Sunday, July 06, 2014

Hillary Clinton Endorsed The Sixth Amendment. John Kerry Won't Go That Far.

It has been only a few hours but at least as of now, there is no response from Hillary Clinton or John Kerry to the article in today's Washington Post in which Barton Gellman reports

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents....

The material spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

Taken together, the files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge. One program, code-namedPRISM, extracts content stored in user accounts at Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and five other leading Internet companies. Another, known inside the NSA as Upstream, intercepts data on the move as it crosses the U.S. junctions of global voice and data networks....

The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers. Raj De, the agency’s general counsel, has testified that the NSA does not generally attempt to remove irrelevant personal content, because it is difficult for one analyst to know what might become relevant to another.

Nearly lost in the controversy over the relatively trivial matter of the wealth of Bill and Hillary Clinton provoked by the latter's interview with ABC News, and then the Guardian of the UK, were comments the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made about Edward Snowden.

Mr. Snowden remains in asylum in Russia while his attorneys try to work out a deal which would allow him to return to the U.S.A.  Thirteen months ago The New York Times explained he "has been charged with violating the Espionage Act and stealing government property for disclosing information to The Guardian and The Washington Post."

This would come as a surprise to Mrs. Clinton, who told the Guardian during a recent interview. (Relevant portion begins at 13:22 of video.) "I have no idea what he's been charged with."  Still, if Clinton chooses to feign ignorance about the charges against Snowden, she clearly knows her U.S. Constitution. Asked whether Snowden should have the right to mount a defense based on the public interest, Clinton deftly dodged the question, instead stating "In any case that I'm aware of, as a former lawyer, uh, he has a right to mount a defense and he certainly has the right to mount both a legal defense and a public defense, which of course can affect the legal defense."

A former First Lady, United States Senator, and Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton has clearly and forthrightly determined that Snowden should not be stripped of his rights under the Sixth Amendment, in which

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Clinton questioned Snowden's motives, contending he had added little to the debate on national security and privacy, should return to the USA without any promises, and should not have sought asylum in Russia- though with the USA State Department having revoked his passport, he had little choice.

But at least Mrs. Clinton  maintained a rough approximation of objectivity, unlike the current Secretary of State, who told CBS News "This is a man who has betrayed his country.  He should man up and come back to the US.”  Were the infantile macho man on the playground, his preferred wording would have been "Don't be so gay." That would have been condemned as "man up"should have been.  (And good luck on that fair trial thing, Edward.)

Come back to the land of the free and home of the brave, the former and the current secretaries of state say. But as Kerry and probably even Clinton know

Snowden's legal team have stated that lack of recourse to a public interest defence is a key obstacle to the whistleblower returning to the US.

Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "The laws would not provide him any opportunity to say that the information never should have been withheld from the public in the first place.

"And the fact that the disclosures have led to the highest journalism rewards, have led to historic reforms in the US and around the world – all of that would be irrelevant in a prosecution under the espionage laws in the United States."

Fortunately, somebody gets it right.  Asked whether the former private sector contractor to the NSA is a traitor or a whistleblower, the man elected President in 2000 refused to

put him in either one of those categories. But I'll be candid and give you want you want. If you set up a spectrum... but I would push it more away from the traitor side. And I will tell you why. He clearly violated the law so you can't say OK, what he did is all right. It's not. But what he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the US constitution that were way more serious than the crimes he committed.

In the course of violating important law, he also provided an important service. OK. Because we did need to know how far this has gone. 

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