Edward Snowden, Michael Meili, And The United States' Hypocrisy On Whistleblowers
from the oh,-hello-there,-hypocrisy dept
As the Edward Snowden asylum drama marches on, examples of odd behavior by the American government are beginning to weigh down the scales of justice. Most recently, the United States seems to be overly concerned with all that free speech Russia is allowing Snowden, which would be like Switzerland criticizing another country for eating way too much chocolate. Or you may have noticed the not-so-subtle difference in treatment for established DC insiders leaking information versus your ordinary, everyday NSA sub-contractor. Finally, most apropro, the US appears to be willing to strain international relations and possibly violate diplomatic privileges for national leaders in their quest to keep Snowden from reaching anything resembling asylum, despite asylum having been offered by several South American countries.
These actions might be dastardly all on their own, but when you measure them against how the United States has behaved when the shoes were on the other foot, you’re left with a dose of hypocrisy that would kill most lab rats. Take, for instance, the case of Michael Christopher Meili, security guard in Switzerland (chocolate!) for UBS, their mega-bank. He revealed some of UBS’ shady dealings when it came to the banking documents of Jewish clients during the holocaust.
As a result, not only did Meili lose his job, but he was also under investigation by Swiss authorities for violating Swiss law. Moreover, according to Meili’s testimony in a U.S. Senate hearing (available here), after Swiss police took possession of the documents, they told Meili that the Swiss government was treating the documents as “classified,” despite the fact that they were UBS documents, and that they “would never be seen by people ‘outside Switzerland.'”
Finally, while Meili believed he was exposing an act of destruction that was, or should have been, illegal, the Swiss police told him that they had concluded that UBS had done nothing wrong.
Sound familiar? Person of conscience working for a private organization that has ties to the government exposes wrong-doing, government sweeps in and initiates investigation while also unilaterally declaring classification of said wrong-doing, and then money-shots the affair by declaring all activities legal. Now, perhaps you’re wondering why Meili was testifying about this at the US Senate. Well, because he went there to receive asylum, of course.
Unfortunately for Meili, the United States government determined that under no applicable law could Meili qualify for asylum. Fortunately for Meili, the Unites States government then decided to just make up a law specifically for Meili and pass it, ostensibly under the “Because Fuck You” statute in international law. And if you think I’m exaggerating, witness Private Law 105-1:
For the relief of Michel Christopher Meili, Giuseppina Meili, Mirjam Naomi Meili, and Davide Meili.
Yeah, they didn’t even attempt to hide what they were doing. Just signed a law that might as well have been called “Private Law 105-1-haha-we-got-this-guy-LOL.” Clinton signed the law straight away. Senators lined up to say how heroic Meili was. This in stark contrast to Obama’s claim that Snowden must be returned to the US because we have to uphold “the rule of law.” More striking still is Senator Charles Grassley, who claimed that because Snowden obviously broke the law, he must come home to be prosecuted at all costs. Want to guess what Grassley’s take on Meili was?
The situation we have here with Mr. Meili, albeit everything that he has brought to our attention has worldwide implications, but a person like him acted out of bravery, or maybe the bravery comes after he has acted because he has had to withstand the mental torture of what has gone on since then. But it reminds me of a lot of things that happen in our own Government, and I realize his is a private sector situation, but I like to think that we keep our Federal Government honest when we have people in our Government who, when something is wrong, will be willing to come forward and say what is wrong.
We speak of these people in our Government as whistleblowers. Maybe, originally, that was to denigrate them, but as far as I am concerned the word “whistleblower” is a description of somebody who wants to seek the truth, who wants to make sure that all of the facts and circumstances are known so that a wrong can be corrected.
Now, compare that to the very same Senator Grassley and his comments on Snowden:
“I suppose it gets down to — did he break a law? — I think it’s pretty obvious he did,” Grassley says. “People in the Justice Department will make that determination and whatever that determination is, I’ll have to abide by it, but if he did break a law, it’s quite common sense that he be prosecuted.”
Grassley also suggested that Snowden, who “sought truth” and “wants to make sure that all of the facts and circumstances are known so that a wrong can be corrected” was clearly “aiding the enemy.” I think it’d be really nice if 1997 Senator Grassley could come back and have a long discussion with 2013 Senator Grassley, preferably one involving a pointy stick and much foul language. And perhaps include the rest of the government as well.