Stuttgart Peace Prize for Edward Snowden
Honorific Speech of Ines Pohl, Editor in Chief, taz, die tageszeitung

Ladies and Gentlemen!

We only have the rights that we protect”

This sentence – taken from an interview in the paper ‘The Nation’, comes from Edward Joseph Snowden.

Dear “Anstifter” – “Instigators”!

Thanks a lot for your invitation to give this speech here in Stuttgart in praise of a man who has – for all of us – opened a new perspective on secret service doings which are threatening our freedom and privacy.

Presently I can hardly imagine any better place in Germany to appreciate the world-wide best known instigator of resistance against the engineering of uncontrolled power – no city more suitable than yours, dear “Anstifter”: Stuttgart.

Stuttgart, the city where protests have been and still are carried out in the streets – directed against the destructive and swanky project of a boisterous and unnecessary railway station rejected by many. The city where – sad to say – peaceful demonstrations have been answered with completely inadequate police violence.

The cost of freedom is high, in every country all over the world, and of course it’s incomparably higher in dictatorships than in democratic states.Yet we have come to realise that in the USA – the country which has, as the promised land of the free, home of the brave, in various historical respects been on such close terms with us Germans – that in this USA a deceitful surveillance state has established itself with the assistance of its secret services, by exploiting its citizens’ fears after 9/11 to install mechanisms of control one would sometimes rather take for Science Fiction.

Substantial economic interests are at stake, e.g. those of telecommunication companies, but that’s not all. And it’s also about far-reaching imperialistic strategies.

All of this has only come to our knowledge because Edward Snowden has taken the risk of walking the lonely path of being a whistleblower

Who then is this man the US government is eager to drag to court – accusing him of treason? “I go by Ed”, is how he introduces himself in conversations. And he adds: “I am an indoor cat, a computer guy. I don’t go out and play football and stuff – that’s not me. I want to think, I want to build, I want to talk, I want to create.”

A bed for Ed / A bed for Snowden”, that’s what the posters said many people in Germany put up in their windows during the discussion if Germany could grant Edward Snowden asylum. Many citizens would have loved to do so. Doesn’t he really appear utterly honest? A secret service man you can trust…after his breaking away. Because of his breaking away.

There’s definitely a deep state. Trust me, I’ve been there”, Snowden says. So there is a state within the state in the USA, where secret service and the military rule, and not the elected representatives of democracy. Snowden has presented and published evidence for this.

Our Ed in his position as IT-security technician and system administrator had access to all the documents within the inner circle , the central sector of the NSA, which obviously aspires to accomplish over-all comprehensive surveillance of all citizens – and already practises this on a horrifying scale.

Dear Anstifter, dear citizens of Stuttgart – my personal ties with the USA are numerous: I’ve been to university there, my wife is an American, and I have always loved that country for its amazing opportunities and its courage to take responsibility for individual rights and liberties.

Even against the state. And against intentions of the government.

But now: Shall the top end of the North American flagpole be the end of the road to freedom? Where privacy has also come to an end?

This will depend on us, men and women, as citizens of the world. Perhaps the resistance against surveillance strategies of the US Empire has only just begun – has begun to grow in size and influence far beyond the small group of IT-freaks and nerds who feel at home in the world of the Internet with all its technical refinement and possibilities.

Celebrating Edward Snowden today as a freedom fighter means to honour together with him four more persons without whom the publication of the world of surveillance we have long since been living in would by no means have been possible. In fact, resistance and rebellion against injustice and suppression always is in need of both:

The courage of the individual to stand up and say no! to the dictate of those in power, and then: teamwork! This is one more achievement of the democratic ideals hardly any country has supported and propelled as much as the USA.

Consequently the team behind and around Edward Snowden will just alike go down in history:

Bradley Chelsea Manning, the US soldier, meanwhile turned female, who – then male – made public some of the US Army’s crimes of war against Iraqi civilians and could only do this because she had access to secret videos and documents. Manning, on the other hand, could only achieve this with the technical and strategic support from Julian Assange, the founder of wikileaks. Laura Poitras, the journalist and documentary film-maker, was the first one to grasp the explosive nature of those emails she got from someone who went under the name of “Citizenfour” (Snowden’s camouflage name), to whom she has now dedicated her third film, dealing with the doings of the US military and secret services.

She has documented his journey, their joint journey, in her film, and has thus also erected an affectionate and fair memorial – for the political activist and the person, captivating with his sovereign honesty and straightforwardness. And last not least there was and is Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who directed with utmost precision and professional skill the timing and choreography for the publication of Snowden’s secret documents.

These four, these four citizens, have made possible the enormous public effects of Snowden’s revelations in the first place due to their preliminary work, their support and know-how.

Ladies and Gentlemen – Chelsea Manning is locked up in prison; Julian Assange has been lodging in the Embassy of Ecuador for two years now, locked up, too; Edward Snowden is stuck in Russia; Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald will probably never again in their lives be able to do anything without surveillance.

