Freedom? Really?

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

Yesterday afternoon, Private Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing top secret videos and memos of US forces’ illegal behaviour to Wikileaks (with Julian Assange currently sweating it out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London). Currently, Edward Snowden, a former CIA and NSA operative, is in hiding in Russia after releasing details of PRISM, an NSA program that is designed to monitor web usage of American citizens, alongside programs used to monitor US and European telecommunications data.

Earlier this week, David Miranda, partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained at London Heathrow for nine hours under UK anti-terror laws – specifically Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

All of this reveals a very worrying pattern of behaviour from international superpowers that have begun to believe the whole “superpower” moniker. I’m going to begin with my thoughts on Manning’s sentence – personally I don’t believe for one second he should be imprisoned for his actions in bringing to the public attention some of the horrific acts committed during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, and mistreatment of prisoners kept in Guantanamo Bay. He is essentially being imprisoned for the crime of showing the world what the US can and will do if left unchecked and unmonitored. Manning risked his life to expose these acts, given that he could have faced a maximum penalty of death for “aiding the enemy”.

Edward Snowden, on the other hand, released information about how the US was using cutting-edge technology to monitor the communications of US citizens and European people through a number of programs such as PRISM, XKEYSCORE and Tempora. Numerous people have picked up on the manner of these releases to insinuate that Snowden must also have released US intelligence details regarding monitoring of Chinese and Russian communications, all from the countries he chose as bases to release this intel. Snowden was first in Hong Kong where he kept himself very much in the public eye due to a fear of assassination, before moving to Moscow. At the moment Snowden remains in Russia, granted temporary asylum for one year, but the general consensus is that he will attempt to head for Ecuador or Cuba and seek permanent asylum in those countries. Again, Snowden has revealed an intelligence community in the US that is so drunk with power, so unchecked that it feels able to abuse its own powers almost at will. This is not something that should be condemned, but of course the authorities will continue the line of “national security” when trying to prosecute Snowden for his quite frankly heinous crimes.

David Miranda is a little more intriguing. He is the husband of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and was detained at Heathrow under suspicion of carrying sensitive and stolen CIA intel with the aim of delivering it to Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor. Mostly the outcry has been over whether the UK Police were correct in their use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act to detain and question Mr Miranda for nine hours. There has also been some concern over UK government pressure on the Guardian to destroy files relating to Ed Snowden and PRISM – David Cameron knew of the intent to detain Mr Miranda, and requested cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood to contact the Guardian with the intent of destroying or confiscating sensitive files from Snowden. From my point of view, our Government has a lot of explaining to do over its actions, because quite frankly it is precisely this kind of censoring of the free press that it apparently does not want to do after the phone hacking scandal. Funny how it’s a lot easier to censor media voices when they’re about to reveal serious State wrongdoing, isn’t it?

All in all, it is a very worrying trend of behaviour from the people we trust to run our countries, and trust not to control and monitor our lives. The problem is that the right-wing media has helped bring this on us through its vehement rhetoric of terror always just around the corner, and using of fear to press a certain agenda. Unfortunately, that agenda of fear has been pressed so much that now the Government uses strongarm tactics to bully sections of the media that actually want to investigate the things it SHOULD be investigating. And all we can hear from the right-wing, including Louise Mensch, is “Well done security forces, ensuring a safer country”. Well, the quote that springs to mind is that of Benjamin Franklin, and I’m sure it’s been published more and more with each passing day:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Franklin also published a similar quote that holds relevance here just as much:

Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.

Very true – our leaders will sell our greatest assets to make themselves rich, and will have us all live in fear so that they may keep themselves in power. Let that be a lesson to this, and future, generations. If you let your leaders behave atrociously without question in the name of liberty, you will forever be stripped of your own personal civil liberties.

Wise up – let your country know who the boss is.

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