A week ago I began writing a series of commentaries on significant consequences and conflicts of interest associated with Glenn Greenwald, his new PayPal billionaire boss, and the ownership and commoditization of the 50,000-page incriminating documents obtained and released by NSA’s Edward Snowden. In my series I solely focused on serious ethical questions and consequential conflicts of interest matters that have remained unasked and unanswered with regards to the recent joint venture between Greenwald and Omidyar, dubious and lucrative book and movie deals with mainstream corporations under the premise of exclusive document release, and our government’s sudden and unexplained change in its stand and modus operandi.
Up to this point I have left the topic of Mr. Edward Snowden pretty much untouched, and here is why.
To date, after six months of intense and nonstop mainstream media coverage of the Snowden-NSA topic, very little is known about Mr. Snowden himself, and this includes his real intentions and objectives, the nature and details of his deals and agreements with members of the press-including those made with Glenn Greenwald, and his position on the latest developments, which include the exclusive business deal struck between Greenwald and billionaire Omidyar, million dollar book and movie deals made based on exclusive publication of some of the leaked documents, and the highly mysterious change of position in the government’s stand and response in the midst of all the publicity and commoditization of the controversial leaked NSA cache.
During the past six months I have been asked more than a hundred times by the media and general public where I stand on this Snowden-NSA case. My response, up to this point, so far, has been rather vague and generalized:
I consider whistleblowers who risk everything to raise public awareness and publicize criminality heroes; true heroes. I have always admired and supported real whistleblowers-those who have sacrificed and put everything at risk for the public’s benefit, good, and people’s right to know. These courageous individuals need our support and backing.
As for Mr. Snowden, for me it is still too early to form a concrete opinion and or pass judgment. Because there’s so much we don’t know due to intentional efforts to withhold, obscure, spin, commoditize and misuse the involved facts. Only Mr. Snowden’s public stand and his clear statement in response to the recent convoluted developments can clarify these issues and questions, and bring out the truth. Only then I, as a whistleblower, can form and express a concrete opinion and position.
The position stated above sums up my current opinion and answer on Mr. Snowden. However, now, after I have put forth serious questions and implications involved in how this so-called whistleblowing matter is being handled and misused, with all the public confusion and polarization these questions are causing, I must insist and invite Mr. Snowden to come out publicly and address these matters personally, and in a straight-forward and truthful fashion. That is, if Mr. Snowden considers himself a whistleblower and expects the public to view and respect him as such.
Asking and demanding this from Mr. Snowden is not due to some preposterous arrogance or hubris on my part. The main reason for my public demand has to do with the future of whistleblowing and whistleblowers. As I have said repeatedly and consistently for twelve years, all it takes is one case where a deed and a person driven by opportunism and dark ulterior motives becomes known and publicized as a whistleblower to bring down all good whistleblowing and whistleblowers. It boils down to the concept of ‘only one bad apple.’ Why?
Whistleblowers already suffer tremendous pressure and stigma due to the characterization and marginalization put forth and circulated by the establishment and mainstream media. Unfortunately, to date, many people have been molded to view whistleblowers as disgruntled traitors and unpatriotic. Just ask Ellsberg, Manning and Drake, and they will tell you. I could tell you as well. Now, in the midst of our struggle to change this paradigm manufactured and marketed by the establishment, if we get a highly publicized case under the whistleblower brand, and if that case proves to be not whistleblowing but gross opportunism and a deceptive deed, then we all suffer: current and past whistleblowers, future whistleblowers, and of course the public at large with their right to know.
That’s right. That gives me, as a whistleblower and someone who represents whistleblowers, the right to ask and invite Mr. Snowden to come forward and truthfully respond to the following questions:
- What was your foremost intention for making the decision to obtain thousands of documents that implicated the United States government?
- What was your foremost intention for actually taking the action following your decision, and obtaining those documents?
- At the time, when you were obtaining the documents, did you target particular categories of implicating documents, or did you just grab everything you could?
- If you vetted the documents, or the specific categories of documents, beforehand, and then went about obtaining them, then why would you ask journalists to vet and make personal judgments on which ones to release or which ones to withhold permanently?
- If you didn’t vet the documents prior to obtaining them, and if you asked particular journalists to vet them and decide what to release and what to withhold, did you make any demands to ensure that you were part of that vetting process and that they had to have your consent?
- If you didn’t vet the documents prior to obtaining them, and if you asked particular journalists to vet them and decide what to release and what to withhold, did you also asked them to have meetings with U.S. and U.K. government agencies, and have those who were actually implicated in your documents call the shots on what to withhold and what to release?
- Did you provide Glenn Greenwald with your explicit consent and authorization to make decisions on what to release and what to withhold? If so, was this in writing? If so, why and how did you make that decision?
- For example: Mr. Greenwald entered in a contractual agreement with a mainstream corporate publisher to withhold certain documents only to include them exclusively in his coming book in return for millions of dollars. Did you sanction this decision? Do you find this action justified and reasonable?
- Did you provide Mr. Greenwald with your explicit consent to strike a business venture with a corporation that is a known cooperative partner of the NSA in a $250 million deal? Did you authorize Mr. Greenwald to withhold 99% of the documents and transfer their ownership to the corporate news entity owned by PayPal’s Pierre Omidyar? If yes, when and how did you provide your consent and approval? What was your reasoning for sanctioning and or authorizing this transfer of document ownership, and to withhold the vast majority of these documents from the public and its right to know?
- Do you believe it is reasonable, justified and acceptable that the person you gave the ownership of these documents to is commoditizing and profiting from these documents that are considered classified and stolen by the United States government, yet were considered by you as evidence to which the people have the right to know about?
- If yes, then, do you believe that it is acceptable and correct for entities who obtain classified and incriminating government documents to market these documents as commodities, and offer them to the highest bidders, whether the bidder is the government, or a corporation, or a book publisher?
- If your answer to above question (a) is yes, then, do you believe you are also entitled to benefit and profit from the sale and censorship of these documents?
- Have you made any venture deals or entered into any contract with Mr. Greenwald where you will receive a cut from the millions of dollars that are being obtained by him in return for publication and withholding certain portions of the NSA documents?
- If yes, when, where and how?
- If yes, then, does your flexibility on the sale and commoditization of stolen and classified government documents also extend to foreign government entities?
- This appears to be the first case labeled and categorized as a whistleblowing case where a leak is being commoditized at a value of hundreds of millions of dollars by corporations such as PayPal, Book publishers and Hollywood studios. Could you provide us with your general stand, principles and values with regard to leaking and disclosing for political and profit motives?
I have several other questions for Mr. Snowden, but I believe answering the ones listed above will suffice to help us understand his true intentions, motives and the facts behind what has been taking place in the last six months. I don’t believe I am alone in wanting to ask Mr. Snowden these questions and strongly invite and encourage him to answer them frankly, honestly, and truthfully. I believe millions of Americans want these answers, and are entitled to these answers.
I hope we, the whistleblowers, and the public, will receive a complete and truthful public response to the questions posed in this invitation to Mr. Snowden. The facts, Mr. Snowden’s honest and straight forward answers, will go a long way to clear the current smoke and doubt-filled atmosphere. The truth will set us all free. At least in this highly convoluted case with serious and grave consequences for all whistleblowers and the people alike.
Sibel Edmonds is the Publisher & Editor of Boiling Frogs Post and the author of the Memoir Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story. She is the recipient of the 2006 PEN Newman's Own First Amendment Award for her “commitment to preserving the free flow of information in the United States in a time of growing international isolation and increasing government secrecy” Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University.