June 23, 2013
U.S. Government Pursuit of Snowden for Espionage Charges is “Political Persecution”
For Immediate Release: June 23, 2013
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460
Washington, D.C.- Ecuador should grant National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s asylum request since it is a case “not of espionage, but of whistle-blowing,” Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot added that Snowden’s actions had revealed important information regarding illegal activities by the U.S. government that violate the rights of people around the world, and that as long as he is free, he will be able to reveal more government wrongdoing.
“It is important that everyone who believes in freedom to defend Ecuador from Washington’s threats, which are very likely if the Ecuadorean government grants asylum to Snowden,” Weisbrot said. “Other governments around the world – whose citizens’ rights have been violated by NSA surveillance overreach – should stand behind Ecuador if it chooses to grant Snowden asylum, as should NGO’s.”
The Ecuadorean government revealed earlier today that Snowden had filed an asylum request. The Ecuadorean government granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange last year. (Assange has lived in Ecuador’s embassy in London since.)
Weisbrot noted that there is no evidence to support a charge of espionage. Snowden released information of U.S. government wrongdoing to the press, not to any foreign government; and this information was vetted to make sure that it did not harm any security interests. Snowden did not collaborate with any foreign government in the release of the information.
“To charge Snowden with espionage is a severe form of political persecution,” Weisbrot said.
“There is good reason for other Latin American countries especially to express solidarity with Ecuador,” Weisbrot added, “since so many of them have been subject to U.S. government interference and hostility merely for pursuing alternative paths of economic development, governance and diplomacy than those desired by Washington.”
Weisbrot noted that the Obama administration’s pursuit of Snowden is part of a “war on whistle-blowers” that has seen seven people charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, the imprisonment for three years under harsh conditions of suspected “Collateral Murder,” “Iraq War Logs” and “Cablegate” leaker Bradley Manning, and the convening of a grand jury to investigate possible espionage charges against Wikileaks.
“The Obama administration has charged more than twice as many whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined,” Weisbrot noted. “This demonstrates – as do many of the details of these cases themselves – that the administration is applying the law arbitrarily in order to silence people who are exposing what are sometimes criminal and dangerous abuses. Ecuador would be right to see such actions as political persecution and therefore approve this request for asylum.”
“If Ecuador or another country defends freedom by granting asylum to Snowden, Snowden could have the opportunity to reveal further vital information regarding U.S. government wrongdoing that would benefit Americans and others,” Weisbrot said. “That is another reason why the Obama administration might want to get him as quickly as they can.”
Weisbrot is the author of several research papers on the Ecuadorean economy and wrote op-eds on Assange’s asylum case in The Guardian, Aljazeera English and Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil's largest circulation newspaper).