Snowden’s ‘Financial and Legal Teams’

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Millions around the world support Edward Snowden for revealing secret information about NSA surveillance activities.

But in his quest to continue to expose such information and to stay one step ahead of U.S. authorities who want to bring him home to face the justice system, Snowden needs more than just moral and emotional support.

First, he needs financial support.

Just the cost of a direct charter flight to take him from his Moscow International Airport transit-lounge quarters to Havana — en-route to possible asylum in Venezuela — or directly to Caracas itself, would cost $100,000 for starters.

It has been reported that a chartered aircraft had been made available and put on standby to fly Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow. Snowden eventually flew to Moscow on a regular Aeroflot flight.


According to Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson
, an Iceland-based WikiLeaks representative, such a charter was made possible “through outside funds from ‘friends.’”

Wikileaks — the group that published classified diplomatic and military documents obtained by U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning in 2010 — seems to be one of the main financial, legal and logistical supporters of Snowden. Its founder, Julian Assange, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012 to avoid extradition, himself the subject of a criminal investigation by the U.S. and subject to a European arrest warrant in response to a Swedish police request for questioning in relation to a sexual assault investigation.

Donations to Wikileaks surged “to 1,000 euros ($1,285) a day” after Snowden stepped forward as the source of the NSA surveillance leaks.

However, they have since dropped to about 100 Euros ($128.50) a day, but are still about three times the rate before Snowden’s appearance on the leakers’ scene.

As to the legal team, the BBC has an interesting list of the “eclectic bunch” Snowden is getting advice and support from, “ranging from a constitutional lawyer to a former Russian spy.”

Some of these:

Way at the top, the previously mentioned Julian Assange, who “provides advice and support” and who says:

“He [Snowden] is a hero. He has told the people of the world and the US that there is mass unlawful interception of their communications, far beyond anything that happened under Nixon.”

** Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer and also a lawyer for Snowden’s father.

Fein lives in Washington DC, was associate deputy attorney general under Ronald Reagan and senior policy adviser to Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign

In Fein’s own words: “The purpose of engaging me wasn’t simply to have his son come back. It was also, ‘What can we do to walk away from the precipice of a leviathan state where nothing is private anymore and which operates in the kind of secrecy we associated with China or Russia?’”

** Sarah Harrison, member of the Wikileaks legal team. She provides advice on where to seek asylum — a full-time job lately.

“Where she can be found: The transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport.”

Michael Ratner, a New York lawyer for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He is president emeritus for Center for Constitutional Rights, which has assisted in the cases of Guantanamo detainees and sued Bush administration officials over interrogation policies.

In Ratner’s own words (about the prosecution of Pte [sic] First Class Bradley Manning): ‘It’s ironic in a trial that is about the government keeping secrets that they aren’t providing documents that are not classified and should be public.’”

A name I immediately recognized and a person I have a lot of respect for is Baltasar Garzón.

Judge Baltasar Garzón was one of Europe’s best-known counter-terrorism magistrates, “renowned for his determination and his abilities to bring suspects to justice, no matter how powerful or where they may be — and especially for terrorism and human rights abuses.”

His targets have included the al-Qaeda 9/11 and Madrid bombings perpetrators, the infamous Chilean General Pinochet, ETA and related Basque terrorist organizations, Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations operating in the Maghreb region, including Spanish enclaves in Morocco, Argentine ex-naval officer Adolfo Scilingo who was convicted of crimes against humanity and others.

Back in March 2009, when a Spanish court took the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the case was sent to Judge Baltasar Garzón for review.

But then, in January 2012, Judge Garzón himself came “under legal attack for confronting Spain’s own dark history.” The New York Times reported then:

He is on trial this week before the Spanish Supreme Court for daring to investigate crimes committed during the Spanish Civil War and the nearly four-decade dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. The case against him is fueled by domestic political vendettas rather than substantive legal arguments and it could dramatically set back international efforts to hold human-rights violators accountable for their crimes.

The case stemmed from Judge Garzón’s edict, in October 2008, ordering the exhumation of 19 mass graves and charging Franco and his accomplices posthumously with the murder and disappearance of more than 114,000 people.

In February 2012 the Spanish Supreme Court found Mr. Garzón guilty of abuse of power for illegally ordering a wiretap of lawyers in a corruption case and suspended him for 11 years. A couple of weeks later the same Supreme Court cleared him of ” having abused his powers by investigating atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing dictatorship of Francisco Franco.”

In July 2012 WikiLeaks said that it had hired Baltasar Garzón to lead the legal team representing the site and its founder, Julian.

Today, Judge Garzón is the legal director at Wikileaks who, while “declining to serve officially as his lawyer…has nevertheless helped to shape his plans for the future.”

In Garzón’s own words: “The Wikileaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr. Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person.”

The BBC article concludes:

These legal experts and activists are not the only ones who are trying to help Snowden. He has also received an outpouring of support from people around the world.

One supporter, Anna Chapman, the spy who was caught in the US and sent back to Russia, expressed her admiration on Twitter.

“Snowden, will you marry me?” she wrote.

Read more here

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Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist