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Petitions for Snowden Encounter Officialdom in Washington

  • Former NSA Director Hayden Responds to News Conference
  • State Department Rebuffs Effort to Deliver Petition
  • Justice Department Accepts Documents With 100,000 Signers

The Department of Justice accepted a pair of petitions with more than 100,000 signers on Wednesday ­­– several thousand pages urging restoration of Edward Snowden’s passport and an ironclad U.S. government commitment not to interfere with political asylum for the National Security Agency whistleblower.

Acceptance of the petitions by the Justice Department at its Washington headquarters followed an attempt earlier in the day to deliver the passport-­related petition to the State Department, which declined to accept that 2,670-page petition.

Both petitions, sponsored by the activist organization RootsAction.org and posted online, include thousands of individual comments. (Petition regarding Snowden’s passport, addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry. “Hands Off Snowden” petition addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama)

Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA as well as of the Central Intelligence Agency, responded to criticism voiced at a Tuesday news conference by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, whose responsibilities for the agency included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. McGovern blasted Hayden’s portrayal of the Fourth Amendment and said that “NSA” seems to stand for “No Such Amendment.” (McGovern’s comments and Hayden’s response in the Government Executive article “Should Edward Snowden Get His Passport Back?”)

Another speaker at the news conference was former whistleblower Coleen Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel who was named one of Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. On Wednesday, she responded to Hayden’s comment with this statement: “Hayden’s partial response seems to be an attempt to obfuscate the fact that even the lower relevancy standard ingrained in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 and also in Section 215 of the ‘Patriot Act’ was explicitly written to apply for use only in particular investigations of targeted suspects.”

Rowley added: “This is why the authors of the ‘Patriot Act,’ such as Congressman James Sensenbrenner, were themselves surprised and angered to discover that officials had secretly reinterpreted key terms of Section 215 to do away with all of the legal and pragmatic limitations that had previously existed to open the doors to their new post-9/11 policy of ‘collect it all.’ The ‘collect it all’ policy unfortunately includes all information about American citizens and other innocent people held by telecommunication companies, internet providers and other third-party data collection entities. This ‘nearly Orwellian’ massive vacuuming up of non­relevant information and metadata has already been determined as ‘unreasonable’ and therefore unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment by at least one federal district judge as well as by President Obama’s own constitutional and privacy law review panels.”

Video of the Tuesday news conference

Justice Department public affairs official Peter Carr accepted the boxes of petitions on the front steps of the Justice Department on Wednesday after the presenters ­­ McGovern, Rowley and RootsAction.org co-­founder Norman Solomon ­­ were told to leave the building. (photo)

Rowley said today: “It wasn’t easy to deliver the 105,000 petition signatures relating to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. So we were relieved this morning when the Department of Justice finally sent out an official to receive our boxes of documents. We can now hope that Eric Holder, John Kerry and other officials will read the thousands of comments from people who realize that post-­9/11 secret surveillance and ‘collect it all’ policies on American citizens and innocent people throughout the world need to be curtailed in order to preserve the American form of constitutional democracy.”

“President Obama seems yesterday to have finally committed himself to beginning some reform, but Congress should now realize that it too needs to regain effective oversight over a system that is viewed by nearly everyone as being out of control,” Rowley added. “Just as the number­-three FBI official at the time, William Sullivan, became the star witness to the Senate Intelligence Committee, disclosing the truth about J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal COINTELPRO operation in the latter years of the Vietnam War, so should Edward Snowden and other intelligence community whistleblowers be invited to testify. As Sullivan testified in 1975, U.S. officials engaged in secret surveillance and disruption activities never asked themselves whether their activities were ethical or legal.”

McGovern, Rowley and Solomon are available for a limited number of interviews.

Secret TPP Text Leaked as Left and Right Criticize “Corporate Power Grab”

http://www.accuracy.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/TRADE-articleLarge.jpgWikiLeaks today released “the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP.”

