Snowden and Venezuela: My bizarre experience in the surveillance state


#1

Edward Snowden is heading to Venezuela? Seriously? The Venezuelan government's offer of "humanitarian asylum" to Edward Snowden rang hollow to most Venezuelans, who are by now used to the government spying on opposition leaders, journalists and even their own loyalists. Not only does the government routinely record their phone conversations, it broadcasts them on government-owned… READ THE REST


#2

Better to be in Venezuela than a US Federal Prison to be tortured by the freedom loving USA like Bradley Manning.


#3

Yeah, I've got the feeling Venezuela is simply "The Best Option Available" and "Better than the alternative". They may be worse (or at least more blatant about their abuses) than the US in all of the ways he's criticized, but at least they don't want to jail and torture him.

Hopefully. It's like - does he actually have a better option here? I too hope he's aware of the situation he's ending up in, and I suspect he is, but he's remarkably short on alternatives.


#4

Well, I think the point of Isabel's piece isn't "Snowden is naïve," but, "I hope he realizes how bad things are w/r/t privacy and data liberty in Venezuela." The fact that it's on his short list of asylum options says a lot about how desperate he is, and understandably so, to not end up in Manning's situation. I don't think it's the wisest move for him, but I'm not his defense team.


#5

It's not really certain that Snowden has a defense team. As with everything else since 9/11, most of his supporters have their own agenda.


#6

Ain't that the truth.


#7

I just wonder if Edward Snowden and the Americans cheering him on to
my homeland are aware of all this.

I doubt Snowden is unaware, and if the rest of us weren't, we'd quickly be disabused by Snowden's opponents. I see Brian Levin is already tweeting about how this article exposes Snowden's "hypocrisy". This seems to be one of the standard lines to discredit him, as if hiding from an angry mob in a ditch constitutes an endorsement of ditch-living.

Snowden's first goal was to expose the NSA. His second is to remain alive and unimprisoned, and sadly his only options for that appear to be oppressive states. Some of Snowden's opponents love to say that if he was serious about blowing the whistle, he'd have stayed in the US and taken his lumps; that giving up his home and career and loved ones wasn't enough, and he ought to have surrendered his freedom and his life as well; that, essentially, only martyrs are allowed to be whistleblowers.

This isn't about hypocrisy, it's about irony--that a man like Snowden should have to seek the protection of tyrants and dictators against the very democracies he's trying to protect. It says much more about the democracies than about the tyrants.


#9

Conservative and liberal-lite American's views on what is a "democracy" or a tyranny seem to have almost no meaning and are decided upon whether their favorite guy (usually an elite/neoliberal) is in power or not. They'll happily support violent authoritarianism if it matches their incoherent notions of freedom, while at the same time condemning it somewhere else.


#10

"It would be nice for Snowden, who cherishes privacy and freedom of speech so much, to be aware that in Venezuela one cannot have any expectation of either."

I suspect Edward Snowden has no expectation of privacy until he is dead (and probably not then either) except what he can provide himself. Wherever he ends up it would be a pleasant surprise that both local and foreign agencies are not swarming around setting up surveillance.


#11

"... as if hiding from an angry mob in a ditch constitutes an endorsement of ditch-living" has got to be the best turn-of-phrase I've read in months. Bravo! Now I'd like to know where Snowden should go...


#12

In all respect, how is this different than what goes on elsewhere, even in the private sector? It's not that odd for non-gov organizations dig up dirt on people in this manner. News Corp. scandal comes to mind along with all the telephone recording that went on in the 90s regarding Linda Tripp and so on...Even that Brietbart O'Keffe was involved in some plot to bug a US senator. Not to justify it or say that's it's ok (Shame on Venezuela!) but lets not pretend that Venezuela is the only place on earth that this happens.


#13

Agreed, no one who is seriously supporting Snowden is "cheerleading" his desperate search for asylum as Isabel Lara bitterly claims. Venezuela obviously wasn't a first choice by any stretch and this is just a sad account of the USA's corrupting influence on most of the world's governments. And, the really sad thing is that at least Venezuela is more transparent about their spying than the USA is.

Also, when Isabel Lara says:

It would be nice for Snowden, who cherishes privacy and freedom of speech so much ....

So much? Yes, so much so that he's put his ass on the line for the rest of us, thank you very much.

Isable's bitter and sarcastic attitude towards Snowden and his supporters is completely uncalled for. How about putting all that angst into the aggressors instead of the hero that exposes transgressions?

