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Forum Post: Obama's NSA Speech Makes Orwellian Surveillance Patriotic

Posted 6 years ago on Jan. 27, 2014, 3:32 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Obama's NSA Speech Makes Orwellian Surveillance Patriotic

Monday, 27 January 2014 10:05 By Michael Ratner, Truthout | Op-Ed


Journalism with real independence and integrity is a rare thing. Truthout relies on reader donations - click here to make a tax-deductible contribution and support our work.

When considering the revolutionary history of the United States, most would think of fighting for freedom, the enshrinement of basic human and civil rights in a constitutional government of the people, by the people and for the people.

But in his speech on reforms to the NSA and the United States' intelligence gathering systems last week, President Obama had a creative new addition to the legacy of the American Revolution: surveillance.

"At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the Sons of Liberty was established in Boston," said the president. "And the group's members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America's early Patriots."

Collecting the meta-data of billions of phone calls and 200 million text messages a day, as well as gathering data through the government's PRISM program and placing bugs in 100,000 computers all over the world seems significantly more extensive than monitoring British troop movement via horseback and candlestick - especially when you consider that the data being collected is in large part that of the American people, not a foreign enemy during war time. Such metadata information would still be collected and stored in President Obama's "reformed" NSA.

The reforms proposed by the President's speech amount to nothing short of a bouquet of roses for American intelligence agencies. The changes detailed in the speech do almost nothing to actually rein in the growing national surveillance state. Billions of phone calls by Americans would still be collected and retained every single day - too much information for even the NSA to wade through properly. We're creating a massive database that could be used at basically any time to determine peoples' associates and behaviors.

While no cause would be necessary to collect this information, the president recommended requiring a court order for analysis of the retained data. This court order is far from a warrant under the Fourth Amendment, but is instead a rubber stamp from a secret court with a tendency to never say no. Considering that the definition of terrorism has sometimes included civil disobedience at demonstrations, the loose standard for issuing a court order for retained data is not a strong enough protection. Warrantless surveillance should be stopped altogether, and metadata should only be collected and retained on an individual basis by a court order under the Fourth Amendment, with a standard of probable cause.

Then there's the continued question of national security letters.

And when "legal standards" do exist in the realm of government spying, they prove very different than the constitutional measures American citizens should be able to expect.

The president left the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court alone, despite its horrendous track record of authorizing a massive spying operation on all of us. This secret court has authorized wide-scale surveillance, issuing 35 opinions upholding metadata collection and consistently granting secret warrant requests. Rather than opening up the court, limiting its powers or changing the method of judge selection (as of now, all FISA judges are handpicked by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts), the president instead suggested that Congress establish a panel of advocates to argue in these secret courts on behalf of civil liberties and privacy. Again, with no timetable or guarantee of Congressional action, it's unclear whether or when this change would be enacted.

But even with a set of privacy and civil liberties advocates, these secret courts operate on a corrupted base. What good is someone arguing on behalf of privacy and civil liberties when the law allows for the unlimited collection of metadata and wiretapping on Americans without probable cause?

In and of itself, disappointment in the president's proposed reforms isn't surprising - in some way it was expected, as the purpose of the speech was most likely to take the pressure off the president to make real change. What is shocking is that speech did not even do that. Instead, it told all of us, both here and abroad, that massive, Orwellian surveillance is somehow patriotic.

President Obama's assertion that our nation was formed as a result of a heroic history of surveillance, and that such surveillance is among the only things keeping us safe, is not only a striking reappropriation of the facts, but a misleading scare tactic clearly aimed at making Americans comfortable with the far-reaching government spying he seems bent to protect. The American Revolution was fought to prevent more than just taxes on tea. The British Empire's use of general warrants - including "writs of assistance" that allowed agents of the king to search and seize colonial property, including letters and papers - was an abuse of power that the writers of our Constitution specifically sought to address and protect against in the newly formed government they had fought so hard for.

The American people should never accept the collection and retention of millions of records by a government calling for our trust. Because, as President Obama said himself, "History has too many examples when that trust has been breached."

