Democracy as we thought it existed does not exist in the countries in which we live, and three people have between them exposed the farce of our systems of government.
The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993 Edition) defines DEMOCRACY as follows:
democracy n.[f. Gk demokratia, from as DEMOS + -CRACY.] 1. Government by the people; a form of government in which the power resides in the people and is exercised by them either directly or by means of elected representatives, a form of society which favours equal rights, the ignoring of hereditary class distinctions, and tolerance of minority views.
demos The common people of an ancient Greek state; (a personification of) the populace, esp. in a democracy.
-cracy Gk. -kratia power,rule. In or forming nouns referring to types of government or ruling class, as democracy, aristocracy, etc.
A good way to introduce this topic is with this video from Antony Loewenstein's blog dated 11 June 2013:
Edward Snowden is the latest of the trio to hit the headlines, raising the ire of his government and of course the allies of the government of the United States, including the UK, Australia, Canada and several others. Read the comments from Regina Ip of Hong Kong and feel your blood run cold!
Prism whistleblower: Former CIA worker Edward Snowden told to leave Hong Kong or face extradition
'I am not afraid,’ says high-school dropout, as he reveals his identity from a Hong Kong hotel roomBy John Hall , Tim Walker
10 June 2013
• William Hague: Law-abiding Britons have nothing to fear from GCHQ
• Prism scandal: William Hague faces grilling over accusations that GCHQ spied on Britons through covert US operation
Another video from Antony Loewenstein taken from the Guardian on 12 June 2013:
Video: Former CIA worker Edward Snowden on NSA Prism data-mining operation
A senior figure in Hong Kong law enforcement has suggested NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should leave the city.
Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing legislator who was previously the city’s top security official, said Hong Kong was “obliged to comply with the terms of agreements” with the US government, which included the extradition of fugitives.
She added that, after he leaked the largest amount of classified information in the history of the US National Security Agency, she strongly recommends Snowden depart the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Ms Ip said: “It's actually in his best interest to leave Hong Kong”, adding that although she didn’t know if local administration had received an extradition request, she doubts it will happen soon.
Snowden’s exact location in Hong Kong is unknown, but he has claimed he opted to base himself there due to its “strong tradition of free speech”.
Ms Ip's statement comes after Snowden chose to make his identity public, despite the potential consequences for himself and his loved ones.
The 29-year-old employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and former CIA technical assistant, said he had never intended to remain anonymous. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Snowden’s revelations, which he leaked initially to Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, included the existence of a growing NSA stockpile of millions of phone records from the US public. According to the top secret documents, the Agency’s Prism programme also gives it “direct access” to files from the servers of major tech companies such as Google and Facebook. This vast data mining operation is supposedly designed to anticipate and prevent terror plots.
The revelation of Snowden’s identity came after the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said on Sunday that he had asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into the leaks, telling NBC News, “It is literally gut-wrenching to see this happening, because of the huge grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities… this is a key tool for preserving protecting the nation’s safety and security.”
The Obama administration has aggressively pursued whistleblowers such as US Army Private Bradley Manning, whose trial on charges of passing classified material to the Wikileaks website began last week, three years after his arrest. Snowden, who is now in hiding in a Hong Kong hotel room, told The Guardian, “I do not expect to see home again.”
Peter King, the Republican chairman of the House homeland security subcommittee, called for Snowden's extradition, adding “the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.”
King went on: “The United States must make it clear that no country should be granting this individual asylum. This is a matter of extraordinary consequence to American intelligence.”
The Republican head of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, said Snowden had “released just enough information to literally be dangerous”.
Snowden was brought up in North Carolina and Maryland. In 2003 he enlisted in the US Army, intending to fight in the Iraq War, but was discharged after breaking both legs in an accident during a Special Forces training programme. Snowden said he wanted to fight in Iraq because he felt an obligation to “help free people from oppression”, but that “most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone”. He was employed by the NSA as a security guard at one of its covert facilities, and then by the CIA, working on IT security. Thanks to his aptitude for computer programming, he rose quickly and in 2007 was sent to join a CIA station in Geneva.
During his Swiss posting, Snowden says he became disillusioned with intelligence work, and dismayed by the dubious activities of his colleagues. He considered turning whistleblower, but changed his mind after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, with a promise to reform the policies of his White House predecessor.
