21 July 2013

What is Richard Falk missing in the Snowden affair?

Richard Falk, a legal authority with seriously long credentials*, resorted, as many of his peculiar ilk, to Al Jazeera to produce a remarkable article, titled What am I missing in the Snowden affair? It starts with a cavalier attack:

I would have thought that there was a clear set of principles that make the American diplomatic pursuit of Edward Snowden as a fugitive from justice a rather empty and futile gesture. As far as I can tell, there is not even a need for asylum as governments should have been prepared to grant Snowden residence status because his alleged criminal acts in the United States were without question political crimes, without violence or monetary motivation.
I have to confess that not so long ago I was agreeing about the futility of that pursuit. Not anymore, my reasons for the change of heart later.

I would prefer to focus on two definitions the legal luminary uses in his article. The first, that appears in the above quote, is "political crime". A dry and short definition of political crime appears in Legal Dictionary:
A serious violation of law that threatens the security or existence of the government, such as Treason or Sedition.
Another, more inclusive definition (in Wiki) adds terrorism to the list of political crimes, arguing that terrorism is one of the threats to above mentioned security and/or existence of the government. Same for espionage. I am not a legal luminary (far from it), but the dismissal of the "alleged criminal acts" performed by Snowden as something that is apriori absolved of punishment just for being a "political crime", sounds as absurd as it is. According to the learned professor, treason, sedition, espionage and terrorism should be punishment-free then. Oh well, I forgot that Richard Falk is a person who absolved the Boston bombers, the Hamas killers and many others to whose terrorist ways he is sympathetic.

To confuse the issue more, Falk states that Snowden is "an authentic whistleblower". Whistleblower is definied as "An informant who exposes wrongdoing within an organization in the hope of stopping it", which is a pretty good deed, to some extent even protected by law of many lands. But why, stating that Snowden is a whistleblower, has Falk chosen to precede this statement by the long and fairly tedious (and illogical to boot) verbiage about political crimes? After all, a real whistleblower is not a criminal at all, and no crime - political or other - is involved. And stating that Snowden committed a political crime, an act that by definition of its various forms (treason, sedition, espionage, terrorism) is certainly punishable by law in any country, our legal beagle does hardly a service to the man. Interesting that, innit?

And now to the essence of the subject: crime. A whistleblower, as his/her role is defined, in Snowden's case would have stood up, declared publicly via any media available (and there are enough of these that would have gladly published the revelation) that US government is busily and, probably, unlawfully collecting private information about its own citizens. But this is not what Snowden decided to do.

As his prime conduit, Glenn Greenwald tells it, Snowden "has highly sensitive documents on how the National Security Agency is structured and operates that could harm the U.S. government, but has insisted that they not be made public".
Glenn Greenwald, a columnist with The Guardian newspaper who first reported on the intelligence leaks, told The Associated Press that disclosure of the information in the documents "would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it."

He said the "literally thousands of documents" taken by Snowden constitute "basically the instruction manual for how the NSA is built."

"In order to take documents with him that proved that what he was saying was true he had to take ones that included very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do," the journalist said Sunday in a Rio de Janeiro hotel room. He said the interview was taking place about four hours after his last interaction with Snowden.
The obviously criminal theft of highly sensitive documents from a highly secret government agency like NSA is hardly in the scope of a regular whistleblower. Coupled with Snowden's own confession that his activities were planned in advance and that stealing NSA documents was in fact his goal when starting to work for NSA, this doesn't conform to the picture of a regular, pure as snow, whistleblower.
Edward Snowden secured a job with a US government contractor for one reason alone - to obtain evidence of Washington's cyberspying networks, the South China Morning Post can reveal.

For the first time, Snowden has admitted he sought a position at Booz Allen Hamilton so he could collect proof about the US National Security Agency's secret surveillance programmes ahead of planned leaks to the media.
No matter how principled and exalted his goal was, Snowden's means are clearly criminal. No matter how unprincipled and anti-democratic US spy agency and/or government behave, Snowden went far beyond the call of conscience that drives a whistleblower, diving (willingly and knowingly) into the domain of political crime. Oh, what the heck, let's call his deed by its real name - espionage.

Now back to Richard Falk. Whatever his many titles and degrees are, the tortured logic (or illogic if you will) of that article, full of irrelevant and long departures from the subject, wouldn't do for a first year law student, let alone a man with such a smashing career and titles.

But that's what Falk is these days: a conspiracy theorist, an anti-Zionist hack for the dictators' club (UN) and a man a few laws short of a good trial.

Too bad.

(*) Here is the copy of his credentials as they appear in Al Jazz:
Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.
And more on the gentleman (from Simply Jews alone):

Richard Falk
Richard Falk
Richard Falk
Richard Falk
Richard Falk
Richard Falk
Richard Falk