Lessons From The Snowden Affair

(1) Just as with Manning, it is beyond dispute that Snowden broke US law. As such, the US government is perfectly entitled to try to apprehend him (on its own soil), request his extradition, and prosecute him. This is quite perpendicular to whether Snowden’s leaks were morally “justified” or not. In some sense, they were. In my opinion, privacy as a “right” will go the way of the dodo whatever happens due to the very nature of modern technological progress. The best thing civil society can do in response is to make the lack of privacy symmetrical by likewise exposing the inner workings of powerful governments, the increasing numbers of private individuals connected to the government who enjoy its privileges but are not even nominally accountable like democratic governments, and corporations. In this sense, I agree with Assange’s philosophy. That said, it’s perfectly understandable that the government as an institution begs to differ and that it has the legal power – not to mention the approval of 54% of Americans – to prosecute Snowden. But!

(2) It preferably has to do so in a way that’s classy and follows the strictures of international law. As I pointed out in my blog post on DR and article for Voice of Russia, treason is not a crime like murder, rape, terrorism, or theft which are pretty much universally reviled (though even these categories have exceptions: Luis Posada Carriles – terrorism; Pavel Borodin – large-scale financial fraud). One country’s traitor is another country’s hero; one man’s turncoat is another man’s whistle-blower. So throwing hysterics about Russia’s refusal to extradite Snowden isn’t so even so much blithely arrogant as it is stupid and cringe-worthy. Would a Russian Snowden, let’s call him Eddie Snegirev, be extradited back to Moscow should he turn up at JFK Airport? To even ask the question is answer it with a mocking, bemused grin on one’s face.

(3) It is true that the US, as a superpower, can afford to flout international law more than any other country. There is no point in non-Americans whining about it – that’s just the way of the jungle world that is international relations. Nonetheless, it can be argued that making explicit just to what extent the European countries are its stooges and vassals – as unambiguously revealed in the coordination between France, Portugal, Spain, and Italy that created a wall of closed off airspace preventing the return of Bolivian President Evo Morales to his homeland on the mere suspicion that Edward Snowden is on board – is perhaps not the best best thing you can do to draw goodwill to yourself. While European governments are by all indications quite happy to be vassals and puppets, many of their peasants don’t quite feel that way – and having the fact presented so blatantly to their faces is just going to create resentment. Why such a drastic step is necessary is beyond me. Why pursuing Snowden so vigorously, who has already leaked everything he has to leak, is in any way desirable beyond the fleeting thrill of flaunting imperial power must remain a mystery.

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I Don’t Care About Bradley Manning

No matter how you look at it, he is a traitor. He violated the UCMJ. Although he is free to make ethical arguments as to why he leaked Collateral Murder and the US Embassy cables, the US is fully within its rights to prosecute him.

I’m quite consistent about this: Treason is a punishable offense, no matter where and why it happens. I do not have an issue with the US executing the Rosenbergs or the USSR executing Western spies during the Cold War either. It’s part of the risk you take when you choose to sell out your country for a few shekels. This likewise applies when you do it not for money but for “idealistic” reasons.

I agree that in a perfect world, the fact of Manning (1) releasing it out of ethical, not monetary convictions and (2) giving the entire world access to it, as opposed to foreign hostile intelligence services – unlike, for instance, the Russian KGB traitor, Vasily Mitrokhin – should be a mitigating factor. However, as a sovereign nation, the US has no obligation to take that or international left/liberal opinion into account.

The Assange case is completely different. Here the US is trying to extend its jurisdiction to the entire world, so that an Australian citizen can now be found guilty of “espionage” against the US even if he’d never stepped foot inside it. This is called imperialism, and we are opposed to it. What’s more, the methods used to do it are particularly nauseating and underhanded. The probable plan is to extradite Assange to Sweden, from whence he can be quietly renditioned to the US. All based on incredible and patently false rape accusations, questioning which is going to get you blacklisted and smeared by legions of Guardianistas, PC brigades, concern trolls, and sundry useful idiots of imperialism. It would be infinitely more respectable for the US to just whack him.

That is why I support Assange to the hilt, but don’t care for Manning. It’s a very logical and consistent position, I think, but many don’t see it that way. They view it as anti-American, misogynist, and reactionary. I think it is pro-American, anti-imperialist, and pro-rule of law.

Assange Should Have Picked The Russian Embassy

UK police descend on Assange’s embassy refuge.

According to the Ecuadorians, their Embassy was threatened with a revocation of its status as Ecuadorian sovereign territory in the case that President Rafael Correa offers Julian Assange political asylum. This would clear the way for PC Plod could go in and fish out Assange. Presumably this is to avoid breaking one of the cornerstones of international law, satisfying its letter while raping its spirit. Truly fascinating the lengths and lows to which Britain is prepared to go to satisfy its puppet masters.

My initial thoughts are:

(1) Assange should have chosen the Russian Embassy. Ecuador is small and doesn’t have clout. Russia (or China, for that matter) wouldn’t have handed over Assange either, for the propaganda coup if little other reason, and even as cringingly obsequious a country as the UK would have hesitated to take them on so directly.

