FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Limits of US Power

By trying to crush these young whistleblowers with espionage charges, the U.S. government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose.

— Julian Assange, quoted in New York Times, Jun 23, 2013

There is no mores striking anger than that which comes from impotence.  This is well illustrated by the bullying line being taken by Washington regarding countries granting passage to Edward Snowden as he veers his way to Ecuador.  Cooperate with us, or else.  Precisely – and what of it?

The case of Snowden is becoming a cornucopia of diplomatic ferment and dazzling excitement.  A senior Obama official, as recorded in The Guardian (Jun 22), threatened that, “If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law.”  This is the obscenity of the absurd: When we spy on you through secret mass surveillance, the law is served.  It isn’t if the public is told about it.

Despite the U.S. request formally requesting Hong Kong authorities to proceed with the extradition process, the whistleblower could still get on a commercial flight on Sunday (hardly anything covert about it) and head to Moscow.  It was brazen, but it was still fabulously ordinary for being so open.  This also came as Hong Kong legislators such as the democratic political activist Leung Kwok-hung urged residents to “take to the streets to protect Snowden.” The final call rested with Beijing, and Chinese authorities were in no mood to comply with the U.S. request.

The key in combating any clandestine culture is to treat matters as normal, open and ordinary.  It is the double bluff – to deceive the deceivers by disregarding their worth, their strength, their ploys.  The prosaic nature of a secret world mocks it to death. Then gather allies, mutual interests and antagonisms.  Journalists getting off the plane in Moscow were thrilled to bits at the adventure, showing passengers happy snaps of Snowden.

No sooner had Snowden touched down in Moscow, he disappeared.  He apparently had the Ecuadorean ambassador, Patricio Chávez, in tow.  The suggestions here are that Snowden will be heading for Quito via Havana.  If this takes place without a hitch, it will be a brilliant coup, one orchestrated by those outside standard government channels.  It will also have the finger prints of Julian Assange over it.

WikiLeaks has provided assistance of a logistical kind to Snowden, delivering special documentation enabling him to travel in the absence of his revoked passport.  WikiLeaks British activist Sarah Harrison was also accompanying Snowden in his flight.  “He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks.”

The statement released from the organisation on Sunday further explained that Snowden had “requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety.  Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.”

And what of Washington’s incandescent fury?  A good deal of egg found its way to the faces of its officials when it came to light that the National Security Agency had hacked Chinese mobile phone companies in an effort to access millions of private messages.  Only some days prior, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping had spoken about the need to cultivate ties of “mutual trust”.

Snowden has not merely been devastating in his revelations; he has been wise in divvying the detailed muck.  Richly deserved mistrust has been sown.  The South China Morning Post (Jun 23) was the grateful recipient of Snowden’s disclosures on that occasion.  The paper’s editorial (Jun 24) went so far as to regard his “choice of Hong Kong to hole up while he revealed who America was spying on and how its surveillance operations were conducted” as “genius”.

There was also more.  NSA’s cyber snooping had involved attacks on the networks of Tsinghua University and computers at the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, owner of one of the most extensive fibre optic submarine cable systems in the region.  Pacnet’s cables amount to 46,000 kilometres in length linking data centres through mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Tag one, and you tag them all.

Little wonder then that Beijing is hardly in any mood to cooperate on this score, nor was Hong Kong.  The latter authorities contended that the U.S. arrest warrant was defective at law.  Restraining Snowden, to throw the comment back at the Obama administration, would have been contrary to law.  State media went so far as to label Washington the “villain” of the peace.

Over the weekend, from the detained abode he is residing in London, Assange called for a global effort to assist the likes of Snowden. He is the near perfect genotype of exposure and revelation, indispensable to combating the cocksure goons of secrecy who perforate privacy and undermine personal dignity.  Something stirring is afoot, and the alarums are getting louder by the day.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail