12 July 2013

Asylum Now for Edward Snowden!

JULY 8—Five weeks after the London Guardian printed accounts of the massive collection of phone records and Internet spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), former agency contractor Edward Snowden, who provided the documentation, by all accounts remains holed up in the transit section of a Moscow airport. Stung by Snowden’s revelations, the U.S. imperialists are seeking their pound of flesh. The State Department weeks ago revoked Snowden’s passport to prevent his travel as Washington fights to return him to the U.S., where he would face decades in prison on charges of espionage, theft and conversion of government property. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia to their credit have offered him political asylum. In tearing yet another veil off the U.S. spying machine, Snowden performed a great service to workers and the oppressed, in the U.S. and internationally, who are the ultimate target of the capitalist rulers’ apparatus of state repression.

Early speculation that Ecuador would offer asylum to Snowden was dashed when President Rafael Correa backtracked, stating on June 27 that such a request could only be considered if Snowden were on Ecuadorian territory. This came after Vice President Joe Biden worked the phones to put pressure on leaders of Snowden’s possible destination countries. The arm-twisting culminated last week in a chilling act of imperial arrogance against the president of impoverished Bolivia, Evo Morales. After Morales announced in Moscow that he would consider giving asylum to Snowden, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, clearly acting at the behest of the U.S., closed their airspace on July 2 to block Morales’ plane on the return trip to La Paz, claiming they had information that Snowden was on board. Diverted from their planned route, which had been agreed to in advance, pilots in fear of running out of fuel were forced to land in Vienna, where the plane was kept for 14 hours before being allowed to depart.

Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Nations rightly denounced this as an act of aggression. The country’s vice president, Álvaro García Linera, bluntly stated that Morales was “kidnapped by imperialism.” Bolivia formally filed a complaint with the United Nations on July 3, one day after Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of this tool of imperialism, denounced Snowden for “misuse” of access to information. Outrage over the incident resonated across Latin America. Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, denounced the “vestiges of colonialism,” adding, “We believe this constitutes not only the humiliation of a sister nation but of all South America.” The bourgeois populist regimes of Venezuela, Ecuador and Uruguay also protested, while newspapers and political commentators recalled centuries of U.S. interventions, invasions and occupations.

While the European “democracies” initially preened as champions of the privacy rights being trampled in the U.S., it did not take long before Germany was revealed to be working on massively increasing its capacity to intercept communications and that France is engaged in the same kind of mass data collection as the NSA. These same governments huffed and puffed late last month when it was revealed that the NSA had bugged their diplomatic offices in Washington, the UN and Brussels. In a rare moment of candor, Obama dismissed spying among friends as commonplace, saying, “That’s how intelligence services operate.” Behind the imperialists’ diplomatic skullduggery—conducted at times with and at times against one another—is their drive to exploit the world’s workers and oppressed in accord with their distinct interests.

Edward Snowden is a courageous young man who is paying a steep price for making public some of the secret workings of the capitalist state. Others who have shed light on the government’s domestic spying include retired Bay Area AT&T worker Mark Klein, who came forward seven years ago to reveal how the NSA had tapped into AT&T’s fiber-optic cables in order to access much of the country’s Internet data flow. Like the court-martial of Bradley Manning for his revelations of U.S. imperialist barbarity, the government’s attempt to seize and lock away Edward Snowden goes hand in hand with the enormous extension of police powers and evisceration of civil liberties in the name of the “war on terror.” Obama & Co. are after their hides as a marker of what lies in store for anyone contemplating blowing the whistle on the crimes of this planet’s most dangerous imperialist power. We demand: Hands off Edward Snowden!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1027, 12 July 2013)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.