I appreciated Isabel Lara's account of issues she's had with Venezuala, but she unfortunately decided to lace it with ignorance and animosity for Snowden and his supporters which is completely unnessessary and detracts from her otherwise interesting article.


#14

I am amused by the widespread generosity in the attribution of motive to Edward Snowden. If you actually pay attention to his actions rather than his words, they point almost entirely towards spying for the sake of harming the United States in the world sphere – doing it, in fact, from a home base in China. There is nothing ironic about his ending up getting asylum from governments that enjoy mocking the United States, and most likely Snowden couldn’t care less what goes on in those countries.


#15

Snowden's choice for a nation of asylum won't be based so much on that nation's principled support for privacy and free speech but that nation's independence from the US.

It would do Snowden no good to say land in Canada if he would be arrested 5 minutes later and thrown into a US prison being held incommunicado. But landing in Cuba or Venezuela would be locations almost certain never to arrest him on a US warrant. No matter the other inconveniences Cuba or Venezuela would probably facilitate his further release of info embarrassing to the US.


#16

From Venezuela's standpoint, certainly. From a US viewpoint, I take it as political commentary on what happens when an open society starts trading transparency for (perceived) security. My Venezuelan SO and I were having this exact conversation last week when rumors were in the works. I won't go far as to say I wholeheartedly support Snowden, but I definitely can say that I support democracy, and this development lends the Venezuelan government an undeserved double-dose of legitimacy. Once for letting an increasingly authoritarian government wrap itself even tighter in their anti-imperialist banner, and twice because when the US even dips it's toe in these waters, it essentially validates any drastic measure taken by any government to insure it's survival, because, "See! Everyone's doing it!"

I don't think I'm being naïve about living in a world where bad things happen, but I expect more from MY government than I'm getting. Glass houses, throwing stones, and all that.


#18

How is scattering national security secrets around like birdseed protecting democracy?


#19

"Edward Snowden is heading to Venezuela? Seriously? "

Well, he hardly has a vast array of choices. I'm sure he would like to go to Iceland or Switzerland etc, but those countries are not available.

"We can be heard talking about the international anti-Chavez demonstrations, and how we thought they hadn’t been successful. I compared them to the much larger ones for democracy in Iran that I attended in DC. "

I should imagine that after the coup attempt in 2002 (likely US-backed) in which a number of civilians died, they are quite paranoid about US plots. Of course, that's no excuse, but if Venezuela is indeed just monitoring politicians and US calls, then it is already far less intrusive than the NSA's monitoring.

The US (and the largely privately funded Venezuelan media) certainly tried to paint Chavez as a dictator despite his democratic election and widespread support. Venezuelan elections have been conducted under international monitoring. In fact Jimmy Carter had this to say

"of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."

Also Chavez made it possible to remove elected officials part way through their terms, which I think increased the level of democracy compared to many nations. Certainly there has been polarization of opinion in Venezuela, and it is quite clear in which camp you fall. Part of the reason for such polarisation is that Venezuela has a very wide gap between the rich and poor, which is something Chavez really tried to address.

"His editorializing comments misconstrued what was in the recording."

I'm sure. Journalists do like to pick and chose facts to paint the picture they want.

"The government has used "evidence" gathered by reporters on this show to accuse opposition leaders."

So this may be a case of journalists using private investigators to bug people rather than nationwide monitoring. Even so, I can certainly imagine the Venezuelan government bugging such calls. Can you imagine how crazy the surveillance in the US would get if there had been a foreign-backed coup against the government?

Imagine if the US media were as involved in the coup as the Venezuelan media were involved in the coup there. I wonder how many US journalists would be languishing in prison.

"They read our words aloud, mocking us by reading them in the nasal accents associated with the "sifrinos" and "escualidos." They made us out to be ridiculous and snobbish, which is how the government wanted to brand the ever-growing opposition to populist president Chavez. "

The media in Venezuela is generally pretty crazy, even by Fox news standards. The anti-Chavez media were calling him a criminal, insane etc on a daily basis. This seems to be an equally nasty backlash.


#20

I hardly think that's an equivalent to secretly recording the political opposition, and then using the spoils for political reasons.

Chavez is an ally of Iran, economically and strategically. There is no one on that side who cares the tiniest bit about human rights. Those who care about Snowden shouldn't be suggesting that he might have considered going there.


#21

Yep, and there are a lot of elites and expat elites out there with obvious personal interests in returning power to the wealthy elite.


#22

http://inthesetimes.com/comics/mattbors/15256/looking_for_mr._snowden/