Copyright, Truthout.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

Monday, 27 January 2014 13:01 By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew—there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel—is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed—just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

“If I had been downright honest with myself,” Ishmael admits, “I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.”

Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—much of it worthless subprime mortgages—each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money—because wages are kept low—by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. ... Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.

The ecosystem is at the same time disintegrating. Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, a few days ago, issued a new report that warned that the oceans are changing faster than anticipated and increasingly becoming inhospitable to life. The oceans, of course, have absorbed much of the excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere. This absorption is rapidly warming and acidifying ocean waters. This is compounded, the report noted, by increased levels of deoxygenation from nutrient runoffs from farming and climate change. The scientists called these effects a “deadly trio” that when combined is creating changes in the seas that are unprecedented in the planet’s history. This is their language, not mine. The scientists wrote that each of the earth’s five known mass extinctions was preceded by at least one [part] of the “deadly trio”—acidification, warming and deoxygenation. They warned that “the next mass extinction” of sea life is already under way, the first in some 55 million years. Or look at the recent research from the University of Hawaii that says global warming is now inevitable, it cannot be stopped but at best slowed, and that over the next 50 years the earth will heat up to levels that will make whole parts of the planet uninhabitable. Tens of millions of people will be displaced and millions of species will be threatened with extinction. The report casts doubt that [cities on or near a coast] such as New York or London will endure.

Yet we, like Ahab and his crew, rationalize our collective madness. All calls for prudence, for halting the march toward economic, political and environmental catastrophe, for sane limits on carbon emissions, are ignored or ridiculed. Even with the flashing red lights before us, the increased droughts, rapid melting of glaciers and Arctic ice, monster tornadoes, vast hurricanes, crop failures, floods, raging wildfires and soaring temperatures, we bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.

The corporate assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts and critical thinking has left those who speak this truth marginalized and ignored, frantic Cassandras who are viewed as slightly unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic. We are consumed by a mania for hope, which our corporate masters lavishly provide, at the expense of truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche in “Beyond Good and Evil” holds that only a few people have the fortitude to look in times of distress into what he calls the molten pit of human reality. Most studiously ignore the pit. Artists and philosophers, for Nietzsche, are consumed, however, by an insatiable curiosity, a quest for truth and desire for meaning. They venture down into the bowels of the molten pit. They get as close as they can before the flames and heat drive them back. This intellectual and moral honesty, Nietzsche wrote, comes with a cost. Those singed by the fire of reality become “burnt children,” he wrote, eternal orphans in empires of illusion.

Decayed civilizations always make war on independent intellectual inquiry, art and culture for this reason. They do not want the masses to look into the pit. They condemn and vilify the “burnt people”—Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Cornel West. They feed the human addiction for illusion, happiness and hope. They peddle the fantasy of eternal material progress. They urge us to build images of ourselves to worship. They insist—and this is the argument of globalization ¬¬—that our voyage is, after all, decreed by natural law. We have surrendered our lives to corporate forces that ultimately serve systems of death. We ignore and belittle the cries of the burnt people. And, if we do not swiftly and radically reconfigure our relationship to each other and the ecosystem, microbes look set to inherit the earth.

Clive Hamilton in his “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite—are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year [2012] in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward.

Complex civilizations have a bad habit of ultimately destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” Charles L. Redman in “Human Impact on Ancient Environments” and Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed, hubris and idolatry.

Collapse comes throughout human history to complex societies not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity.

“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote.

That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” calls the “progress trap.” We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion, Wright notes, that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature.

And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we, like past societies in distress, will retreat into what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist beliefs in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us. The Christian right provides a haven for this escapism. These cults perform absurd rituals to make it all go away, giving rise to a religiosity that peddles collective self-delusion and magical thinking. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the later part of the 19th century as the buffalo herds and the last remaining tribes were slaughtered. The Ghost Dance held out the hope that all the horrors of white civilization—the railroads, the murderous cavalry units, the timber merchants, the mine speculators, the hated tribal agencies, the barbed wire, the machine guns, even the white man himself—would disappear. And our psychological hard wiring is no different.

