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Interview w/ Sarah Harrison - link between Snowden & Wikileaks

Exclusive: WikiLeaks Editor Sarah Harrison on Helping Edward Snowden, Being Forced to Live in Exile

In the latest revelations from documents leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Washington Post has revealed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court secretly gave the National Security Agency sweeping power to intercept information "concerning" all but four countries around the world. A classified 2010 document lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. Only four were protected from NSA spying Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The NSA was also given permission to gather intelligence about the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. As we broadcast from Bonn, Germany, we are joined by Sarah Harrison, investigative editor of WikiLeaks, who accompanied Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow last June. She now lives in exile in Germany because she fears being prosecuted if she returns to her home country, the United Kingdom. Harrison describes why she chose to support Snowden, ultimately spending 39 days with him in the transit zone of an airport in Moscow, then assisting him in his legal application to 21 countries for asylum, and remaining with him for about three more months after Russia granted him temporary asylum. She has since founded the Courage Foundation. "For future Snowdens, we want to show there is an organization that will do what we did for Snowden as much as possible in raising money for legal defense and public advocacy for whistleblowers so they know if they come forward there is a support group for them," Harrison says.

AMY GOODMAN: We're broadcasting from Bonn, Germany, from the Global Media Forum. Well, The Washington Post has revealed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court secretly gave the National Security Agency sweeping power to intercept information, quote, "concerning" all but four countries around the world. A classified 2010 document leaked by Edward Snowden lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. Only four were protected from NSA spying: Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The NSA was also given permission to gather intelligence about the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. According to The Washington Post, the secret document indicates that academics, journalists and human rights researchers living in the United States and abroad could all be targeted under the order.
Well, we turn now to a Democracy Now! global broadcast exclusive. We're joined here in Bonn, Germany, by Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, who accompanied Edward Snowden on his flight from Hong Kong to Moscow last June. She spent 39 days with Snowden in the transit zone of an airport in Moscow while she assisted in his legal application to 21 countries for asylum. Sarah Harrison then remained with Snowden for about three more months after Russia granted him temporary asylum. Sarah Harrison is investigative editor of WikiLeaks and acting director of the newly formed Courage Foundation.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! And thanks so much for doing this interview. You're living in Berlin, Germany, right now, but you're from Britain.
AMY GOODMAN: Why not go home?
SARAH HARRISON: Britain has a Terrorism Act, which has within it a portion called Schedule 7, which is quite unique. What it is is it gives officials the ability to detain people at the border as they go in or out or even transit through the country. And this allows them to question people on no more than a hunch, giving them with nogiving them no right to silence. It also was the case of no right to a lawyer, as well, though that's starting to be changed. But you're compelled to answer their questions. All the legal advice received is that the likelihood is very strong that I would be Schedule Sevened, detained under this and questioned, because of my work with WikiLeaks and Snowden. There are certainly answers, for source protection reasons, that I would be unable to answer, which would make me committing a crime upon returning home.
AMY GOODMAN: This is what happened to Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald who met, of course, with Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras in Berlin and wrote the first articles about the documents.
SARAH HARRISON: Yeah, he was actually just transiting through the country. He wasthrough the U.K. He had been in Berlin. He was going back to Glenn in Rio, in Brazil. And he was just transiting through the U.K. The U.K. officials got intel that he might have some information that was of benefit, they decided, to their terrorism investigation, and so they detained him under this, and he was compelled to answer all of their questions.
AMY GOODMAN: And held for many hours.
SARAH HARRISON: He was held for the full nine hours.
AMY GOODMAN: Before they would have to arrest him, if they held him any longer.
SARAH HARRISON: Arrest or release, yes. And he was not entitled to a lawyer or anything that full time.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Sarah Harrison, how did you end up with Edward Snowden on that flight from Hong Kong to Russia?
SARAH HARRISON: Well, he reached out for help, and we were uniquely in a position to help for several reasons. We have a history and an understanding of what it is to be in a position where you're being persecuted, where you're dealing with the government of the United States getting their full force down upon you. We have a number of connectionslegal, diplomaticaround the world. And I have a lot of contacts in Hong Kong, so I've been there many times. So I was able to operate there knowing the city, when maybe others would be unable.
AMY GOODMAN: So you got there after he was speaking to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, as the articles were being released?
AMY GOODMAN: And then what happened? You were meeting him for the first time?
SARAH HARRISON: Yes, I had not met him before. So, well, we worked to find out the legal situation, the legal options, to negotiate his ability to exit the country and to ensure that he would have as high a probability of asylum and safe passage in other places around the world.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you make it fromI mean, he was at the hotel with Glenn and Laura. He then was taken by human rights lawyers to be protected as the media found where they were. How did you even make it to the airport? Were you concerned that he would be arrested in Hong Kong at the behest of the United States?
SARAH HARRISON: Well, when we left, the United States had just put in an extradition request for him. The process is that this has to go through the court system there and be approved or be denied. We actually left before it had finished going through the Hong Kong court system, so there was no illegality about his departing the country.
AMY GOODMAN: And if he had been arrested in Hong Kong, what would have happened?
SARAH HARRISON: So there were two things at play. He had the ability to put in an asylum request. Hong Kong then would obviously have had to have decided what its decision on this asylum request was. They actually have a history of taking a very long time to do this. The problem with his case would have been that if, as it did, the extradition request came in, and ifwhen it was approved, he would have to be arrested and then held in prison whilst either the extradition request or the asylum were being decided which avenue they would take. And because often the asylum takes so long, he would be held in prison for an awful long time.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you get on this plane with him in Hong Kong. And why did you end up in Moscow?
SARAH HARRISON: Choosing the route to take, the aim was to get to Latin AmericaEcuador, specifically.
AMY GOODMAN: Because they were granting him asylum?
SARAH HARRISON: They were obviously positive towards the granting of asylum.
AMY GOODMAN: As they had done with Julian Assange
SARAH HARRISON: As they had done with Julian.
AMY GOODMAN: who's in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London?
AMY GOODMAN: And was Julian helping you with this whole
SARAH HARRISON: Very much so, very much so.
AMY GOODMAN: So, really, you, WikiLeaks and Julian facilitated Snowden making it out of Hong Kong.
SARAH HARRISON: And gaining asylum, yes. The reason for going via Russia was that, obviously, we needed to have a safe flight route. You can't actually get direct from Hong Kong to Latin America. Normally, flights to Latin America go through the United States or Western Europe. And this was obviously not an option in this case, so hence the sort of seemingly bizarre route via Russia and Cuba on to Latin America.
AMY GOODMAN: So you weren't planning to stop in Russia, but what happened?
SARAH HARRISON: No. Well, whilst we were in the air, as soon as we'd left, Hong Kong announced that he had left, I think, in an ability to sort of say, you know, "Stop hassling us. He's gone. He's not here anymore." So then the United States made very public announcements about how they had canceled his passport, and if anyyou know, any onward travel therefore would be without any valid documentation. So we were essentially stranded by the U.S. government in Russia.
AMY GOODMAN: And you stayed in the airport for?
SARAH HARRISON: For 39 days. Well, he didn'twe didn't have a visa. I mean, that was notthat you can transit through without needing a visa as long as you're under 24 hours within the airport. So, hence, we had no visa to remain in Russia, so he couldn't just walk on through. And so, we spent 39 days trying to get asylum in various places around the world, many, including Germany. And they were either turned down or ignored, the requests, for the most part. Latin America was very supportive, but the ability to physically get there safely at this stage was impossible, and so, hence, applying for temporary asylum in Russia.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to an interview I just did in Berlin when I interviewed Edward Snowden's European lawyer, Wolfgang Kaleck, about the role of WikiLeaks and Sarah Harrison, our guest, in helping Snowden.
WOLFGANG KALECK: I think WikiLeaks was extremely helpful in the decisive phase in the beginning of the Snowden revelations. And especially Sarah, as a person, was extremely courageous, because going to Moscow is notI mean, that's not the easiest place in the world, and it's not that they are waiting for us there. And so, going into this unsecure situation was extremely brave from Sarah. And I am very happy that she's living now in Berlin, but I would be happier to know that she's not facing a criminal charge because of what she did for Edward Snowden.
AMY GOODMAN: Is she facing a criminal charge?
WOLFGANG KALECK: We don't know, because, I mean, many of thesemany of these criminal investigations are secret, so we have no indication if or if not a criminal investigation is underway. But the risk at the moment is too high for her to travel back to the U.K., so she better stay in Germany. But I hope that this is not the end of the story.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Wolfgang Kaleck, the European lawyer for Edward Snowden. I was speaking to him in Berlin, Germany, this weekend. And he's saying the stakes are just too high for you to go home. You made a big decision in engaging in this, and now you're living in Germany. What made you make that decision?
SARAH HARRISON: A few reasons. One's sort of a general ethical point that someone had done something so brave, and they should be supported, and I felt an empathy, a natural human empathy, and wished to support. Then there's also the fact that, I mean, I work for a publishing organization. We obviously rely a lot on sources and believe in source protection. And the last example that the world had of how the U.S. government treats a high-value source is Chelsea Manning, who they put into a cage, was tortured, sentenced to prison for 35 years in the end. And I think it's important for the world that you can speak the truth, you can blow the whistle, and you don't have to end up in a cage; there are people that will support you, that there are people that will take risks for you, when you have risked so much, and you can have asylum in a country.
AMY GOODMAN: I'm looking at the letter that Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney general, wrote to the minister of justice of Russia requesting that Edward Snowden be extradited to the United States. And among the things Attorney General Holder says is, "First, the United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States. The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes. Second," writes Attorney General Eric Holder, "Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States." Sarah Harrison?
