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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/8/14

Snowden Should Refuse to Play "Alice in Wonderland"

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Clinton and Kerry Call On Snowden To Submit To Sham Security State Trial

Snowden Should Refuse to Play "Alice in Wonderland"

Edward Snowden submitting to prosecution in the United States, would be like Alice going into the courtroom in Wonderland.

Alice stood before the King and Queen of Hearts who served as the judges. Knaves were chained on the ground before them. The jurors, Alice realizes are 'stupid things' The first witness against her was the Mad Hatter who is as mad as the culture he represents. The guinea pigs who protest are immediately "suppressed" by having the mouths tied up and being put into a bag and sat on by the King so their protests cannot be heard. The most important evidence in the trial was secret, a poem for which the author is unknown and concludes:

For this must ever be a secret,
Kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.

Alice realized the court room; with the icons of a justice system -- a judge, jury, witnesses -- was really a sham that mocks a legitimate legal process. To confirm her realization the King said after the meaningless secret poetry evidence, that it was "the most important piece of evidence" and "Let the jury consider their verdict." The Queen retorts "No, no! Sentence first; verdict afterwards."

Last week former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined with the current Secretary of State John Kerry in urging Edward Snowden to come home and face prosecution.

Clinton told The Guardian that he should "return knowing he would be held accountable and also able to present a defense." When asked about whether he could really present a defense, Clinton said:

"In any case that I'm aware of as a former lawyer, he has a right to mount a defense. And he certainly has a right to launch both a legal defense and a public defense, which can of course affect the legal defense."

In fact, under current US law Snowden would face a criminal process with virtually no defense, a pre-ordained outcome and he would be silenced during the process. The law he would be charged under, the Espionage Act, provides for no real defense and the due process afforded would be inadequate resulting in an unfair trial and lengthy sentence.

On June 14th federal prosecutors in Alexandria, VA filed espionage charges against Edward Snowden. Snowden became the eighth person to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act during the Obama presidency, more than double all previous presidents combined. As a result there is recent experience with how these cases are prosecuted. Under the three current felony charges Snowden faces up to 30 years in prison. The prosecutors could add additional charges when Snowden is indicted.

Recent court decisions, including the prosecution of Chelsea Manning, have interpreted the Espionage Act to not to require proof that the person accused intended to commit espionage. If the person intended to blow the whistle on illegal activity and was acting in the public interest, as in the case of Snowden and the NSA, that would not be a defense.

It would not be relevant that former US intelligence officials had given Snowden an award for integrity in intelligence. The fact that a judge on the FISA surveillance court, David Saylor, acknowledged "The unauthorized disclosure . . . have engendered considerable public interest and debate"" Even the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, acknowledged "I think it's clear that some of the conversations this has generated, some of the debate, actually needed to happen." And, that the reporters who worked with Snowden to publish the documents won the top journalism award, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. All of this would not be relevant under the Espionage Act.

The jury would not be allowed to consider how the leaks were a public service, not espionage. Almost certainly, the judge in Snowden's prosecution would not allow any arguments along those lines and exclude all such evidence. Unlike other criminal laws violation of the Espionage Act is a strict liability law -- there is no defense for a whistleblower who has admitted they leaked the documents, i.e. the fact of the leak is espionage even if the intent was to serve the public interest by exposing crimes by the government. As a result, even though Snowden was not a spy committing espionage -- in the traditional sense of the term as someone spying for a foreign enemy -- the law could still be applied to him.

In addition, rather than due process allowing a legitimate defense as is required by the Constitution, his trial would rely on warped procedures that actually prevent the basics of a fair trial. It is very likely that Snowden would be denied bail and held in prison pending trial despite the constitution providing for a right to bail, especially since he fled the nation and sought political asylum in a foreign country. Being incarcerated pending trial makes mounting a defense very difficult and would result in communication with the public and the media being impossible. Clinton has it backward, unlike his current situation, where Snowden can explain himself and the importance of documents being released, he would be silenced.

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Kevin Zeese is co-chair of Come Home America, www.ComeHomeAmerica.US which seeks to end U.S. militarism and empire. He is also co-director of Its Our Economy, www.ItsOurEconomy.US which seeks to democratize the economy and give people greater (more...)
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