden.

No sooner had Snowden touched down in Moscow, he disappeared. He apparently had the Ecuadorean ambassador, Patricio Chávez, in tow. The suggestions here are that Snowden will be heading for Quito via Havana. If this takes place without a hitch, it will be a brilliant coup, one orchestrated by those outside standard government channels. It will also have the finger prints of Julian Assange over it.

WikiLeaks has provided assistance of a logistical kind to Snowden, delivering special documentation enabling him to travel in the absence of his revoked passport. WikiLeaks British activist Sarah Harrison was also accompanying Snowden in his flight. “He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks.”

The statement released from the organisation on Sunday further explained that Snowden had “requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.”

And what of Washington’s incandescent fury? A good deal of egg found its way to the faces of its officials when it came to light that the National Security Agency had hacked Chinese mobile phone companies in an effort to access millions of private messages. Only some days prior, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping had spoken about the need to cultivate ties of “mutual trust”.

Snowden has not merely been devastating in his revelations; he has been wise in divvying the detailed muck. Richly deserved mistrust has been sown. The South China Morning Post (Jun 23) was the grateful recipient of Snowden’s disclosures on that occasion. The paper’s editorial (Jun 24) went so far as to regard his “choice of Hong Kong to hole up while he revealed who America was spying on and how its surveillance operations were conducted” as “genius”.

There was also more. NSA’s cyber snooping had involved attacks on the networks of Tsinghua University and computers at the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, owner of one of the most extensive fibre optic submarine cable systems in the region. Pacnet’s cables amount to 46,000 kilometres in length linking data centres through mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Tag one, and you tag them all.

Little wonder then that Beijing is hardly in any mood to cooperate on this score, nor was Hong Kong. The latter authorities contended that the U.S. arrest warrant was defective at law. Restraining Snowden, to throw the comment back at the Obama administration, would have been contrary to law. State media went so far as to label Washington the “villain” of the peace.

Over the weekend, from the detained abode he is residing in London, Assange called for a global effort to assist the likes of Snowden. He is the near perfect genotype of exposure and revelation, indispensable to combating the cocksure goons of secrecy who perforate privacy and undermine personal dignity. Something stirring is afoot, and the alarums are getting louder by the day.

*************

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Artificial Intelligence: Real Anxieties?

The movie Ex Machina feels so current there are powerful moments of recognition – despite the seemingly unlikely scenario of a walking, talking artificial intelligence (AI). Right now Google is enlisting its massive databases, drawing on the contents of every email and Internet search ever made, in the service of what has been called ‘the Manhattan Project of AI’. More>>

ALSO:

Open Source, Open Society: More Than Just Transparency

Bill Bennett: “Share and share alike” is the message parents drum into children. But once they grow up and move out into the wider world, the shutters start to come down. We’re trained to be closed. Dave Lane, president of the New Zealand Open Source Society, says that explains the discomfort people find when they first encounter the open world. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Journalism, History And Forgetting

Compare that [the saturation coverage of WWI] not just with the thinly reported anniversaries last year of key battles in the New Zealand Wars, but with the coverage of the very consequential present-day efforts to remedy the damage those wars wrought, and the picture is pretty dismal. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Climate Of Fear

New Zealand, promoting itself as an efficient producer, has been operating as a factory farm for overseas markets with increasing intensity ever since the introduction of refrigerated shipping in 1882. The costs to native forests and to bio-diversity have been outlandish. The discussion of impacts has been minimal... More>>

ALSO:

Greek Riddles: Gordon Campbell On The Recent Smackdown Over Greece

There had been a fortnight of fevered buildup. Yet here we are in the aftermath of the February 28 showdown between the new Syriza government in Greece and the European Union “troika” and… no-one seems entirely sure what happened. Did the asteroid miss Earth? More>>

ALSO:

Keith Rankin: Contribution Through Innovation

The economic contribution of businesses and people is often quite unrelated to their taxable incomes. EHome, as a relatively new company, may have never earned any taxable income. Its successors almost certainly will earn income and pay tax. Yet it was eHome itself who made the biggest contribution by starting the venture in the first place. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news