In our decline, hatred becomes our primary lust, our highest form of patriotism. We deploy vast resources to hunt down jihadists and terrorists, real and phantom. We destroy our civil society in the name of a war on terror. We persecute those, from Julian Assange to [Chelsea] Manning to Edward Snowden, who expose the dark machinations of power. We believe, because we have externalized evil, that we can purify the earth. And we are blind to the evil within us.

Melville’s description of Ahab is a description of the bankers, corporate boards, politicians, television personalities and generals who through the power of propaganda fill our heads with seductive images of glory and lust for wealth and power. We are consumed with self-induced obsessions that spur us toward self-annihilation.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Gar Alperovitz: Capitalism in Long Term Stagnation and Decay

Monday, 27 January 2014 10:53 By Paul Jay, The Real News Network | Video Interview



PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And this is Reality Asserts Itself with Gar Alperovitz.

Now we get sort of to the meat of where we're headed with the interview series with Gar. And Gar now joins us again in the studio.

Once again, Gar is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and cofounder of the Democracy Collaborative. And his most recent book is What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution.

Thanks for joining us again.


JAY: So, before we get into what next shall we do, let's just get a lie of the land of the current situation. The traditional theory of capitalist economies is you go through a business cycle, there's ups, there's downs. If you're rich enough, you'll make money up and down. If you're rich and stupid, maybe you'll lose some, but if you're good at it, you probably won't. When the economy is down, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people have their lives destroyed. Sometimes the business cycle is talked about like it's some antiseptic thing or just a formula. You know, the millions of people lose their homes and lose their jobs and whose families are destroyed, that's also part of the normal business cycle.

But a lot of people are saying that we're no longer in a normal business cycle, that we've reached a point of long-term stagnation, even if there might be little ups and downs. And increasingly, many more people will have their lives destroyed by all of this.

So let's start with--before we talk about what a new economy would look like, why would you think the economy as we have won't just kind of come back and life will be okay again for most people?

ALPEROVITZ: Well, there's lots of reasons why the economy is in trouble. I mean, the most obvious one is that when you concentrate all the income at the top, people don't buy. They can't buy enough. They can invest it or they can put it under the mattress or they can put it in stock speculation, but they've got a house, they've got two houses, three cars--they can't purchase enough. The Keynesian idea is to stimulate the economy. So that's the same--you have this in Marxist theory in another way. By and large, if you concentrate it all at the top, there's not enough purchasing power to make the rest of the system work. So what happens is you throw people out of work and you have an economy within a large population, large numbers of whom are out of work. So I think that's the central phenomenon that's going on, concentration of income and wealth at the top and no way to reallocate it through purchasing power.

The second thing that's gone on, to really answer your question: that has typically led at some point to a big crisis, a Great Depression style crisis. But the oddity of the modern era now is that, you know, in 1929 before the Depression, government was 11 percent of the economy. That's the floor. It's now about 32 percent. So if the floor is at a very different level, you can go down, but you've got a buffer that brings it back. You've also get some Keynesian policies. When trouble really hits, the corporations go to the government and say, spend money--some money. So it keeps it within a certain frame.

And the language that some economists are now using and they never used before because it was too left-wing is this is a secular stagnation.

JAY: As opposed to cyclical.

ALPEROVITZ: As opposed to cyclical--well, it's always going to come back and boom again. No, it's going to be decay and secular--I call it stalemate, political stalemate, stagnation, and decay. And that's the very different model of where we are and where we're going. And I think that's the most likely model. We'll get some ripples, but I think that's the most likely model, because the inherent structure is so concentrated at the top that you can't really run a serious economic full-employment program, unless you had the political muscle. And they don't have the political muscle to do it.

