RT’s Sophia Shevardnadze interviews Russian specialist Professor Stephen F. Cohen today about the fall-out from the Snowden case in U.S.-Russia relations. Cutting to the chase, Cohen compared the American public’s response to the Pentagon papers with what is happening today: polls indicate that about half of Americans accept to be spied upon if that will keep their children safe from terrorists, whereas in the seventies, reaction to Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of Vietnam War documents turned the country against that war.
Bradley Manning faces life in prison for supposedly aiding the enemy by revealing past American misdeeds, Julian Assange is threatened with arrest for publishing his leaks if he sets foot outside the Ecuadoran embassy in London, and Edward Snowden is stuck in a transit no-man’s land in Moscow facing the same charges. These three musketeers are being hounded for exposing government wrong-doing that has cost thousands of lives as ‘the West’ crusades against terrorists and a select list of ‘dictators’ around the world.
Last Monday France 24 aired an interview with an exiled Syrian journalist who is operating a radio program for Syrians (Radio Rozana) financed by the French government. Lina Chawaf described the conditions under which she worked while still in Syria. Her private television channel was only allowed to broadcast non-political programs, and when she went to work for another channel, government minders pressured her regularly to broadcast the Assad line. Threats, veiled and otherwise eventually motivated her to leave the country.
Americans have been conditioned to condemn curtailment of press freedom in one-party states. But, call me a trouble-maker, I have a hard time seeing these situations as qualitatively different from what increasingly goes on in the United States. Granted, journalists may not receive daily threats from the FBI or the CIA, but for decades they’ve known what they can and cannot say if they want to keep their high-paying jobs, and now, new laws allow the government to jail them on the pretext that talking to sources equals aiding the enemy. Chris Hedges and several other prominent journalists just lost a law suit against these scary tactics.
In case anyone thinks activists are exaggerating the gravity of the situation, the recent death of an investigative American journalist in an automobile accident that may have been caused by a cyber attack (http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/transportation/cars/journalist-michael-hastings-body-cremated-authorities-against-familys#) should give pause. The day before his death, Michael Hastings emailed friends that he was going to have to “go off the radar for a bit” because he was on to an important story. His body was returned to his family in an urn, and no one has been allowed to examine the car that suddenly burst into flames on a Los Angeles street. Aside from the more sophisticated means employed, is this incident qualitatively different from the assassination, say, of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya a few years ago in the elevator of her apartment building?
We can expect such deaths to multiply, given the stakes for the American system and the electronic tools it has perfected. For background read Tomdispatch’s July 14th Surveillance Blowback The Making of the U.S. Surveillance State, 1898-2020 By Alfred W. McCoy, then tell me whether journalists and whistle-blowers should be prosecuted.
Photo from Pascal licensed under Creative Commons