• Paper has forgotten its role
    August 06,2013

    It is disheartening to find our local Times Argus joining in the claim that it is Edward Snowden’s disclosure of rapacious, illegal, secret spying on U.S. citizens and foreign nations that has caused harm to the United States. When this same government refers to a journalist who published information predicting a North Korean nuclear test as a “co-conspirator” in a spying case, the media should be going on the attack reminding citizens that it is the media disclosing information that governments would prefer kept secret that allows their citizens to make informed decisions. When citizens, who have knowledge that the government is violating the Fourth Amendment requirement that warrants be acquired before seizing citizens’ private information, disclose that knowledge, the media should be going on the attack against the government misconduct, not the individuals who disclosed it.

    The only thing that is impairing the U.S. relationship with Russia is the United States acting like a bully demanding that Snowden be returned to this country for trial, “or else,” pouting like an 8-year-old. It is U.S. conduct, enlisting European nations to revoke the Ecuadoran president’s plane permission to traverse the same airspace it used to go to Russia for an international conference, as it returned from Moscow, on the suspicion that Snowden had been granted asylum and was on that plane, that has negatively affected how the United States is viewed by other nations. Rather than joining the clamor for Snowden to be returned to the United States to face trial, our local paper should be reminding us that to apply for asylum is a basic human right under international law. And the local media should be reminding us that the sky didn’t fall in when Daniel Ellsberg disclosed the Pentagon papers to many U.S. newspapers, as well as the Beacon Press which finally published them.

    Nor is Snowden unreasonable in anticipating he would be subjected to maltreatment if he were to return to the United States. We have the example of Bradley Manning facing charges for espionage and aiding the enemy, when high-ranking members of the U.S. military opined at the time that his disclosures to Wikileaks caused no harm to U.S. troops. Instead of calling for Snowden to return to the United States for trial, the media should be pointing out that individuals the U.S. government targets as having committed espionage or as traitors are not treated fairly before trial.

    We should all be remembering that well-respected U.S. nuclear scientist, Wen Ho Lee, was held pretrial in solitary confinement, with lights on 24/7 in an effort to induce him to plead guilty to unwarranted espionage charges, and that Bradley Manning was similarly held in solitary confinement for nearly a year without trial. The media should be reminding us that such treatment is considered torture by educated, reasonable individuals. The media should be reminding us that the FBI admitted lying under oath in the Wen Ho Lee case and that the presiding judge apologized to Lee on behalf of the government for judicial misconduct.

    The drumbeat of the U.S. government acting as though a U.S. citizen disclosing illegal government spying should be censured and prosecuted, at the same time that same government has declined to prosecute the banksters, should lead any thoughtful citizen to realize that this government has no interest in protecting the Constitution, or protecting its citizens from the real lawbreakers who brought the U.S. economy to its knees and then used the U.S. court system to engage in fraudulent mortgage foreclosures (including illegal foreclosures against U.S. servicemen and women serving overseas).

    During revolutionary times those of integrity published broadsheets, attacking the government for its misdeeds. These same men are now seen as the fathers of our democracy. It is a sad, sad day when the media seem to have embraced a role of apologist for a law-breaking, spying out-of-control government, rather than calling it to task.

    Alexandra Thayer lives in Plainfield.

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