US reputation suffers when it stands against human rights & rule of law – Snowden
Accepting Norway’s freedom of speech prize via a video link from Moscow, due to Washington’s pressure for his extradition, whistleblower Edward Snowden noted that the US’ reputation is crumbling every year it stands against human rights, the rule of law and its own values.
This year’s Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression Bjornson prize went to Snowden, who in his address to the audience disputed accusations that his whistleblowing was done to damage the US or get back against its intelligence services.
“I love my country. I signed up for the army, the military in my country, before the Iraq War because I believed the statements of my government,” Snowden said. “Unfortunately not all of the statements that were made were honest.”
Snowden said that as he became increasingly exposed to top secret material, he noted that the statements offered on a number of issues by the US establishment were not “simply untrue” but raised questions as to how the US was “interpreting the law.”
“And this is fundamentally dangerous. It is about more than just surveillance, I think. It is about democracy. It is about the relationship between the governed and the governing,” Snowden said.
While critiquing US mass data collection and spying on “everyone” 24/7, Snowden said that he remains a patriot whose duty is to protect freedom of speech and inform the public. At the same time in the United States, he faces up to 30 years in prison on charges of espionage and theft of government property.
“I honestly never expected to be free today, I expected to be in prison, I did not expect to get awards, I expected my reputation to be ruined because a number of incredibly powerful officials around the world were personally embarrassed because of these revelations.”
Snowden warned that the world of “mass, total surveillance” is omnipresent, ever since intelligence services begun watching “everyone, everywhere, all of the time,” instead of tracking individual suspects based on some evidence. He warned, that mass collection of metadata is no less dangerous than snooping on content, recalling how former CIA and NSA boss Michael Hayden once said: “We kill people based on metadata.”
Snowden has criticised the policies of “surveillance, censorship and control” implemented by governments around the globe, including Russia, where he took refuge from US persecution two years ago
“It's wrong in Russia, and it would be wrong anywhere,” said Snowden. “In some countries, even the countries we would consider developed, for example France, Australia, Canada, we have seen more repressive, more restrictive laws rolled up in the wake of this new awareness than we have before.”
After Snowden was invited to receive the Bjornson prize, the US intensified its requests for Norway to detain and deport Snowden if he tried to enter its territory.
“The fear that he would be extradited to the US is too big,” Hege Newth Nouri, President of Bjornstjerne Bjornson Academy told RT. “Edward Snowden deserves and should have this year’s award … I can't really hand it over in person because he can't come to Norway.”
Last week Norwegian media revealed that Norway, Sweden and Finland had all been asked by Washington to immediately notify them of Snowden’s presence in their countries and attempt to apprehend and deport him by “way of denial of entry, deportation, expulsion or other lawful means.”
Nouri says the US has really been “pressuring” Norwegian politicians to extradite the American whistleblower.
“What Snowden's revelation really contributed ... was asking the Norwegian government, who is deciding its politics? Who is to decide our self-government. Can we decide for ourselves please if Edward Snowden should come to Norway or should be have the Americans decide for us. This is really embarrassing for the Norwegian government,” Nouri said.
Asked about his opinion on Washington asking other states to participate in his possible extradition, Snowden said it is a “difficult question to ask someone what they think about their government hunting them when they are trying to serve their government, their country, their people.”
“The US suffers [in terms of] its image, its reputation every year that is standing against human rights,” Snowden stated. So standing up against Washington’s will, the whistleblower believes, would not be an “attack” against US interests, but an attempt to “help them protect their image, their rule of law, their fundamental values.”
“I don't think the US would punish these countries,” Snowden said, somewhat defending the US government. “ I think there might be a point where they will question – why would they disagree with us?”
Commenting on his personal life in Russia, a country which offered him asylum two years ago, the American said he leads a “normal,” life, but being a patriot “would prefer to live in own country.” The whistleblower said that while the US can limit his movement he feels he can express himself freely in Russia, where Washington cannot stop him giving video appearances on topics dealing with human rights protection.