(2) A timely reminder that Assange is wanted for questioning (not charged) on a crime that it is not even a crime in the UK itself. I wonder if there is anybody, anybody at all, who is still willing to argue that his case is not entirely political?

(3) One would hope that Ecuador does not tolerate any British violation of its sovereignty and mounts a like response – and that countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and (preferably, though highly improbable) Russia and China join them in solidarity. But either way one of the good things about this is that it will make clear to any lingering doubters in non-puppet countries like Russia that Western rhetoric on human rights and international law only goes as far as it benefits them.

EDIT 8/16: And asylum was granted.

Modern Britain In Four Extradition Cases

Imagine you’re a British extraditions judge and you are asked to rule on the following cases.

(1) An oligarch exile who came from a country where he might well have ordered contract murders and is now loudly and implacably opposed to its new President who dispossessed him of his political influence. Although the British establishment considers said country, Russia, a geopolitical competitor, the exile has more delusions than power, and is unable to inflict any damage on it.

(2) A British computer science student who made $230,000 through a website that offered hyperlinks to films and TV shows online; nothing cardinally differentiates it from Google. The US demands his extradition where he can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. What he did is not even a crime in the UK.

(3) A celebrity Australian citizen wanted on sexual molestation charges in Sweden that are not even a crime in the UK, and which were, in fact, previously dismissed – only to be brought up again soon after Cablegate on the initiative of a Swedish prosecutor who happens to have a rich history of radical feminist advocacy. The opacity of Sweden’s judicial system on sexual crimes means said Australian citizen can easily be renditioned to the US where a grand jury has already been convened and issued a secret indictment against him.

(4) A serial pedophile who is an American citizen who is wanted by the US.

Berezovsky lives a happy life in Moscow on the Thames. Richard O’Dwyer was ruled eligible for extradition by the Home Office. Assange’s bail conditions were more stringent than that of a suspected murderer from South Africa, and his extradition has recently been ruled eligible causing him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Shawn Sullivan is protected from extradition by the High Court because imprisonment is a violation of pedophiles’ human rights.

No further comment is necessary on my part. Take from this what you will.

Will Ecuador Protect Assange From The Empire?

So Assange has fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, in scenes reminiscent of what happens to dissidents in truly authoritarian countries. (The parallels keep adding up don’t they).

Let’s recap. His site kept releasing classified documents, from secretive and typically nasty organizations. Too bad that some of them belonged to the Pentagon and the State Department; otherwise, no doubt Assange would still be feted as a heroic whistleblower in the West. Instead, he got an extradition request to Sweden for a rape at about the same time as Cablegate; a “rape” in which the purported victim tweeted about what a great guy he was the morning after (the tweet has since been deleted, of course). One of the supposed victims had posted online tips for girls on filing false rape reports on men who dumped them (this too has since been wiped).

Now Sweden is in Assange’s words “the Saudi Arabia of feminism” and indeed that much is undeniable to any reasonable person who doesn’t derive pleasure from slavishly kowtowing to women. See their recent attempts to ban men from pissing upright because apparently it is an assertion of patriarchy. And which other country could have produced a bestseller like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which would have instantly been condemned as misogynist claptrap had the slurs against men in it been instead been directed towards women? So even in the best possible interpretation it is Swedish feminists running amok in Europe, much like their Viking forefathers did a millennium ago. The alternative explanation is that this is politically motivated.

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Introducing the Journalism Security Index (JSI)

The Press Freedom Index issues by Reporters Without Borders is a good starting point for assessing journalistic freedoms in global comparative perspective. However, much like all attempts to measure democracy or Transparency International’s assessment of corruption perception, their methodology relies on tallying a number of intangibles that cannot be objectively estimated: Censorship, self-censorship, legal framework, independence. These can barely be quantified and are in any case subject to a wide degree of interpretation based on one’s ideological proclivities; for instance, just how do you go about estimating the degree of self-censorship?

I have decided to strip out these elements and focus only on indicators that can be objectively measured, i.e. the numbers of killed and imprisoned journalists set against the size of the national journalistic pool. Using figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists, I tally the numbers of journalist murders from the past three years – to reflect the fact that journalist killings can have a chilling effect years into the future – and the numbers of imprisoned journalists imprisoned now multiplied by six, so that their aggregate weighting is twice that of journalist killings. The reason I do that is because truly authoritarian regimes typically have a tight clampdown on monopoly violence, including on the various independent criminal elements (e.g. drug cartels, rogue intelligence officers); as such, direct killings of journalists tends to be rare. On the other hand, due to the threat of imprisonment and other harassment, independent journalism is severely circumscribed if at all existent. But instead of just going with this figure, I further adjust it to the size of the national journalist pool, because – for obvious reasons – a few journalist killings in a country the size of India is tragic, but nonetheless qualitatively different from the same number of killings in a country with a far smaller population like Honduras where there is a far bigger chance those journalists would know each other. The resulting figure is the Journalism Security Index; a narrower (but far more objective) measure than the Press Freedom Index, which – by necessity – relies on fallible expert judgments on unquantifiable measures such as self-censorship and journalistic independence.

Scroll down to the bottom to see the full results of the Journalism Security Index 2012.

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