Snowden — an act of defiance

EDWARD Snowden deserves a medal for blowing the lid off secret US government spy programmes that monitor the emails and phone calls of millions of people in America and throughout the world. But Snowden’s going to get the Bradley Manning treatment if the US authorities get their hands on him and he has wisely gone to earth in Hong Kong.

Hopefully the Chinese government will reject US demands for the extradition of the former CIA man who said: “I can’t allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties. My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” If not Snowden may find asylum in Russia given the sympathetic comments from some prominent supporters of the Putin government in the Russian parliament.

In the meantime Snowden’s exposure of the power and scope of US Prism and the Boundless Informant electronic surveillance programmes shows that reach of American intelligence goes far beyond the hunt for terrorists, money-launderers and international drug-dealers that they would have us believe are the sole purpose of this immense global spying operation.

The European Union is demanding assurances that Europeans are not having their rights infringed by this massive US surveillance programme while William Hague claims that British intelligence agencies are not using information gathered by American monitoring systems to get around Britain’s anti-snooping laws. But how would Hague know and what can the EU do given that the US government routinely denies carrying out what Snowden says they routinely do every day?

The fact that the US government is spending billions of dollars on electronic monitoring systems comes as no surprise to us. Reactionary regimes want to know everything about everybody. The purpose is simply to strengthen the power to intimidate, blackmail, bribe or suppress anyone which stands in their way. The US government leads the pack. Its fabulous wealth, based on plunder and exploitation at home and abroad, means that money is no object when it comes to funding the secret police and the colossal spying operations of the various intelligence agencies that serve the American ruling class.

In the past British communists always assumed that their mail was opened and their phones tapped by the secret police so the current revelations should come as no surprise to us. But while we may powerless to stop these sorts of abuse of civil liberty we can ensure that we do not play into the hands of the abusers. If they want to read our emails so what? The struggle is in the unions, on the estates and in the streets — not the internet or Facebook.

In the meantime courageous people must be defended for exposing what bourgeois “liberty” really means or, in the words of the petition now circulating in the United States: “Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programmes.”