Snowden Archives -

Petitions for Snowden Encounter Officialdom in Washington

  • Former NSA Director Hayden Responds to News Conference
  • State Department Rebuffs Effort to Deliver Petition
  • Justice Department Accepts Documents With 100,000 Signers

The Department of Justice accepted a pair of petitions with more than 100,000 signers on Wednesday ­­– several thousand pages urging restoration of Edward Snowden’s passport and an ironclad U.S. government commitment not to interfere with political asylum for the National Security Agency whistleblower.

Acceptance of the petitions by the Justice Department at its Washington headquarters followed an attempt earlier in the day to deliver the passport-­related petition to the State Department, which declined to accept that 2,670-page petition.

Both petitions, sponsored by the activist organization and posted online, include thousands of individual comments. (Petition regarding Snowden’s passport, addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry. “Hands Off Snowden” petition addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama)

Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA as well as of the Central Intelligence Agency, responded to criticism voiced at a Tuesday news conference by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, whose responsibilities for the agency included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. McGovern blasted Hayden’s portrayal of the Fourth Amendment and said that “NSA” seems to stand for “No Such Amendment.” (McGovern’s comments and Hayden’s response in the Government Executive article “Should Edward Snowden Get His Passport Back?”)

Another speaker at the news conference was former whistleblower Coleen Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel who was named one of Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. On Wednesday, she responded to Hayden’s comment with this statement: “Hayden’s partial response seems to be an attempt to obfuscate the fact that even the lower relevancy standard ingrained in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 and also in Section 215 of the ‘Patriot Act’ was explicitly written to apply for use only in particular investigations of targeted suspects.”

Rowley added: “This is why the authors of the ‘Patriot Act,’ such as Congressman James Sensenbrenner, were themselves surprised and angered to discover that officials had secretly reinterpreted key terms of Section 215 to do away with all of the legal and pragmatic limitations that had previously existed to open the doors to their new post-9/11 policy of ‘collect it all.’ The ‘collect it all’ policy unfortunately includes all information about American citizens and other innocent people held by telecommunication companies, internet providers and other third-party data collection entities. This ‘nearly Orwellian’ massive vacuuming up of non­relevant information and metadata has already been determined as ‘unreasonable’ and therefore unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment by at least one federal district judge as well as by President Obama’s own constitutional and privacy law review panels.”

Video of the Tuesday news conference

Justice Department public affairs official Peter Carr accepted the boxes of petitions on the front steps of the Justice Department on Wednesday after the presenters ­­ McGovern, Rowley and co-­founder Norman Solomon ­­ were told to leave the building. (photo)

Rowley said today: “It wasn’t easy to deliver the 105,000 petition signatures relating to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. So we were relieved this morning when the Department of Justice finally sent out an official to receive our boxes of documents. We can now hope that Eric Holder, John Kerry and other officials will read the thousands of comments from people who realize that post-­9/11 secret surveillance and ‘collect it all’ policies on American citizens and innocent people throughout the world need to be curtailed in order to preserve the American form of constitutional democracy.”

“President Obama seems yesterday to have finally committed himself to beginning some reform, but Congress should now realize that it too needs to regain effective oversight over a system that is viewed by nearly everyone as being out of control,” Rowley added. “Just as the number­-three FBI official at the time, William Sullivan, became the star witness to the Senate Intelligence Committee, disclosing the truth about J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal COINTELPRO operation in the latter years of the Vietnam War, so should Edward Snowden and other intelligence community whistleblowers be invited to testify. As Sullivan testified in 1975, U.S. officials engaged in secret surveillance and disruption activities never asked themselves whether their activities were ethical or legal.”

McGovern, Rowley and Solomon are available for a limited number of interviews.