JAY: And there's another part to it, too, I think. You know, if you're sitting on a mound of cash--which a certain percentage of the population is, you know, whether it's 1, 5, or 10 percent, sometimes maybe a little more, but in terms of having investment capital that's of significance, it's probably less than 5 percent, and the big amounts are less than 1 percent. You know, it used to be you would look for places to invest in the conventional economy, but that requires, as you were saying, some demand. There has to be a conventional economy worth investing in and no better alternative. Now there's such a speculative world to invest in that I think, you know, the size of the derivatives markets, if I understand correctly, are something like three times the global GDP. You can just gamble with your money.

ALPEROVITZ: And that's what they're doing.

JAY: And it's a higher return. So you'd--in some ways you don't give a damn what's happening in the rest of the economy.

ALPEROVITZ: Well, that's--at the very top, that's what's going on. It's a gambling casino. And that is true.

There used to be--the other piece of this is there used to be a capacity--and many liberal economists still kind of wish this were true--that you could get the government to intervene and spend money--build bridges, build highways, housing, everything--which would stimulate the economy in Keynesian fashion. And I think that would in fact work if you could do it, at least to a certain extent.

But the capacity of liberalism--remember, I worked in the House and Senate at one point for liberals--that's really over to do that. They don't have the strength to do that anymore.

And it's not just the Tea Party. First labor unions used to be--and that's the muscle of the traditional liberal program, and we'd be better off with a liberal program. A lot of people are getting hurt, so I'm not one of those people who say it's good that it's getting worse. Much better to have people helped out. But that depended on a very strong labor movement. Thirty-five percent, 34 percent of the country was organized in the 1950s. It's now down to 11 percent in unions, 6 percent in the private sector. So the muscle behind the old liberal program, it just isn't there to push a Keynesian solution or a big stimulus program. It just isn't there. Which is another reason why stagnation is there.

The government is substantially larger. It's not likely to go all the way down. On the other hand, you can't get it up. It's a very decaying--.

One of the things it does: it teaches people that something's really wrong. It kind of wakes people up to this is--something's going on here that doesn't work right for a lot of people.

JAY: I mean, there might be something cyclical here, which is you could have cyclical events like the 2008 crash.

ALPEROVITZ: That's right.

JAY: So, in other words, a crash, you know, a quasi-stabilization, a floor, a little ripple, and then another crash. But I would think every time that happens, it's going to be a little bit worse. There's going to be less ability for the Fed just to throw money at banks and try to stabilize things. You know, each time that decay is going to be in--you know, instead of the official 7 to 9 percent unemployment, we could be getting not very far away, where 13 to 15 percent unemployment starts to become kind of a norm, although many people think it already is.

ALPEROVITZ: Well, right now I think it is closer to 15 percent if you really measure all the people that dropped out of the labor force.

So stagnation, decay within, and cycles within is probably right. How high they'll go, how deep they go, we don't know enough about that yet. But it's--.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

It's Tragic to Rely on Citizens to Risk Imprisonment In Order to Learn About Government Surveillance

Monday, 27 January 2014 15:15 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | name.

In talking with Betty Medsger about her new non-fiction book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, one can hear her journalistic neutrality yield to an admiration for individuals who would risk their futures in order to expose government acts (in this case, by the FBI) that corrupt the Constitution.

Medsger broke the story with articles in The Washington Post about government files - obtained through a 1971 burglary of an FBI office - documented a shadow FBI that spied at will on US citizens. Several decades later she spent years researching how this little-known robbery with a monumental impact came to be - and she learned for the first time who had carried it out, eluded the FBI and avoided prosecution.

Get the just-released book from Truthout here. In contributing to Truthout and receiving the book, you help create a climate of courage for whistleblowers.

Medsger agrees with John Raines, who - along with his wife - played a key role in carrying out the heist that in the end "Hoover lost, and freedom won."