He left the CIA for his first job with a private contractor the following year, where he was placed on a military base in Japan at an NSA facility. Yet as the Obama presidency wore on without such reforms, Snowden says he became increasingly “hardened”. “You can’t wait around for someone else to act,” he said. “I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”
Until three weeks ago, Snowden worked at an NSA office in Hawaii. That was when he finished copying all of the secret documents he planned to leak to the press, and told his supervisor that he would be away from work for a fortnight while he underwent treatment for epilepsy. He told his girlfriend, with whom he shared a home, that he would be leaving for a few weeks.
As he boarded a flight to Hong Kong on 20 May, he said goodbye to “a very comfortable life” and a salary of approximately $200,000 (£129,000). Since arriving in the city, he says, he rarely leaves his hotel room, the door to which he has muffled with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He also puts a large hood over his head and laptop when typing, to prevent hidden cameras picking out his passwords. “I could be rendered by the CIA,” he claims, “I could have people come after me… That is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
In spite of the deprivations involved, Snowden said he felt compelled to blow the whistle. “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything,” he said. “With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”
A whistleblower in quotes "I will be made to suffer for my actions, [but] I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law ... and irresistible executive powers that rule the world ... are revealed even for an instant.”
"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA ... or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads ... That is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
"I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made. The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more.”
"I had an authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge or even the President, if I had a personal email.
"You don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to have eventually fall under suspicion ... and then they can use this system to go back in time and ... derive suspicion from an innocent life”
The following article was in the Guardian and published by Alternet:The Guardian / By Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg: Edward Snowden, Saving Us From the United Stasi of America
Snowden's whistleblowing gives us a chance to roll back what is tantamount to an 'executive coup' against the US constitution.June 10, 2013
In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. Snowden's whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an "executive coup" against the US constitution. Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.
The government claims it has a court warrant under Fisa – but that unconstitutionally sweeping warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, almost totally deferential to executive requests. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: "It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp."
For the president then to say that there is judicial oversight is nonsense – as is the alleged oversight function of the intelligence committees in Congress. Not for the first time – as with issues of torture, kidnapping, detention, assassination by drones and death squads –they have shown themselves to be thoroughly co-opted by the agencies they supposedly monitor. They are also black holes for information that the public needs to know.
The fact that congressional leaders were "briefed" on this and went along with it, without any open debate, hearings, staff analysis, or any real chance for effective dissent, only shows how broken the system of checks and balances is in this country.
Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people's privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous.
There are legitimate reasons for secrecy, and specifically for secrecy about communications intelligence. That's why Bradley Mannning and I – both of whom had access to such intelligence with clearances higher than top-secret – chose not to disclose any information with that classification. And it is why Edward Snowden has committed himself to withhold publication of most of what he might have revealed.
But what is not legitimate is to use a secrecy system to hide programs that are blatantly unconstitutional in their breadth and potential abuse. Neither the president nor Congress as a whole may by themselves revoke the fourth amendment – and that's why what Snowden has revealed so far was secret from the American people.
In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms:
"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America's intelligence gathering capability – which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era – "at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left."
That has now happened. That is what Snowden has exposed, with official, secret documents. The NSA, FBI and CIA have, with the new digital technology, surveillance powers over our own citizens that the Stasi – the secret police in the former "democratic republic" of East Germany – could scarcely have dreamed of. Snowden reveals that the so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America.
So we have fallen into Senator Church's abyss. The questions now are whether he was right or wrong that there is no return from it, and whether that means that effective democracy will become impossible. A week ago, I would have found it hard to argue with pessimistic answers to those conclusions.
But with Edward Snowden having put his life on the line to get this information out, quite possibly inspiring others with similar knowledge, conscience and patriotism to show comparable civil courage – in the public, in Congress, in the executive branch itself – I see the unexpected possibility of a way up and out of the abyss.
Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate the revelations by Snowden and, I hope, others to come might lead us to bring NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the bill of rights.
Snowden did what he did because he recognised the NSA's surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans' and foreign citizens' privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we're trying to protect.
• Editor's note: this article was revised and updated at the author's behest, at 7.45am ET on 10 June