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Don’t Return to the States: an Open Letter to Edward Snowden

Dear Mr. Snowden,

Greetings.  According to Democracy Now and many other news outlets, you are considering a return to your native United States, and you are negotiating with US authorities over your possible return.  According to many media outlets, you are seeking assurances that you will be given a fair trial.

As a US journalist and activist of more than 40 years, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to realize that any such assurances that you seek will be completely and utterly worthless.

You, of all people, should know that any such assurances made by the United States government are utterly worthless.   Have you not read the very documents you yourself have so bravely and nobly provided to a world with a right to know?   Are those documents not positively bursting at the seams with U.S. government lies, deviousness, deceit, duplicity, and treachery?   Isn’t that the whole point in releasing them, so we could all see that such sordid behavior is no aberration, but is in fact the very nature of the beast?

It matters not one whit what you might negotiate.   It matters not one iota what promises might be made to you.   The US government is simply not to be trusted in the least little bit on anything, thus rendering completely moot any and all promises that might be made to you.

Do yourself a favor and call up Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’s been holed up for the last three years.   The number is 44 20 7584 1367.  I’ll pay for the call.

Julian Assange understands that Sweden’s assurances that it has no plans to turn him over to the United States are completely worthless.   A few threats to bump up import tariffs on Volvos and Saabs, and Assange will be in shackles on the next SAS flight to Dulles.   Empire is not interested in quaint notions such as promises made.  Empire is interested in empire.

Not convinced?  OK, let’s look at the historical record.

The U.S. says it doesn’t torture.  That’s a lie.  Never mind the horrors of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, right here in the US, as you read these words, thousands are kept in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades.   According to the UN, solitary confinement of more than two weeks is torture, especially for juveniles.  I have a friend who spent years in solitary.  You should call him too.  And if you think you may somehow be immune to such treatment, perhaps because of the tint of your skin, I urge you to think again – my friend is white.

In 1963 the United States signed and ratified the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, under which we are required to inform foreign countries of arrests of its nationals, and to inform arrested foreign nationals of their right to speak with a consular officer of their country.  Texas alone violates this convention about as often as it executes juveniles and the mentally retarded, and the federal government does nothing.

I can assure you that any faith you might have in the US “justice” system is grossly misplaced.  Just ask prisoners at Guantanamo who have been held in that offshore gulag for 10-12 years without so much as being charged with a crime – and held for years after being cleared for release.  And even if, unlike the lost souls of Guantanamo, you’re lucky enough to see the inside of a courthouse door, you might want to remember this.   Never mind that the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000, this same court, in violation of all manner of international treaties, gave its blessing to the U.S. government kidnapping of a Mexican national on Mexican soil and bringing him to this country.

This same Supreme Court ruled that 40 years for possession of four ounces of pot was not cruel and unusual punishment.

An innocent man spent years in prison because Justice Sotomayor wouldn’t accept an appeal that was delivered to her office various minutes late because the man’s lawyers got stuck in traffic – and despite the lawyers’ frantic phone calls to her office.   And she’s on the progressive wing of the court.

This is a justice system under which penalties for crack cocaine, favored by blacks, were fully 100 times the penalties for the powder cocaine favored by whites. But not to worry, that disparity has now been reduced to a factor of 18 to one.

This is a justice system that regularly rubber stamps congressional-district gerrymandering that results in Republican Congressional representation well beyond party numbers and popular support, and Black and Latino congressional representation well below their portion of population.

This is a justice system where overpaid judges in black robes say it’s OK for defense lawyers to sleep during capital trials, and where new evidence of innocence does not compel states to grant retrials – only procedural errors do.

This is a justice system that has locked away Louisiana’s Gary Tyler for 40 years because he couldn’t afford competent counsel and his incompetent counsel failed to object to the kangaroo court’s faulty jury instructions.

Clearly the U.S. justice system is a farce that has precious little to do with justice.  It would be a laughable farce if it weren’t such a vast tragedy that has destroyed the lives of literally millions, innocent and guilty alike.   When justice prevails, it is almost by accident, and it almost never prevails over the interests of the ruling class.

So do yourself another favor and ask yourself this: does your case represent the interests of the ruling class?   If the answer is no, then stay where you are.   I’m prepared to believe that Russia’s no picnic, but it beats the hell out of 35 years in the cell next to Chelsea Manning’s.

Lawrence Reichard is a resident of Bangor, Maine, and an activist with Occupy Bangor.  He can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.

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Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast, Maine, and can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.

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