Indeed, Medsger speaks highly of a statement read by Raines, over the telephone, to an Reuters reporter the day after the 1971 raid and the courage and patriotism that it represents. Medsger noted to us that the declaration went largely unnoticed because the purloined files were not released to selected journalists until two weeks later. It reads, in part:

[blockquote] On the night of March 8, 1971, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI removed files from the Media, PA, office of the FBI. These files will now be studied to determine:

$1• The nature and extent of surveillance and intimidation carried on 
by this office of the FBI, particularly against groups and individuals 
working for a more just, humane and peaceful society;

How much of the FBI’s efforts are spent on relatively minor crimes 
by the poor and powerless against whom they can get a more glamorous conviction rate, instead of investigating truly serious crimes by those with money and influence which cause great damage to the lives of many people; crimes such as war profiteering, monopolistic practices, institutional racism, organized crime, and the mass distribution of lethal drugs;

The extent of illegal practices by the FBI, such as eavesdropping, entrapment, and the use of provocateurs and informers….

We have carried out this action in a way which does not physically threaten anyone. We intend no personal harassment of the people who work in the office from which files were taken. Indeed, we invite them and others to join with us in building a peaceful, just and open society; one which does not wage nor threaten war, which distributes human and material resources fairly, and which operates on the basis of justice rather than fear.

We have taken this action because:

$1· We believe that a law and order which depends on intimidation and repression to secure obedience can have but one name, and that name is tyranny;

We believe that democracy can survive only in an order of justice, of an open society and public trust;

$1• We believe that citizens have the right to scrutinize and control their own government and its agencies;

And because we believe that the FBI has betrayed its democratic trust and we wish to present evidence for this claim to the open and public judgment of our fellow citizens. 

In doing this, we know full well the legal jeopardy in which we place our- selves. We feel most keenly our responsibilities to those who daily depend upon us, and whom we put in jeopardy by our own jeopardy. But under present circumstances, this seems to us our best way of loving and serving them, and, in fact, all the people of this land. 

The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. [/blockquote]

The words could as well be spoken by whistleblowers today.

Medsger's first stories on the damning proof of FBI surveillance and interference in the private lives of US citizens were almost not published. Then Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell warned Washington Post Publisher Katherine Graham not to publish Medsger's pieces. After deliberation, Graham decided that the public interest (it was a different era) outweighed the intimidation of the attorney general of the United States, and the articles were printed in the Post.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Intelligence Officials Make Direct Threats on Snowden's Life

Monday, 27 January 2014 10:43 By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview




JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is being accused of being a Russian spy by Republican Congressman Mike Rogers. It should be noted Rogers is also the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

This is what Rogers said on Meet the Press last Sunday.


DESVARIEUX: Now there are even threats on Snowden's life from the intelligence community:

"One Army intelligence officer even offered BuzzFeed a chillingly detailed fantasy" of what it would be like to kill Edward Snowden. He had this to say:

"I think if we had the chance, we would end it very quickly". "Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries. Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it's a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower."

Very chilling.

We're now joined by our two guests.

We have Ray McGovern. He's a retired CIA officer. He was also employed under seven U.S. presidents for over 27 years, presenting the morning intelligence briefings at the White House under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

We also have joining us Kirk Wiebe. He is a former NSA senior intelligence analyst and an NSA whistleblower who worked with the NSA for more than 32 years.

Thank you both for joining us.


DESVARIEUX: So, Ray, let's start off with you. I know that you've actually met Edward Snowden and you've talked about these threats against his life. What did he have to say to you?

MCGOVERN: Well, this was not the first time that Mike Rogers made this kind of threat. The only thing I think of is, as Joe McCarthy, when finally, finally somebody stood up to him and said, have you finally no shame? And I'd like to address that question to Mike Rogers.

What happened earlier, actually, just a few days before we met Ed Snowden on 9 October, that is, the three whistleblowers and I, at an open meeting run by The Washington Post, General Hayden, who had headed up the NSA for five years, from '99 to 2005, and Mike Rogers were there, and Hayden said, you know, I understand that Ed Snowden's on some kind of a list, a civil liberties list; I know what kind of list I'd like to put him on, broadly hinting that he should be put on the kill list. Mike Rogers piped up and said, yeah, yeah, I can help you out on that.

Now, mind you, this was not a mafia meeting. Right? This is [white-collar] criminals. Okay? White-collar criminals.

Now, I asked Ed. I said, Ed, did you know about this? And he winced and he looked at me. He said, Ray, you know, understandably, I follow these things very closely. Wow. You know?

