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Associated Press: Washington Voters Rejecting GMO Labeling Law
Election results for yesterday's vote in Washington state suggest that Initiative 522, which would require labels for food products containing genetically engineered ingredients, is headed for defeat. As of last night, the measure was failing 45 percent to 55 percent. However, complete vote results may not be available for several more weeks.
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) regularly asserts the importance of labeling to give consumers the right to know what's in their food. See FIC's previous blogs on labeling issues here, including coverage of the GE labeling battle in California last year.
Canadian Press: Gore Predicts Intelligence Agencies Will Be Reined In
Yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore described NSA's massive surveillance programs as "outrageous" and, based on disclosures by NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, seemingly unconstitutional. He asserts the importance of surveillance for security but not at such "absurd" lengths, and he predicts that the intelligence agencies will be reined in.
Key Quote: Gore said governments throughout history have understandably conducted surveillance to protect their security but added that efforts have gone to "absurd" lengths and are counter-productive.
"When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it's not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack," he said quoting a scholar on the CIA.
The former senator said while he appreciated the work of intelligence services, he doubted the excesses would be allowed to continue and noted some states are already passing laws or putting referendum questions to their constituents.
Deutsche Welle: Transparency International Calls on Germany to Step Up Whistleblower Safeguards
More coverage of Transparency International’s report showing that the “vast majority of EU member states have either partial or no laws to protect whistleblowers.” This piece focuses on Germany’s lack of solid provisions – the report found that country was “among a group of 15 European Union countries that provides limited protection” to occupational truth-tellers.
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The Guardian: Whistleblowers Need a Strong Safety Net, Say Civil Society Heads
Last week, London hosted the Open Government Partnership summit, an initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency and adopt other good government reforms. Education Coordinator Alison Glick represented GAP at the symposium, speaking as part of a panel on the need for widespread whistleblower protection.
This conference occurred days before today’s release by Transparency International showing that the “vast majority of EU member states have either partial or no laws to protect whistleblowers.” The report shows that seven countries “have no or ‘very limited’ provisions to protect whistleblowers,” 16 states have "partial provisions," and “only Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and the UK have laws that include ‘comprehensive or near comprehensive’ procedures for whistleblowers.”
Key Quote: Alison Glick, international associate and education coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, said there was a trend towards narrowing access to information in the United States.
She said: “In the US we have a patchwork of whistleblowing laws leaving whistleblowers at a loss as to how they are protected, and employers don't know where they stand.”
The Nation: Media Hype Edward Snowden's Request for 'Clemency' – But Did He Even Ask for It?
This piece challenges the incorrect assertion made in the media that NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden appealed for clemency, a falsehood which many politicians picked up on during the weekend to publicly reject. A follow-up piece from FireDogLake discusses how it appears that the New York Times was the first outlet to misreport on the contents of Snowden’s letter to the German government. From the piece, which mentions GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack:
Jesselyn Radack, an attorney and national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project who has spoken on behalf of Snowden, said “any fair reading of the letter” to the German government would not lead one to think he had made a request for clemency. That “implies he is guilty and now asking for some sort of pardon or commutation.”
This misperception around a plea for clemency has greatly benefited the US government. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Mike Rogers and an aide from the White House would not have had the question put to them of whether Snowden deserved “clemency” on Sunday morning news programs if the Times had not inaccurately reported on the letter. They would not have been given the gift of being able to abruptly reframe debate around Snowden so that people were essentially talking about how someone “guilty” does not get to dodge responsibility for committing crimes.
The ACLU has posted an English version of the statement Snowden sent to Der Spiegel on Sunday. The blog states that Snowden “provided the ACLU with the original English text.”
As GAP supporters know, our International Reform program focuses on holding notable international institutions – such as the United Nations and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) – accountable for their treatment of whistleblowers and lack of solid protections for truth-telling employees.
Next Monday, Nov. 11, GAP is cosponsoring an event at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC featuring an author whose new book explores how the World Bank's policies "have been hurting the very people it claims to serve." Bruce Rich's book, Foreclosing the Future: The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destruction, explores this assertion.
Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Busboys and Poets: 2021 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20009
For more on the book, click here
Join Rich – a lawyer and expert in public international finance who has studied the World Bank’s role in the global environmental crisis for the last three decades – as he discusses how the institution's "failures embody the dysfunctions of global politics on an increasingly crowded planet."
We hope you can join the discussion!
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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New York Times: No Morsel Too Miniscule for All-Consuming NSA
This long-form piece looks into the depth of information collected by the NSA, questioning the usefulness of much of the information and comparing American spying prowess to that of other countries. The piece also discusses how the agency has programs for storing basically everything – text messages and credit card purchases, for example.
In describing the range of the type of information collected, the piece states that 50,000 documents (provided by NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden) detail intelligence collection "from the Navy ships snapping up radio transmissions as they cruise off the coast of China, to the satellite dishes at Fort Meade in Maryland ingesting worldwide banking transactions, to the rooftops of 80 American embassies and consulates around the world from which the agency’s Special Collection Service aims its antennas."
Underscoring the breadth of the data collected, the piece asserts that the NSA "provides more than half of the intelligence nuggets delivered to the White House early each morning in the President’s Daily Brief." The outlet released some related documents.
From the piece:
James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has repeatedly dismissed such objections as brazen hypocrisy from countries that do their own share of spying. But in a recent interview, he acknowledged that the scale of eavesdropping by the N.S.A., with 35,000 workers and $10.8 billion a year, sets it apart. “There’s no question that from a capability standpoint we probably dwarf everybody on the planet, just about, with perhaps the exception of Russia and China,” he said.
Mr. Obama and top intelligence officials have defended the agency’s role in preventing terrorist attacks. But as the documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.
Reuters: Snowden Says Calls for Reform Prove Intel Leaks Were Justified
Yesterday, German magazine Der Spiegel published a piece penned by Snowden, "A Manifesto for the Truth," in which he asserts that his whistleblowing has allowed for a proper debate about surveillance to begin around the globe. From the manifesto:
"Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested…
"Citizens have to fight against the suppression of information about affairs of essential importance for the public. Those who speak the truth are not committing a crime."
The Guardian continued coverage over the weekend of Snowden's letter to the German government, which "expressed confidence that international pressure will force the United States to drop its prosecution of his case." On Sunday, a White House official, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Mi) all made clear that they each reject any leniency toward Snowden.
It's now been more than eight months since CIA/torture whistleblower John Kiriakou was imprisoned for telling the truth. Kiriakou, a GAP client, is the sole CIA agent to go to jail in connection with the U.S. torture program, despite the fact that he never tortured anyone. Rather, he blew the whistle on this horrific wrongdoing. You can read about Kiriakou's case in full here.
There is recent good news, however, for Kiriakou and whistleblower supporters everywhere. It has been revealed that this brave truth-teller is one of several whistleblowers who has won the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County's "Peacemaker of the Year” award! In a letter to retired natural nutritionist Catherine J. Frompovich (who corresponds with Kiriakou in prison), the whistleblower penned the following:
I had some great news this week. The Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, CA, gave me their “2014 Peacemaker of the Year” Award. The Executive Director will accept it on my behalf on November 9. I wish I could be there.
According to its website, the mission of the Center is to "inform, support and energize the Sonoma County community to create peace and social justice through active non-violence."
GAP wishes to extend its congratulations to John and other truth-tellers – including fellow GAP client Tom Drake – on another well-deserved recognition of their brave actions.
Kiriakou is no stranger to being honored for his heroic actions. In late 2012, he was selected to receive the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civil Courage, an award given to individuals who advance truth and justice despite the personal risk it creates. In early 2013, Kiriakou was honored by inclusion of his portrait in artist Robert Shetterly's series "Americans Who Tell the Truth," which features notable truth-tellers from American history. You can watch a short video of the Washington, DC event unveiling his portrait here.
From all citizens who care about justice and transparency, thank you yet again, John Kiriakou, for standing up on behalf of the truth.
Editor's Note: Another article detailing the award has emerged here, showing that Kiriakou is one of several awardees. Language in the column above now reflects this.
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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The Guardian: Germany May Invite Edward Snowden as Witness in NSA Inquiry
Actions are being taken to allow NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden to testify as part of a parliamentary inquiry in Germany. The NSA whistleblower met in Russia recently with a German lawmaker (member of the Green party), who reported that Snowden was “willing in principle” to participate in the inquiry.
There are multiple issues to be tackled regarding passports and asylum status if Snowden travels to Germany, but this latest news has prompted legal speculation about the whistleblower's relocation. Snowden himself handed the Green party member a letter addressed to Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is now available here.
Key Quote (The Guardian): The latest developments will encourage those who hope Germany may eventually grant political asylum to Snowden. In June, his application for asylum there was rejected by the foreign ministry because, legally, he had to apply for asylum in person and on German soil. If Snowden was brought to Germany as a witness, he could meet these requirements.
Activists are said to be considering other means of getting Snowden to Germany. Under paragraph 22 of the German residence law, Snowden could be granted a residence permit "if the interior ministry declares it to be in Germany's political interest". After reports of Merkel's mobile phone being hacked by the NSA, such conditions could be said to apply.
ABC News: More NSA Leakers Followed Snowden's Footsteps, Whistleblower Lawyer Says
This blog piece discusses how GAP is attracting an influx of NSA whistleblower disclosures and prominently quotes GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack. Another blog by ABC News, quoting Radack again, follows up on widely covered news yesterday that Snowden has accepted a position in some capacity with a Russian website.
Radack also appeared last night on NBC Nightly News following the revelations involving NSA's hacking of Google and Yahoo data centers. She discusses Snowden's overall goals in releasing his information, particularly related to the German inquiry.
Key Quotes: (ABC News) “I think the government hopes to chill speech by employees in the national security and intelligence fields, especially those at the NSA and CIA, but the unintended consequence is [that] more and more whistleblowers are coming through the doors of the Government Accountability Project (GAP),” said Jesselyn Radack, referring to the organization where she works as the National Security and Human Rights Director. “I think courage is contagious, and we see more and more people from the NSA coming through our door after Snowden made these revelations.”
Radack, an attorney who has met with and been in communication with Snowden, said “a handful” of people in the intelligence community have come forward since this summer when several major international newspapers began writing about the NSA’s classified foreign and domestic surveillance programs – stories based on thousands of secret NSA documents allegedly stolen by Snowden, a former NSA contractor.
(NBC Nightly News): Andrea Mitchell: What does Snowden hope comes out of this?
Radack: I think he hopes that there will be massive reform, and that we’ll go back to a September 10th kind of world in terms of privacy, and in terms of surveillance.
New York Times: Australia Said to Play Part in NSA Effort
According to a report in Der Spiegel based on a new document from Snowden, Australia has utilized its embassies in Asia to collect information for the NSA.
Today, GAP, joined by frontline civil rights groups and companies, endorsed the Surveillance State Repeal Act (H.R. 2818). The reform, introduced this summer by Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ), would repeal the Patriot Act and FISA Amendment Act of 2008 – which together allow for the collection of innocent Americans’ telephone metadata and email communications.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman and Ranking Members of both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, the coalition states that H.R. 2818 is capable of dismantling the blanket surveillance programs disclosed by NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The groups close by acknowledging the indispensible role that whistleblowers play in the enforcement of any domestic surveillance reform:
[I]t is essential that any credible reform include best practice protections for whistleblowers who challenge violations. Without an effective shield for Congress’ uniquely indispensible witnesses, secrecy enforced by repression will turn any reform into an honor system for NSA that is dependent on the agency’s confessions of violating the law. The NSA does not have an honorable track record. We only know of its past violations due to whistleblowers -- the public’s eyes and ears to know when government abuses its power. As Congress moves toward a resolution, domestic surveillance legislation must include whistleblower protections -- for the credibility and enforcement of any reform effort.
The full letter can be viewed here.
Coalition members signing the letter include the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Media and Democracy, CREDO Mobile, Defending Dissent Foundation, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and ThoughtWorks.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Campaign Coordinator & Investigator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.