A powerful letter-a declaration of independence offered for the American and European intelligence community-appeared last week in The Guardian, the United Kingdom’s newspaper which has stood firm in exposing illegal clandestine activities of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
The open letter was signed by noted government whistleblowers-who felt their government was committing illegal acts and, unable to curtail the activities within the system, took their accusations public-and activists supporting their efforts.
The seven signers are:
Thomas Drake, a former NSA senior executive who in 2006 “leaked information about the NSA’s dysfunctional data-gathering Trailblazer Project to the Baltimore Sun. He was prosecuted under the Espionage Act in 2010, but the case collapsed,” according to The Guardian.
Daniel Ellsberg, a former US military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, exposing U.S. lies about the Vietnam War.
Katharine Gun, a former British translator for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency. In 2003, she leaked a top-secret email about US plans to spy on the UN, and was charged under the Official Secrets Act.
Peter Kofod, a Danish musician and former participant in the human shield action in Iraq.
Ray McGovern, a political activist and former CIA analyst who served from 1963-1990. He received the Intelligence Commendation Medal, which he returned in protest in 2006 over CIA use of torture.
Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project, which represents whistleblowers.
Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI agent who testified before the U.S. Senate and the 9/11 commission about FBI mishandling of information related to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The missive’s headline reads, “Former whistleblowers: open letter to intelligence employees after Snowden.”
“Snowden” refers to Edward Snowden, the American computer specialist, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former NSA contractor who disclosed up to 200,000 classified documents to the press, and continues to present disclosures. Snowden’s revelations have opened to the public the U.S. government’s worldwide eavesdropping into personal, foreign government, and business activities.
The letter opens with these insiders’ view of the extent and seriousness of government clandestine efforts:
At least since the aftermath of September 2001, western governments and intelligence agencies have been hard at work expanding the scope of their own power, while eroding privacy, civil liberties and public control of policy. What used to be viewed as paranoid, Orwellian, tin-foil hat fantasies turned out post-Snowden, to be not even the whole story.
What’s really remarkable is that we’ve been warned for years that these things were going on: wholesale surveillance of entire populations, militarization of the internet, the end of privacy. All is done in the name of “national security”, which has more or less become a chant to fence off debate and make sure governments aren’t held to account – that they can’t be held to account – because everything is being done in the dark. Secret laws, secret interpretations of secret laws by secret courts and no effective parliamentary oversight whatsoever.
The letter notes that the media has paid “scant attention” to this government aggression, which began under the George W. Bush administration and has spread under the tight grip of Barack Obama. It goes on to highlight some of the most telling of the whistleblowers’ revelations.
Then the letter makes an appeal to the everyday, dedicated employees in government intelligence:
Hidden away in offices of various government departments, intelligence agencies, police forces and armed forces are dozens and dozens of people who are very much upset by what our societies are turning into: at the very least, turnkey tyrannies.
One of them is you.
‚óè Undermining democracy and eroding civil liberties isn’t put explicitly in your job contract.
‚óè You grew up in a democratic society and want to keep it that way
‚óè You were taught to respect ordinary people’s right to live a life in privacy
‚óè You don’t really want a system of institutionalized strategic surveillance that would make the dreaded Stasi green with envy – do you?
The letter writers then encourage employees to come forward, emphasizing how “Edward Snowden showed what one person can do.” It closes with a more specific call to action:
You can be part of the solution; provide trustworthy journalists – either from old media (like this newspaper) or from new media (such as WikiLeaks) with documents that prove what illegal, immoral, wasteful activities are going on where you work.
It ends with the invitation that “Courage is contagious.”
You can read the entire letter here.
This letter seems to be of vital importance as an invitation, not only to intelligence employees, but to the public in general: i.e., become involved in what Peculiar Progressive columns have consistently called for: Get organized, get educated, and get active.
The whistleblowers and activists including “new media” in their definition of a free press is also vital to American freedom of expression today. Congress is currently considering legislation that would limit who government would consider as “the press.” Those efforts appear to include attempts to quell independent press reporting on the Internet, and may be the beginning of stopping any reporting not under the control of major corporations that own the largest news organizations. The White House has also pushed to limit press freedoms.
This group of courageous whistleblowers and activists address government employees in their letter. But the letter ran in a newspaper, and is shared here via the Internet. It’s also vital that you, the general public, be a part of the action to protect press freedom and the free, open distribution of information about government activities worldwide. The question is, are you ready to join them and protect yourself and your children’s right to such freedoms?