4.7.13

Open letter to Edward Snowden

Dear Edward,

it must be hard for you, to realise that beyond the chorus of celebrations from radical fringes of the political spectrum for what you've done, real-politik always trumps naive behaviour.

You probably don't not know this, but I happen to have come across some of the actors involved in your current existencial dilemma. In 2008, I was working as VP Operations for the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), an NGO founded by a Venezuelan, like myself. One of the first things I did at the time was to travel to Ecuador, twice, to El Inca prison. You must be thinking why on earth I did that, and I'll tell you: I went to visit Orellana Governor Guadalupe Llori, a remarkable indigenous woman, leader of a left-leaning political movement, and former supporter of Rafael Correa. Guadalupe was democratically elected, just like Correa. She had a mandate from her constituents, just like Correa. But once he got to power, and started doing the very same things he had been criticising previous governments about, such as sending the army to crush dissent, Guadalupe rebelled. And she did because the province in which she was elected Governor (Orellana) was at the centre of oil workers protests about appalling working conditions, lack of infrastructure, contamination, etc. After Correa's decision to send in the army, Guadalupe referred to him in a local TV station as a brute.

"Fair comment" you may think. But Correa, a man who comes from a dysfunctional family and has a huge chip on his shoulder, decided to accuse Guadalupe of being a "terrorist" and had her thrown in jail, for almost 10 months. In that jail I visited her, twice. I still have at home two dolls that she made while there and gave me for my children. I was the only representative of a human rights NGO, whether local or international, to have visited her in jail to raise awareness about the injustice of her case. Thanks to HRF's campaign Guadalupe was freed and cleared of all charges for lack of evidence. But she was forcibly removed from her democratically-elected office on trumped charges. This was only one of two women in the entire American continent at the time -the other being Sarah Palin- to hold such office. The episode, as you may imagine, was a huge embarrassment for Correa and his regime.

Then I was asked to help organize the first ever Oslo Freedom Forum, a human rights conference produced by the HRF. I was there, in its first year, 2009. In 2010, while I was no longer employed by HRF, I did follow the proceedings, and heard Guadalupe give thanks for what we did to help her out. Curiously, that year, your handler Julian Assange, was one of the speakers invited to the Oslo Freedom Forum. This was before he had those issues in Sweden, and the Manning leaks. So let me tell you that Assange must have read, at the very least, about Guadalupe and what Correa had done to her in the conference prospectus. I guess you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Julian was hiding in Ecuador's Embassy in London.

Julian, I have been able to determine, is far from being this admirable advocate for transparency, rule of law, democracy, and freedom. His actions, since his decision of seeking asylum from Correa, speak volumes about his true nature. When I first heard about you I thought "wow, good thing that this guy alerted about that so a proper debate on the subject can be had." But then, like Julian before you, you showed up in Hong Kong, from there you flew to Russia, from where you said you wanted to go elsewhere, to Ecuador, which I've already talked about, Cuba, where I've also been visiting those prosecuted by the communist Castro dictators, and Venezuela, my country. Now let me tell you this Edward, none of your current handlers knows a tenth of what goes on in my country. That includes Julian. He may have, for expediency and survival reasons, entered into some sort of marriage of convenience with Rafael Correa's regime. While I am no expert in Ecuador I most certainly am in Venezuela.

In Venezuela, a journalist investigating a company that got power contracts from the State illegally gets visit from intelligence and security forces; his mother gets menacing calls; his car and house get bugged and he suffers all kinds of harassment. I'm not even talking about secrets of State Edward, like those you're revealing. No. A journalist simply doing his job and trying to keep those who grant public contracts honest. A judge, also doing her job and following the letter of the law to the t, gets sent to prison on the whims of the president. Ditto police officers. Let's say, for argument sake, that you are Venezuelan, or Ecuadorian, or Cuban, and you want to leak the stuff you got to the media in Venezuela, or Ecuador, or Cuba. You should first identify to which media, right? To maximise exposure? Well, let me tell you this, there is not one single media outlet of national reach in those countries that would, today, publish State secrets likes the one you have. Not one. If you happen to have stuff that exposes the opposition, or private companies, then yes, there are many places you could go. In fact, until very recently, there was this guy in Venezuela called Mario Silva, he had a prime time program in one of the State channels in which playing out illegally obtained phone recordings were daily occurrences. No one is prosecuted for that, in fact it is pretty much encouraged by the highest authorities. There's nowhere to got get redress for the courts are but an appendix of the regime. You are disgusted by what the government of your country does to spy your countrymen, what on earth do you think happens in Venezuela? Or in Cuba? Or in Russia? Or in China? Do you honestly think personal freedoms are more respected in my country? Do you honestly think you stand a better chance in a court of law in my country?

You are meant to be a former intelligence analist so you must be aware of these things. If you aren't, then the US intelligence apparatus is at an unsurmountable loss. You must have heard, learned or come across about such activities. It's common knowledge. It's been all over the media, aligned or not. From where do you think Cuba picked up its spying program? From PRISM? Or do I need to tell you about the Stasi? A Russian whistleblower was poisoned in a cafe in London not long ago, did you hear about him? That was Alexander Litvinenko. Did you hear about the guy who exposed tax corruption? That was Sergei Magnitsky. How about Cuba, have you heard something, anything in fact, about what happens to people locked in prisons located on the other side of the fence in Guantanamo?

I guess what I'm trying to get at Edward, from someone that has done some very minor leaking, is this: if you are moral enough to recognise when your government is doing wrong, and act upon it, be moral enough to recognise that your current partners/advisors are anything but an example to follow. If you are running away from a country where the government spies on its people, the last place you'd want to go should be Ecuador, or China, or Russia, or Cuba, or Venezuela. I mean, c'mon! Your public stance on this particular issue has the credibility of a campaigner for personal freedoms called Joseph Fritzl.

So I guess the best piece of advice I could give you is drop immediately Julian and his counsel. As the Times wrote yesterday, a man holed up in a cupboard for over a year in the Ecuadorian Embassy is hardly a legitimate advisor on how to avoid being trapped.

As per your alleged intentions of going to my country, or to Ecuador or Cuba, let me warn you: the moment you become a nuisance, or your presence is no longer politically expedient, the rulers of those countries won't hesitate for a second to dispose of you. There will be no media taking up your case, no human rights NGO exerting pressure for those regime allege sovereignty to wipe their arses with all international conventions. The jails in those countries are far, far worse from what your mind can even begin to picture. Once in one of those, you won't be able to claim anything about human rights, due process, etc., and your life will be absolutely worthless. You may think, after what happened to Manning, that going back to your country is out of the question. If you allow me to be crude in the extreme, I'd say Manning is alive, he didn't die, he wasn't killed. In all those other countries you may well become the next Sergei Magnitsky, or the next Franklin Brito.

Best,
Alek

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