The New York Times reports that while “the Obama administration is rushing” the TPP “before the end of the year” that “two new House letters with about 170 signatories in total — the latest and strongest iteration of long-simmering opposition to fast-track authority and to the trade deal more broadly — have been disclosed just a week before international negotiators are to meet in Salt Lake City for another round of talks. … ‘This could be the end of TPP,’ said Lori Wallach of Public Citizen, a watchdog group that has opposed the deal.”

LORI WALLACH, via Thomas Dewar, tdewar at citizen.org
Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Wallach said today: “Even before today’s WikiLeaks posting of the TPP copyright and patent text and its threats to affordable medicine and Internet freedom, House Democrats and Republicans have announced opposition to fast track authority for TPP.” The group just posted “What’s New in the WikiLeaks Text” and other breaking content.

A group of 151 House Democrats just released a letter opposing fast track authority for TPP, noting that: “For sometime, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated. [See PDF]. Similarly, yesterday, a group of House Republicans sent a letter to President Obama noting that the TPP is not simply about tariffs, but also “labor policy, food and agricultural standards, environmental concerns, patent and copyright use, and regulations impacting many service sector industries, among many others.”

Public Citizen also recently sent a letter to NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman following reports in the New York Times article “No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming NSA,” that the NSA doled out information to “customers” like the U.S. Trade Representative, as a result of its spying programs. [PDF]

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org, @naiman
Naiman is policy director of Just Foreign Policy. He said today: “We had issued a crowdsourced reward for WikiLeaks to publish the TPP text that now stands at more than $70,000 — see: freetpp.org. By publishing the secret TPP text, WikiLeaks is sparking a public debate about the contents of this agreement that wasn’t possible when the agreement was secret from public opinion. This was our goal in issuing the reward. These events demonstrate that it’s not only in the realm of purported ‘national security’ that governments are keeping policies secret from the public to undermine democratic accountability.”

FIFA RAHMAN, fifarahman at hotmail.com, @fifarahman
Rahman said today: “We at the Malaysian AIDS Council are disappointed and appalled that the United States continues to push for TRIPS+ [Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] provisions in the face of so much opposition, including that of Malaysia’s. President Obama has in the past spoken about zero AIDS deaths. How can this be achieved when his administration is endorsing delays in entry of generics and price increases of medicines? We still worry whether provisions on biologic medicines will be inserted at the last minute and decided upon by heads of states.” See her recent piece “An All-American Puppet Show: TPPA and Medicines.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
Flowers served as congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program and is now co-director of It’s Our Economy and co-hosts “Clearing the FOG” radio show. She wrote the piece “Trans-Pacific Partnership Undermines Health System,” which states: “While the TPP is being called a trade agreement, the U.S. already has trade agreements [with most of the] countries involved in the talks. Instead, the TPP is a major power grab by large corporations.

“The text of the TPP includes 29 chapters, only five of which are about trade. The remaining chapters are focused on changes that multinational corporations have not been able to pass in Congress, such as restrictions on Internet privacy, increased patent protections, greater access to litigation and further financial deregulation.”

She said today: “The TPP has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning because the Obama administration knows that the more people know about it, the more they will oppose the agreement. The release of the full Intellectual Property chapter today by WikiLeaks confirms what had been suspected — that the Obama administration has been an advocate for transnational corporate interests in the negotiations even though they run counter to the needs and desires of the public.

“This is not surprising since we already knew that 600 corporate advisers were working with the U.S. Trade Representative to draft the TPP. This means that for nearly four years some of the top corporate lawyers have been inserting phrases, paragraphs and whole sections so the agreement suits the needs of corporate power, while undermining the interests of people and planet.” Flowers called for a “new approach — transparency, participation of civil society throughout the process, full congressional review and participation, and a framework that starts with fair trade that puts people and the planet before profits.” She is involved with the group flushthetpp.org.