Peter Maas wrote a wonderful portrait of Laura Poitras for the New York Times magazine, and I would like to read out its final sentence to you:

The biggest paradox, of course “, Peter Maas writes, “ is that all their strains and pains to understand and uncover state surveillance has now most likely condemned them to just that surveillance for the rest of their lives.”

Laura Poitras told Peter Maas in an interview: “Our lives will never be the same again. I don’t know if I will ever be able to live somewhere with the feeling of having something like a sphere of privacy. That could simply be over and done with, completely and irrevocably.”

This, Ladies and Gentlemen, of course applies even more so to Edward Snowden, the true secret service renegade. But I want to shift these four musketeers of investigation together with honouring Snowden into your consciousness, because their incredibly successful choreography of publishing the scandals deserves great respect and honour. And I believe this to be quite in accordance with our hero of this day.

It’s not about me, about my person”, Edward Snowden says in Poitras’ documentary film ‘Citizenfour’. “It’s about the cause, that which is about to be taken away from us – intellectual freedom. The freedom to think what we want. Uncensored and in a safe private sphere.”

In order to really be able to protect this freedom, we need teamwork of the highest quality. The new media and the global Internet with its Janus face of magnificent freedom and disgraceful observation by the state, military and big companies have changed our perception of the world deeply in recent years.

Having uncovered the dark side of this new world – that’s what Edward Snowden and his companions deserve gratitude for from all of us.

Whistleblowers are more than just classical informants. Edward Snowden has made secrets public in complete knowledge of his inevitable liability to prosecution. He is risking his very life, his freedom of movement, his private life – and what for?

Doing this he also confronts all of us with this basic question, as old as the world, but today presenting itself in different circumstances, in a different shape, in the dangers of a highly modern technology:

How far are we prepared to go – for the truth?

What price are we ready to pay for speaking and pointing out truthfully what will – should the occasion arise – put our name on a list of so-called traitors?

Personally, I’m asking myself as a journalist: what new responsibilities am I, are we confronted with – in times of surveillance and demands of all-round transparency at the same time? In London the Guardian office was turned upside down – in antiquated old-school secret service manner even insisting on the complete demolition of hard drives… as if there weren’t copy media long since!

But precisely because we journalists, due to the freedom of the press, enjoy greater protection than many others, it is our duty and responsibility to stand by courageous persons like Edward Snowden with our publisher’s knowledge and all the power of our media.

Dear “Anstifter”, I’d like to deal with another paradox:

You are giving your Peace Award to Edward Snowden today. Perhaps it has struck you that I have spoken of “freedom”, but up to now have mentioned the word “peace” not a single time in my appreciation of Snowden’s unquestionable merits for enlightening the public.

Being a journalist I have to say: Even though Snowden has dished out a super-desaster to the NSA, the scandalous exposures have – like all other attacks of so-called “enemies” – been integrated into their system pretty fast. Shit happens. For secret services there can by definition be no taboos nor moral barriers. They operate within the logics of war – and they do so in times of peace, too.

Yes! Edward Snowden deserves every peace price of the world, because he has made it obvious for all that we haven’t been living in peace for years. Though it’s still true that in Germany we are protected from hot war within our boundaries. But this peace here and in the USA is phony – dearly paid for with many wars in other countries, on other continents.

The freedom we still enjoy in Europe today is also protected time and again by the willingness of these few to risk their freedom and even their lives for it.

Let me close with the words of another rebel for a free America – you remember Janis Joplin?

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose….”

Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re all deeply indebted to Edward Snowden and his four citizens – and we should pay off by pushing ourselves again and again to take responsibility for real peace and a kind of freedom that deserves its name – in our thoughts and with our actions.

More disclosures are in preparation – with this announcement the film “Citizenfour” ends. So there are more whistleblowers – persons who all follow the courageous rebellion against inhuman practices that Edward Snowden has set an example with.

Dear Anstifter, you also remind and urge people to defend human rights and stand up for the indivisible value of freedom. Therefore it inherits a logical consequence that it is you who award the Stuttgart Peace Prize to Edward Snowden, who has inspired so many people around the world – an instigator himself – to be rebellious.

Edward: let me thank you very much for reminding us of what is, or should be, in fact a matter of course that woefully doesn’t go by itself in our times. But has it ever? Our times perhaps only bear different dangers. To understand these dangers as clearly as possible is a condition for resistant action.

It’s true: “We only have the rights that we protect”.

Thank you, Mr. Snowden! And may you live in peace again…one day.

Über Fritz Mielert

Fritz Mielert, Jahrgang 1979, arbeitete von 2013 bis 2017 als Geschäftsführer beim Bürgerprojekt Die AnStifter in Stuttgart. Davor betreute er ab 2011 bei Campact politische Kampagnen im Spektrum zwischen Energiewende und Vorratsdatenspeicherung, engagierte sich in der AG Antragsbearbeitung der Bewegungsstiftung, baute ab 2010 maßgeblich die Parkschützer als eine der wichtigsten Gruppierung im Protest gegen Stuttgart 21 auf und war ab 1996 mehrere Jahre ehrenamtlich bei Greenpeace aktiv.