SARAH HARRISON: I think thatI mean, when that letter came out, it was sort of rather extraordinary, when you're looking at a country that has Guantánamo Bay. Chelsea Manning wasit was found by the U.N. special rapporteur on torture at the time, Frank La Rue, that she had been tortured. So these claims were, as far as I could see, just empty rhetoric trying desperately to block any right to asylum that Snowden legally had around the world. They did this in a number of occasions. When we were looking at asylum in other countries, as well, they pre-emptively put in extradition requests to those countries, even though he wasn't there, didn't have asylum. So, I think that it's an obvious pattern that the U.S. government chooses to try to initiate a pre-emptive attack to prevent people's legal rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened to the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, as we go back. This is a year now that you accompanied Edward Snowden. When was it, within this period of going to Russia, that Bolivian President Morales's plane was forced down in Austria by the U.S. government?
SARAH HARRISON: Well, we were still in the airport. There had been a number of presidents that had been Russia meeting with Putin. There wasand Morales was one of them. President Morales was one of them. And when his plane took off, there was the allegation that Snowden was on the flight, and the airspace around Europe shut down while he was trying to get across the continent. So here you see an extraordinary example of the U.S. dominance, where they're able to get other supposedly sovereign nations to close their airspace because of supposed intel that they have, and a president's plane, violating international agreements, is downed and was forced to come down in Austria.
AMY GOODMAN: All of these different countries participated.
SARAH HARRISON: Yes, a number. There was Spain, Portugal, France. There was a number of countries that participated.
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Austria had to accept him at the airport.
SARAH HARRISON: Yeah, yeah. I don't think they'd go quite as far as having his plane run out of fuel and just crash to the ground, quite that far.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was your response, and what was Ed Snowden's response, as you sat in the airport lounge where you were forced to be for five weeks?
SARAH HARRISON: It was obviously extraordinary, and still is, that a president's plane would be downed. I think that it is somethingthese sorts of extralegal and extraordinary actions is something that WikiLeaks has seen on a number of occasions. The financial blockadewhen we were publishing the war logs that started and started publishing Cablegate, there was an extralegal financial blockade against us. The fact that financialsupposedly independent financial companies will just cut off because ofcut off a publishing organization because of pressure from the U.S. government is, again, another extraordinary act that shouldn't be happening within the rule of law.
AMY GOODMAN: You're talking about PayPal.
SARAH HARRISON: PayPal and theseMasterCard
AMY GOODMAN: Cutting off any ability for WikiLeaks to get money through.
SARAH HARRISON: To receive donations, direct to us or actually via third parties that were collecting money for us. So this is quite an extraordinary, against-the-rule-of-law action that was taken due to pressure of the United States government. And it's anotheranother example of this type of action can be seen with the downing of the plane.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet you set up the Courage Foundation, as you live here in Germany, to be able to support Edward Snowden's defense fund.
SARAH HARRISON: Yes, for Edward Snowden's defense and also for future Snowdens. We want to show that there is an organization that will do what we did for Snowden and as much as possible in raising money for legal defense, public advocacy for whistleblowers, so that they know when theyif they come forward, there is a support group there for them.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a clip of Mike Rogers. This is in January. The House intelligence chair, Mike Rogersnot to be confused with Michael Rogers, now the head of the NSAappeared on NBC's Meet the Press and suggested Edward Snowden is a Russian spy.
REP. MIKE ROGERS: This was a thief, who we believe had some help, who stole information. The vast majority had nothing to do with privacy. Our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines have been incredibly harmed by the data that he has taken with him and we believe now is in the hands of nation states. I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don't think that's a coincidence.
AMY GOODMAN: That's Mike Rogers, the head of the House Intelligence Committee. Sarah Harrison, your response, calling Edward Snowden a thief who purposely ended up in Moscow?
SARAH HARRISON: He certainly didn't purposefully end up in Moscow. He's not a spy or any of these words. I think that they come forward with this type of rhetoric to try and paint a picture which is completely untrue. And the facts of the case actually speak against that. What Edward Snowden did was inherently a patriotic act. He revealed this information to show to the American public that they are being spied on by their own government and that the government of the United States is breaking its own Constitution. And this is facts that they should know. And so, to call him a spywell, if he's a spy, it is only for the American public.
AMY GOODMAN: You got to know him very well, though you didn't know him before, in the five weeks that you spent together at the airport and then months afterwards, before you left for Germany. Can you talk about how Ed Snowden described to you his motivations, where he had been before, joining the U.S. military, wanting to be in the Special Forces?
SARAH HARRISON: His history, I think, sort of speaks for itself, in that he's always had a desire to serve his country. He's always been very patriotic. And at the beginning, this played out with an understanding that the war in Iraq was legitimate, and he wanted to help and fight for his nation. Through his work then at the NSA and working as a contractor for the intelligence agency, he was able to understand that actually this isn't necessarilythey're not actually necessarily doing the right thing and telling the public the truth. And so hisalthough his same motives have always been the same, to serve his country and to uphold the Constitution, the method with which this was appropriate to actually act out became a very different one. And in this case, it became having to explain to the American public what was actually being done to them.
AMY GOODMAN: Had he reached out to WikiLeaks before?
SARAH HARRISON: We don't talk about any sourcing, sort of, or any contact like that.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass

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