A basic request for information regarding former NSA contractor and whistle blower Edward Snowden’s use of the agency’s e-mail system, as well as information relating to his e-mail records while he was an employee of two other interconnected government agencies, by the UK based on-line publication ‘Business Insider‘, has finally received a response after nearly three years of waiting for a reply. According to a report published on the magazine’s website on Monday, Business Insider’s editorial team ‘filed three separate requests on May 29, 2014 for Snowden’s email records at the CIA, where he worked as an employee; the National Security Agency, where he worked as a government contractor; and the DIA, where he was a lecturer on counterintelligence, in an effort to learn whether he had, in fact, raised questions over the constitutionality of surveillance programs.’
The response that they finally received, together with an apology for the delay in responding due to a ‘large backlog of pending FOIA requests’, from Alesia Williams, Chief FOIA officer at the DIA, one of the three agencies with which he was involved, claimed that “Despite a thorough search, no documents responsive to your request were found.” Back in September Distract the Media examined the Snowden case in the light of the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. Not long after the publication of the Special Rapporteur’s report, on 23 September 2014, just four months after the FOIA request had been submitted by Business Insider UK, Snowden had raised the issue of mass surveillance programs, which violate Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; in the specific context of what he himself had done. During the course of an interview with Lawrence Lessig of the Harvard Law School which took place on 23 Oct of that year, Snowden was heard to say::
‘It was not that I saw a particular program and I had an axe to grind,’ he said, ‘it was that broadly I was witness to massive violations of our Constitution, they were happening in secret, and that they were happening as a result of a broad breakdown throughout the branches of government.’ Elsewhere, in another interview, which had made its appearance in the landmark documentary ‘Chasing Edward Snowden’, the whistle blower had described the agencies he had previously been working for as being involved in the systematic ‘violation of the rights of an entire nation without even a law to lean on’.
Given the fact that Snowden himself had just set out the legal basis by which a past or future President of the United States might be able to grant him some sort of clemency or reprieve, in a similar fashion to that which was recently granted to the US Army whistle blower Chelsea Manning, the delay in the solicited response from the DIA should perhaps come as little surprise. However, some of the legal ramifications of the issues raised by Business Insider’s editorial team are immediately apparent when it is considered that Jeff Sessions, Trump’s new Attorney General, had already submitted written responses to questions posed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, saying that he was in favour of back door encryption, even before his successful nomination had been confirmed. A fact highlighted by reports on the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ZDNET websites in the closing week of January 2017.
Earlier this week, on the same day as Business Insider UK finally managed to publish the DIA’s response, Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, was quoted by the Russian news service RT as saying that he and his client hope that the Trump Administration will drop their case against him, allowing his safe return to the United States. At the end of last month however, Wolfgang Kaleck, another of Snowden’s legal representatives who acts for him within the EU, attended a hearing at the European Parliament to make a case granting the whistle blower asylum somewhere in the European Union. The legal basis for the application hinges on the potential thousand year sentence that he might face if extradited for trial in the US. Something that is in breach of European Human Rights legislation. A fact reported back in January by the on-line publication Digital Trends. The fact that Snowden’s right to asylum in Russia is due to expire in 2020 may well turn out to be a deciding factor in the case currently with the European Parliament.
Having begun his career as a junior researcher at Thames Television in London, he has written for a wide range of publications including 'The Brighton Reporter', 'Durham Town and Country', 'The Brighton and Hove People' and 'The New Celtic Review'. As an exhibited film maker he has been a regular contributor and award nominee at the Portobello Film Festival in London; and has seen his work shown at the annual London Film Makers' Convention at the prestigious Round House Theatre.
As well as receiving enthusiastic reviews from BBC Radio 4 and others for his book on Sir Walter Scott, his pioneering work as an Underground Film Maker on the fledgeling Goa Trance Scene has set him in a field of his own amongst many of his contemporaries; both in the UK, where he presently resides, and elsewhere. Current projects presently in hand include a book centred on his 'Legendary London' series of documentary films, which have stimulated an enthusiastic response from the likes of Glenda Jackson and others; and a novel set in France and Edinburgh during the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment.
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