Will Eric Holder guarantee NSA reporters’ first amendment rights?
John Cusack, The Guardian
Wednesday 18 September 2013 08.30 EDT
Another week and another wave of stories on the NSA and the unconstitutional out-of-control surveillance state hit the digital newsstands, showing once again why the tide is turning. Some revelations are so surreal, it’s hard not to assume they’re satire. NSA chief Keith Alexander seems to be modeling his ambitions and visions for international spying after General Curtis LeMay’s views on nuclear war.
Meanwhile, despite the massive smear campaign against Edward Snowden, opinion polls stand clearly with the truth-tellers. People know they have a right to know what the government is doing in their names. State secrecy is on the run, while American privacy, long rumored dead, is alive and kicking and wants the fight out in the open – in the sunlight and in the public square.
Now, the US owes its citizens and the international community another “heads up”: on whether the United States will do the same to journalists working on NSA stories who are entering the United States. Put simply, will Attorney General Eric Holder, the US State Department, and the FBI promise safe passage to journalists, their spouses and loved ones, and vow not to interfere with their reporting on these NSA stories?
So far, the answer has been far from clear.
Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the two American journalists at the center of these stories, have been doing their reporting from Brazil and Germany respectively. The US government has not, so far, stated publicly whether they can enter the country without receiving the same outrageous treatment that Miranda received. Or worse.
Can they practice journalism in the United States, without their hard drives being confiscated, without an unconstitutional search-and-seizure taking place at the border? Are they free to enter the United States without being served a subpoena, or even jailed? Unlike the UK, the United States is supposed to be bound by the first amendment of the constitution, which exists to bar such treatment of journalists.
We recognize that when the individual rights are being violated, that means my rights, our rights, are being violated too. What happens to individuals in the US happens to the first amendment. Our politicians must have forgotten the basics we all learned in high school civics class.
The US needs to take the hint from Dilma Rousseff’s snub
Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian
Wednesday 18 September 2013 11.26 EDT
Tuesday’s cancellation of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s state visit to the White House, scheduled for next month, came as little surprise. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, and reported by Glenn Greenwald and TV Globo, had caused an uproar in Brazil. According to the documents and reports, the US government had spied on Dilma’s personal communications, and had targeted the computer systems of Brazil’s Petrobras, the big oil company that is majority-owned by the state.
The Obama administration’s refusal to recognize the results of the Venezuelan elections in April of this year, despite the lack of doubt about the results and in stark opposition to the rest of the region, displayed an aggressiveness that Washington hadn’t shown since it aided the 2002 coup. It brought a sharp rebuke from South America, including Lula and Dilma.
Less than two months later, US Secretary of State John Kerry launched a new “detente”, meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Elías Jaua in the first such high-level meeting in memory, and implicitly recognizing the election results. But new hopes were quickly dashed when several European governments, clearly acting on behalf of the United States, forced down President Evo Morales’ plane in July.
It seems that every month there is another indication of how little the Obama administration cares about improving relations.
There are structural reasons for the Obama administration’s repeated failures to accept the new reality of independent governments in the region. Although President Obama may want better relations, he is willing to spend about $2 in political capital to accomplish this. And that is not enough. When he tried to appoint an ambassador to Venezuela in 2010, for example, Republicans (including the office of then Senator Richard Lugar) successfully scuttled it.
For President Obama, there are generally no electoral consequences from having bad relations with Latin America. Unlike Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, or other areas of armed conflict or potential war, there is no imminent danger that something could blow up in his face, and cause political harm to his administration or party. The main electoral pressure comes from those who want to oppose more aggressively the left governments: that is, rightwing Florida Cuban-Americans and their allies in Congress, who currently prevail in the House. Most of the foreign policy establishment doesn’t care about the region at all, and the ones who do mainly share the view that the leftward shift is a temporary thing that can and should be reversed.
In the meantime, Washington is expanding its military presence where it has control (for example, Honduras), and is ready to support the overthrow of left governments when the opportunity arises (Honduras in 2009, and Paraguay last year).