US to pursue Snowden ‘with a sledgehammer’ for NSA leak

It will be up to brave young people like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning to stop invasive surveillance and government abuse, Michael Ratner, an attorney for Julian Assange and the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told RT.

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.