Assange: Obama Vindicates Snowden

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 10 2013 1:03 PM

Julian Assange: Obama’s Reforms to Surveillance Program Vindicate Snowden

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on June 14

Photo by Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Saturday that no matter how much he tries to deny it, President Obama’s proposed reforms to the National Security Agency’s surveillance program “validated Edward Snowden’s role as a whistleblower” and amounted to “a victory of sorts for Edward Snowden.”

In a statement, Assange noted that “rather than thank Edward Snowden, the president laughably attempted to criticize him,” claiming the proposed reform was in the works long before the information was leaked. “The simple fact is that without Snowden’s disclosures, no one would know about the programs and no reforms could take place,” Assange wrote. The world’s citizens are lucky that, “just as Pfc. Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg,” Snowden “refused to remain silent.” Assange also accused Obama of hypocrisy, saying that the president once defended whistleblowers as courageous and patriotic but “his administration has prosecuted twice as many whistleblowers than all other administrations combined.”

In his news conference Friday, Obama pointedly said: “I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot.”

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Snowden has said that his biggest fear was that nothing would change after his leak. “Well reforms are taking shape, and for that, the president and people of the United States around the world owe Edward Snowden a debt of gratitude,” writes Assange.

Read Assange’s full statement after the jump:

Today the President of the United States validated Edward Snowden’s role as a whistleblower by announcing plans to reform America’s global surveillance program.  But rather than thank Edward Snowden, the President laughably attempted to criticize him while claiming that there was a plan all along, “before Edward Snowden.”  The simple fact is that without Snowden’s disclosures, no one would know about the programs and no reforms could take place.  As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently once stated, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”  Luckily for the citizens of the world, Edward Snowden is one of those “people of good conscience” who did not “remain silent”, just as Pfc Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg refused to remain silent.
Ironically, the Department of Justice is betraying two key principles that President Obama championed when he ran for office ­ transparency and protection for whistleblowers. During his 2008 campaign, the President supported Whistleblowers, claiming their “acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.”  Yet his administration has prosecuted twice as many whistleblowers than all other administrations combined
Moreover, the US government’s hypocrisy over Snowden’s right to seek asylum has been stunning.  America offers asylum to dissidents, whistleblowers and political refugees without regard to other governments opposition all the time.  For example, the US has accepted 3,103 of their own asylees, 1,222 from Russia and 1,762 from Venezuela – http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/immigration-statistics/yearbook/2011/ois_yb_2011.pdf.
Today was a victory of sorts for Edward Snowden and his many supporters.  As Snowden has stated, his biggest concern was if he blew the whistle and change did not occur.  Well reforms are taking shape, and for that, the President and people of the United States and around the world owe Edward Snowden a debt of gratitude.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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