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Through UN PRISM, Snowden as Whistleblower, Host Country, Haass & Negroponte

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 10 -- Attacks on whistleblower Edward Snowden have begun, some expected and some not. Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations, former US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said he hopes Snowden "will be punished." Dog bites man.

But the head of CFR, Richard Haass, said that Snowden is not even a whistleblower, based on a definition and argument that what he has exposed is not illegal. Man bites dog?

  This a narrow definition of whistleblower whose use by the United Nations Inner City Press has previously covered. Given a lack of legal protections in the UN whistleblowers approaching Inner City Press usually need total anonymity. UN peacekeepers, for example, are afforded no protections at all by the UN.

  In the case of the whistleblower for and about the UN Development Program in North Korea, UNDP argued that he was no whistleblower at all. While after a long fight he was awarded damages, it was for a violation of his due process rights, NOT for the obvious retaliation.

  More recently, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has appealed, apparently automatically, the award of damages to whistleblower James Wasserstrom -- an award lower than Wasserstrom's own legal costs.

  At the June 10 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky, in the context of the US National Security Agency PRISM case, if the UN views Snowden as a whistleblower, compared to its treatment of the North Korea case, and for an update on the report on UN whistleblower protections commissioned by Ban from a Canadian jurist.    Video here from Minute 9:16.

  Nesirky said the update will be provided when ready; he did not squarely answer the Snowden as whistleblower or any PRISM question, even though through PRISM as well as Verizon Wireless and the FISA court, UN officials have also been monitored.

  Would that violate the US' Host Country agreement with the UN? That is a question. But would this UN say anything?

  At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a civil society statement was being circulated on Monday, to

"express strong concern over recent revelations of surveillance of internet and telephone communications of US and non-US nationals by the government of the USA and the fact that US authorities makes the results of that surveillance available to other governments such as the UK... These revelations suggest a blatant and systematic disregard for human rights as articulated in Articles 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as Articles 12 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights... But during this session the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Mr. Frank La Rue, reported (A/HRC/23/40) worrying new trends in state surveillance of communications with serious implications for the exercise of the human rights to privacy and to freedom of opinion and expression."

  Civil society might speak - but will the UN? Haass will be speaking on Monday evening at the International Peace Institute, across from the UN. Watch this site.

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