I came across a seriously disturbing story by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept today. In it, he says that the Vice Chancellor of Germany (Sigmar Gabriel) told him that the Obama administration threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Germany if they decided to give Edward Snowden asylum. From the article;
Afterward, however, when I pressed the vice chancellor (who is also head of the Social Democratic Party, as well as the country’s economy and energy minister) as to why the German government could not and would not offer Snowden asylum — which, under international law, negates the asylee’s status as a fugitive — he told me that the U.S. government had aggressively threatened the Germans that if they did so, they would be “cut off” from all intelligence sharing. That would mean, if the threat were carried out, that the Americans would literally allow the German population to remain vulnerable to a brewing attack discovered by the Americans by withholding that information from their government.
We’re threatening our allies now?
More importantly, we’re threatening our allies over one person now? I thought that charging Snowden with the espionage act was outrageous and completely inapplicable. Edward Snowden did not steal classified information and hand it off to our enemies. Nor did his information injure the United States in any way that they’ve been able to demonstrate. So far, in every single court case where mass surveillance has been challenged, the government has provided precisely no evidence of injury. In fact, when the president came out and announced that the program was going to undergo significant review and reform, he made Snowden a whistleblower. If what Snowden revealed caused the program to be reviewed and modified, he is the very definition of a whistleblower.
But I digress. I generally believe that Obama has been good on foreign policy. He intensified the sanctions against Iran enough to the point where they agreed to negotiate. He’s doing some serious damage to Russia’s economy as well, making it less likely that Putin will have the ability to take Ukraine. He played Putin like a fiddle over the Syria situation by making him deal with Assad’s biological weapons. He made a completely correct calculation when he decided to fly into our frenemies’ airspace to get Bin Laden, who they had been protecting for years. He’s done some things I disagree with like creating future terrorists with the widespread use of drones in Pakistan, and not doing a damned thing to reign in Israel’s massive land grabs but hey, who agrees with anyone all the time?
But this threatening Germany over Snowden thing is inexplicable. I literally can’t see the rationale behind it. What’s the upside? You finally get Snowden and put him in prison? And for that, you’re willing to threaten a powerful ally? This makes no sense to me.
If we’re going to threaten to withhold intelligence from an ally, how about we look at Ireland or Switzerland, where giant piles of money are being stashed by US corporations and rich asshats. I mean, if they weren’t our allies, they may not be able to afford to shelter all that money, since they would have to put more money into their own defense. So why not threaten an ally over trillions of dollars instead of over one whistleblower? If we got that money, we could finally pay for Bush’s wars or fund job creation and education programs. If we got Edward Snowden we could……..stop future whistleblowers from letting us know what our government is doing to us?
I want to find this story hard to believe, despite this administration’s vicious crackdown on whistleblowers because the endgame doesn’t make sense to me. Greenwald doesn’t seem to entirely believe it’s true either. He ends the piece by saying;
Nonetheless, one of two things is true: 1) the U.S. actually threatened Germany that it would refrain from notifying them of terrorist plots against German citizens and thus deliberately leave them vulnerable to violent attacks, or 2) some combination of high officials from the U.S. and/or German governments are invoking such fictitious threats in order to manipulate and scare the German public into believing that asylum for Snowden will endanger their lives. Both are obviously noteworthy, though it’s hard to say which is worse.
I agree. This is really disturbing, and a great cause for concern since this would make the Obama administration bigger international bullies than the Bush administration were.