National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, along with other whistleblowers, submitted testimony to a European parliamentary committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs. The testimony was accepted as part of an ongoing inquiry into alleged spying by the United States and European Union countries that has been exposed by Snowden.
Justice Department whistleblower and Government Accountability Project director of the national security and human rights division, Jesselyn Radack, read prepared remarks. So did NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe and MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon.
While it was Radack’s time to speak to the committee, she read a statement from Snowden, but, before beginning she acknowledged two “unsung heroes” in Snowden’s “harrowing saga,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, who she said had rescued him from Hong Kong, helped him obtain asylum and remained at his side at great personal risk to herself.
“They have been not just stops on the 21st Century version of the Underground Railroad, which liberates information from the shackles of security and transports it into the disinfecting sunlight of freedom,” Radack declared. “They have been the guardian shepherds who have kept him safe during this difficult journey.”
She added, “It’s a tragic irony that in an effort to preserve your liberties and mine they all have given up so many liberties of their own.” The treatment they have experienced and the “example being made of them and all other whistleblowers is the ultimate chilling effect on speech.”
Radack then read the following statement aloud to the committee and the audience there to hear testimony.
I thank the European Parliament and the LIBE Committee for taking up the challenge of mass surveillance. The surveillance of whole populations rather than individuals threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time. The success of economies in developing nations relies increasingly on their creative output and if that success is to continue we must remember that creativity is the product of curiosity, which in turn is the product of privacy.
A culture of secrecy has denied our societies the opportunity to determine the appropriate balance between the human right of privacy and governmental interest in investigation.
These are not decisions that should be made for the people but only by the people after full informed and fearless debate. Yet public debate is not possible without public knowledge and in my country the cost for one in my position of returning public knowledge to public hands has been persecution and exile.
If we are to enjoy such debates in the future, we cannot rely on individual sacrifice. We must create better channels for people of conscience to inform not only trusted agents of the government but independent representatives outside of the government.
When I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world.
Today we see legislative bodies forming new committees, calling for investigations and proposing new solutions for modern problems. We see emboldened courts that are no longer afraid to consider critical questions of national security. We see brave executives remembering that if a public is prevented from knowing how they are being governed the necessary result is that they are no longer self-governing. And we see the public reclaiming an equal seat at the table of government.
The work of a generation is beginning here with your hearings and you have the full measure of my gratitude and support.
Below is a clip of Radack reading the statement from Snowden: