US to pursue Snowden ‘with a sledgehammer’ for NSA leak
RT: Tell us more about Edward Snowden’s position then – we know an investigation has been launched – is the US government simply going to throw the book at him?
Michael Ratner: I think there’s no doubt about it – what it’s done with every whistleblower, every truth-teller, is tried to throw the book at them. The Bradley Manning trial – he is of course the young soldier who revealed all of the Iraq War logs, the Collateral Murder video – he’s facing life in prison. Even after pleading guilty to 20 years, they want to go for life. That trial is going on right now.
My client, Julian Assange, I think it’s likely there’s an indictment. He is sitting in the Ecuador embassy, having been granted political asylum, afraid very much of eventually getting a one-way ticket to some prison in the United States. Jeremy Hammond, a young whistleblower, was forced to admit hacking into private intelligence company Stratford - otherwise he was facing life in prison. So now with Snowden, I don’t think there’s any question that this country will want to hit him with a sledgehammer.
RT: Let me just ask – this prism surveillance program has caused fury across the Atlantic, with EU leaders demanding answers from President Obama. How justified is this anger?
MR: Snowden has revealed what we have thought for a long time - that everything we do – from every phone call I make, to every time I use Google to the internet, every single thing is surveilled by this country under its very programs. And every time I make a call to a foreign program it's surveilled. It’s interesting to see Europe getting slightly upset because of course their intelligence relationship is like hand in glove – it’s not like the US doesn’t share and work with the UK, other countries in Europe on this intelligence. So it’s a little bit like saying ‘well, let’s let the US deal with it – we’re going to try and step away a bit,’ when I don’t think they can step away very much. They’re deeply implicated, I think, in this whole program.
RT: Despite an administration-led crackdown on whistleblowers, these leaks keep coming don’t they? – What’s behind this?
MR: This shows you how bad the situation is, and how much courage these people have – after the US hit these people with sledgehammers – Manning, Assange, Hammond, you still get people like Edward Snowden coming out. So it indicates that there’s a tremendous amount of courage of young people to try and reveal the criminality and the surveillance and the state that we have here. The US – what it’s doing, is not working, and I expect there’s going to be more. They’ve hired thousands – tens of thousands of young people into this network of theirs - their surveillance network – and a lot of these young people have consciences. It still takes courage once you have conscience, but we’re seeing that happen now – this isn’t going to be stopped – it’s very important, because we don’t want to have a massive surveillance state, where everything we do –everything I do- is recorded. If I want to do a demonstration in the square next to me – I’ll call my friends; I’ll come out to the demonstration, the government right now will know everything I do, and will make its efforts to monitor or stop it – we don’t want that kind of concrete. – Snowdon, Manning, Assange, Hammond – they're are all heroes.
RT: Snowden has exposed information about programs that the authorities claim are legal and help protect the nation – don’t they have a point?
MR: The legal part is no point at all – the legal part has to do with laws that this country passed post-9/11 in particular, courts that are essentially hand-picked and decide to uphold those, and a President who is willing apparently to approve this massive surveillance scheme. You can have unjust laws, and that’s what we have when it comes to surveillance. And the broader issue – does it really prevent anything? Well, I think they’re going to use that as an excuse. Terrorism is not the biggest problem in the United States. Of course, the uncontrolled use of guns in the US – many more people – I mean, ten times, a hundred times the number of people are killed by that than by terrorism. I think that terrorism is used as an excuse to be able to surveil – and keep tabs on every single American to prevent a change in government, to prevent really progressive government, progressive organizing and other people coming out onto the streets, and this is not about our safety, not at all.