„The first thing I would say is thank you very much.
It’s an incredible honor to be recognized for what I think is an action that all of us should have an obligation to pursuit.
Which is a capability of great powers within our societies.
As citizens we rely on our government to provide us with truthful information about their policies and about their activities. Now that’s not to say that we need to know the names of every terrorist suspect and every police investigation that’s occurring but we need at least to understand the broad outlines of the programs and policies that our government are pursuing.
The powers that they are planning and the manner that they are being used both in our name as a country, as a nation, as a society and against us at home in our communities with the people we love and with people who threaten us with harm.
Now, what I saw when I worked at the National Security Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, all across the American intelligence community were good people trying to do good work in difficult situations, but what was so extraordinarily dangerous was the fact that they all were concerned about the direction in which these programs were headed. But no one was willing to stand up and raise these concerns, because they feared retaliation, they feared that the government, that most senior officials would retaliate against them, would destroy their lives, would ruin their careers, would put them in jail.
And we’ve seen in the United States these kinds of occurrences happen again and again based on Thomas Drake, who stood up to reveal extraordinary wiretapping and surveillance abuses in the United States. He was fired, he was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, as if he was a spy, for providing information to journalists allegedly, in the same way as if he had been providing information about corporate agents overseas trying to infiltrate terrorist groups. They threatened him with life in prison, with decades and decades far away from his family, and yet he did it anyway. Even at knowing that there will be retaliation. And ultimately at the very end courts dropped the charges, the case collapsed, because the government realized that they had been in the wrong.
What we saw that in some other cases, this was not the case. In the case of Chelsea Manning, we have a private who saw instances where US military forces had targeted journalists with weapons of war and openly then concealed this, their participation in these acts.
Now, whoever you do account for whatever occurred, instead of the senior officials who were the directors of the policies, we saw low-level people punished. And again, any activity they’ve done, any statement that they’ve made vary. And these programs were not corrected.
Now, I discussed this with everybody else in my community, and we all were concerned about these kinds of policies, and we said, what can we do? What can we do? And the answer that came back was no matter how bad the abuse is, no matter whether it is the degradation of our entire constitutional order, whether the laws of our republic were being violated both at home in the United States and then broadly under the context of international law.
That people said, this was not our problem. They told me, specifically that I shouldn’t be saying this because the risk to myself personally would be too great. They told me to think about my family, they told me to think about my job, they told me to think about what would happen, if I’d spend the next 30 years in prison. And that’s actually surprisingly prophetic. Because when I provided this information back to the American people, when I provided this to the public, to which this information belonged, from which it had been unjustifiably concealed from, the government charged me as if I were a spy and threatened me with those same 30 years of prison. But ultimately even though I can’t go home, even though I am still overseas and I’m working day after day to continue raising awareness about these abuses, about the way of rights have been changed, about the fact the corporations and governments have come together to change the meaning of our rights, to change the boundaries of our liberties, to say the kind of things we can and cannot do, without being watched, without being analysed, without records of our private lives, be stored and analysed and shared without our awareness.
I dont regret that decision at all, because this was information that we needed to know. As a result we see extraordinary changes across governments, across countries, and broadly we can see opinions change in the public. We see people discuss this programs, we discuss how the freedom to look at books online, to decide what you want to purchase changes the way you think. It changes the way you feel about freedom and liberty in each others lives.
It is realized that companies, corporations and governments are tracking movements of our cellular phones, they are tracking the times that we call people, the numbers that we call, the association that could be drawn from these, what political party we belong to. Who are our friends, who do we love. Are these people that are family members, or are these people that are suspected political radicals? If an individual is deed an political extremists, or radicalized by the United States government, we see programs created entirely in secret without an authorizing law, that allow to surveil their pornography preference to try and discredit them, try to discredit their political beliefs on the basis of their personal private activities, and we deserve to ask the government:
Is this truly necessary and proportionate to the threat that we are facing? Because there are times, there are extraordinary instances throughout the history and society where we decide that the level of privacy of the individual citizen and choice may change in this kind or that we consent to searches of our luggage at airports. When we exist in times of total war, world wars, we see increases in surveillance, we see greater scrutiny on the movements of individuals’ subsistence but we recognize that these are fundamental restrictions upon basic liberties, basic human rights. And these activities, these responses are restricted for limited periods of time. When they’re shown to be, at least the public believes them to be, absolutely necessary for the survival of the nation. Terrorism is not such threat. Terrorism is a real danger, but it is a law enforcement danger, it existed in the last hundred years. Long before anyone had ever heard of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban or Al-Qaida. And yet, even though these actors, even though we see people in Syria, in Iraq committing terrible atrocities again and again, our societies continue, they persist, and that is not a result of the strength of our surveillance, that is the result of the strength of our values, the strength of us as a society, the strength of our commitment to stand up and work together every day to build a better world and not be afraid of distant threats and distant actors who may wish us harm. Because we recognize that if we burn down our society to prevent some danger, if we limit our rights and stand against the values that have made us strong, we have not saved the nation. We have acted against it, we have destroyed it.
The way we protect ourselves, the way we protect the people around us, the way we protect the future, not just for us, but for those who come after us, is to stand beside our rights. And to say that these belong not to me, these belong not to you. They belong to us, they belong to the world. They belong to the human body.
And if we are to live in a liberal society, we must stand and defend liberal values, and that means not just stand against frightened people far away, people who don’t look like us, people who don’t speak like us, but defending these rights, defending these values against even the most senior officials in our government and demanding that if they change our laws, demanding if they impose secret courts, demanding if they impose a secret program and they are contrary to our values, that these will one day became known to the public and we will hold them to account for the decisions that they are making.
Without this we cannot exist, not just as a society, but as a community. Government and democracy are founded on each of us. And that’s going to require not just holding hands on broad ways of public, but that’s going to require attitudes, that’s going to require instigators, that’s going to require activists around the world which stand up and say: I believe that this is wrong. And I am not just going to say this is wrong, I am just going to write a newspaper article about it, I am going to stand up against it and say that I’ll do whatever I can to enjoy the same rights that I myself inherited, that belong to my children and the society to which they belong.
Thank you, thank you very much.“