Well, now we've got these same white-collar criminals, without any evidence at all, accusing Ed Snowden of being a Russian or maybe a Chinese--he's a spy of some kind. Give me a break. These people should be held to account for these scurrilous charges, because what they give rise to are these other people that you referred to; the ones that want to stick a needle in him so he dies in the shower are the ones that want to put a bullet in his head the same way they did to Osama bin Laden.

DESVARIEUX: And, Kirk, you yourself blew the whistle on the NSA and were heavily retaliated against. Can you talk about how Congressman Rogers' comments, as well as that quote that I recited earlier, fit with this retaliation against Snowden?

WIEBE: Jessica, sometimes I wonder what country I live in. When I grew up, my younger adult years and so forth, even working with a once-proud NSA, there's one thing that stood tall, and it was our dedication to the Constitution of the United States, not just some of the parts, all of the parts, and especially those parts we find in the Bill of Rights--the right to freedom, free speech, privacy, a fair trial, etc.

When I see government leaders, people in powerful positions of influence speak as judge, jury, and executioner, it truly chills me. It's foreign to me. We used to spy on countries that thought like that because they were a threat to our very form of government, and here we have people in our own government speaking like their agents. It is indeed frightening.

DESVARIEUX: And Snowden himself, I mean, he said that he was--someone asked him during that Twitter Q&A that happened on Thursday whether or not he was afraid for his life, and he had this to say. He said, quote:

"It's concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect.

"That current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they're willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they'll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us."

Ray, what's your take on all of this? Do you feel at this point--of course it bothers you, but with these leaks, does today's news really vindicate Snowden? I know I asked you this before, but can you elaborate even further?

MCGOVERN: Well, it does indeed. I mean, this is an independent panel, finally, and they have great experience, and they're pronouncing on this, and they're saying that the Fourth Amendment was violated.

But what Ed Snowden--and, you know, James Madison or George Mason couldn't have done any better in pointing out what the dangers are here. The Fifth Amendment--that's what these people are violating the willy-nilly. And that says, "No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law".

Now, it's no wonder that Rogers and Dianne Feinstein and Michael Hayden feel free to make these remarks, because the president himself has made these remarks. The president himself pretends to have the power to kill American citizens without trial, without judgment, on his own power. Now, he's done four those already. One was the 16-year-old son of Anwar Awlaki. So, if the president says he's above the law and he doesn't have to abide by the Fifth Amendment, that creates a lawlessness where thugs--and I use the term advisedly--thugs like the white-collar criminals Rogers, Hayden, and Dianne Feinstein can flourish and have immunity for saying outrageous things.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Kirk, I want to ask you this question, because you find a lot of people that say, you know, Snowden shouldn't have broken the law by leaking these documents. I know you're a whistleblower yourself. Did you feel like Edward Snowden had any other options, really?

WIEBE: No, Jessica. He had absolutely none. Anyone that promulgates the notion that there are good paths available--there aren't any. In fact, if you look at the closest thing to a law governing whistleblowing in the United States, the Whistleblower Protection Act, it specifically excludes workers in the United States intelligence community, any of the agencies that make up our intelligence community. None of those tens and over 100,000 people have any whistleblower rights whatsoever.

We went through Congress. We tried to go to the courts. And what did we get? An FBI raid on 26 July 2007.

MCGOVERN: The president of the United States said solemnly before the press corps that Ed Snowden had the protection of the Whistleblower Protection Act that the president signed just a few months ago. Is the president lying?

DESVARIEUX: That's a good question. Is the president lying, Kirk?

WIEBE: Yeah, it was never put into law. It was a policy guidance, if you will, nicely stated, but no action.

MCGOVERN: [Is it] conceivable that the president didn't know that when he misspoke? I don't think so. That's what we're dealing with, dishonesty at the highest level. And I would suggest that all my progressive friends need to acknowledge, need to see this for what it is and act before it's too late.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Well, thank you both, gentlemen, for joining us.

WIEBE: Our pleasure. Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.