The massive communications surveillance in which the United States and British governments (and possibly other states) are engaged are being overlooked in the international frenzy over Edward Snowden's flight for freedom, emphasized attorney Michael Ratner, for WikiLeaks, as well as the organizations's founder, Julian Assange, in a press call this morning. Ratner, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, represents Assange and Wikileaks in the United States. He presented the legal case for Snowden's search for asylum, saying that the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees protects whistleblowers (presumably under its protections for political refugees) and that, since no international arrest warrant exists for Snowden, the United States is relying on intimidating other countries into closing their borders to him. Assange emphasized that Snowden is no traitor, since he neither spied on behalf of nor "adhered" to enemies of the United States.
Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador and "possibly" in other countries, said Assange — a strong hint that the high-profile revealer of the NSA's secrets is not putting all of his eggs in one basket. Snowden is not cooperating with Russian intelligence agencies, contrary to some news reports, insisted the WikiLeaks founder, who himeself has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange took the opportunity to tear into the U.S. government for its spying efforts, not just domestically, but around the word, emphasizing the universality of human rights. "The Obama administration was not given a mandate to hack and spy around the world." The administration's spying, and its subsequent bullying of of other countries to surrender Snowden "further demonstrates a breakdown in the rule of law by the Obama administration.
Assange tied Snowden's flight for freedom to the trial of Bradley Manning for releasing sensitive U.S. documents to WikiLeaks and its prosecution under the espionage act of an unprecedented number of leakers. "If such a precedent is permitted, it will result in the complete destruction of national security journalism in the United States." He pointed to public complaints by journalists about a "chilling effect" as sources dry up.
If the Obama administration wants to curtail the flow of leakers, said Assange, it should stop spying on the world, end its policy of indefinite detention, stop its assassination program and cease invading other countries.