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Freedom Rider: The Snowden Litmus Test

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    by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

    No sooner had they learned Edward Snowden’s name, than bipartisan supporters of the National Security State proceeded to vilify him. “The congressional double cross only serves to confirm that once again there is unanimity in Washington about how best to screw the people.”


    Freedom Rider: The Snowden Litmus Test

    by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

    Republican and Democratic members of Congress have exploded in a rhetorical competition to see who can vilify Snowden the most.”

    Edward Snowden has been called a traitor, a narcissist, a loser and a danger to national security. Reporters have questioned whether he was friendly enough to his neighbors or why he made a good salary despite having just a GED. He has even been criticized for leaving the military after he broke his legs. His whereabouts are unknown because the federal government is preparing to file charges against him.

    Such extravagant and bizarre levels of vitriol can mean only one thing. When politicians and rich pundits all join together to deliver a very public beat down, the victim of the beating is probably someone who did the people a great service.

    Snowden revealed the extent of the government’s levels of surveillance conducted in America and around the world. Millions of phone and email records are turned over to the National Security Agency (NSA) in something ominously called operation Boundless Informant. Yes, that is the real name of a program which gives information about millions of human beings from Verizon, ATT, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft to the United States government. We are all under government surveillance and weasel words like “metadata” should not make anyone feel better. Big brother is watching all of us.

    Worse than the government’s disregard for our constitutional rights has been the acquiescence of Congress and the courts. The Obama administration and the Bushites before them all made sure that their lawlessness first passed muster with Congress. President Obama’s first line of defense after the story broke was to announce that congress knew and approved of all his plans.

    Raising the specter of terror has become the last refuge of scoundrels.”

    Republican and Democratic members of Congress have exploded in a rhetorical competition to see who can vilify Snowden the most. Far from giving a feeling of assurance, the congressional double cross only serves to confirm that once again there is unanimity in Washington about how best to screw the people.

    The normally cool Obama and his top staffers are a bit off stride and noticeably panicking. In his increasingly annoying and halting monotone he assured us that wasn’t listening to our phone calls. And just in case that less than comforting statement didn’t work for you he also claims that the spying program has thwarted terror plots on our behalf. It wasn’t clear if these were the plots invented by the FBI and their informants, but I digress. Raising the specter of terror has become the last refuge of scoundrels.

    Edward Snowden worked as a contractor for Booz Allen and Dell before he leaked the NSA information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Most people may not have been surprised that the government spies on them, but they don’t know that the dirty work is performed by private contractors and not government employees.

    That is one of the reasons that politicians and courtier pundits are so angry with Snowden. Snowden opened the entire can of worms. All the levels of corruption were revealed in one fell swoop. Private corporations make a fortune off of work contracted out by the government which then proceeds to spy on us all. Thanks to Snowden another dirty little secret has been exposed.

    The Obama administration takes the sledge hammer approach to any revelation or question and crushes anyone who dares to speak up.”

    Cases such as this do serve an important purpose. They tell us who can be trusted and who cannot. Equivocation about Snowden’s motives, or the rightness of his decision, or the dangers he presented to the government or to the Obama administration or the war on terror are proof of untrustworthiness. There aren’t many clear lines of demarcation but this is one of the rare instances where a point of view makes one politically suspect or not.

    Daniel Ellsberg recently lamented that the Nixon administration illegal acts carried out against him are now perfectly legal. The Patriot Act and its extensions mean that just about anything the government wants to do is legal. They don’t need warrants to spy on us, they don’t event have to tell us they are spying. Whistleblowers are being dealt very harsh sanctions indeed. The Obama administration takes the sledge hammer approach to any revelation or question and crushes anyone who dares to speak up.

    Edward Snowden risks facing years in prison like Bradley Manning or life forever on the lam like Julian Assange. Hopefully he was aware of the risks and will elude detection until well after Obama leaves office. He will need to be very lucky and careful if he is to avoid the long arm of United States law. Actually that statement applies to everyone. We can tell the truth but we shouldn’t expect anything resembling mercy.

    Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

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    What a beautiful essay, M. Kimberley. Perfect. Scarey.

    M. Kimberley,  Thanks.  It's perfect, word for word.  I finally learned the link to my art on Flickr (despite my senior & "late to tech" moments)

      My initial reaction to hearing about Edward Snowden was to get the spelling of his name, listen/read more and get art done as soon as possible to show support for him and opposition to the government's policies.

    update: (I think the "Edit" button on BAR is the coolest thing I've seen on any website.)  The contents of BAR: my check is in the mail.  I forgot when I was rushed: had just gotten news that my friend of 44 years, whose death was prematurely announced on June 4th by a "hospice" (aka nursing home floor she got moved to a couple of weeks ago; she couldn't die at home as she wanted, because Medicaid only pays 4 hours of home care attendant a day now.  What killed my friend?  In January, she had a flu shot and for the first time had a reaction, which made her diabetes go wild and that's it, someone disabled for some years in middle age, a decade younger than me...).  Like everybody else, I fit politics in with living life that is hard.    BAR and are where I comment.  Without information, we are easily manipulated - that's why I read BAR and comment.  It is not necessary that I agree with everything or everyone who writes/gets posted on BAR - there's enough and much I want to know.    It's my anniversary as a wife today.  I'd only put that on a woman's blog page.   Again, thanks Ms. Kimberley.


    Profound Condolences

    The heartache of growing old and watching friends and loved ones disappear is unbearable.  W.B. Yeats knew this:

    I heard the old, old men say,
    "Everything alters,
    And one by one we drop away."
    They had hands like claws, and their knees
    Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
    By the waters.
    I heard the old, old men say,
    "All that's beautiful drifts away
    Like the waters."

    I would like to express my deepest sympathy for your loss and repeat my thanks for your words of comfort for mine.




    Thank you; art in my friend's memory-link

    Thank you for the words and poem.   I was waiting until the art I made in memory of my friend went up on my webpages:

    It's the end piece on the right.  Click on the "postage size" image and it enlarges.

    It took me awhile to find your comment again, due to the spam..  About the poem by Yeats: my mother would agree;  I asked about her feelings at being "last" and at 93, she spoke of the pain.   Yet, so many people die before they are old, so there's more than one way to look at it.  My father died at 44, when I was 10.  (WWII enlistee disabled vet, mailman).   There's the myth that people live so much longer now than years ago, but so many people die before they collect their social security "retirement" at 62 or 65, so many of them are people of color. 

    Again, thank you for your kind  words.   So many of my friends, disabled artists, died before they were 70.  So many from illnesses that were not their caused by their disability.  For example: a friend with MS died of cancer because her doctors assumed her symptoms were MS, although totally different, for over a year, than any symptoms she'd had before. She was diagnosed with cancer 3 days before she died. Another artist friend who was quadriplegic for 27 years after a car crash, died of Mercr staph infection in a large hospital 3 weeks after going in to get treatment for a "bed sore" from sitting in his wheelchair.   A friend with porfiria, died, age 48, after being treated for an infection from where the tube to insert medications was put into her back.  She wanted to be the most famous black woman  disabled artist in the U.S.; porfiria is not supposed to be fatal; same illness that Isabel Allende's daughter, Paula, had, but died and the mother wrote a book about it.