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167,954 people who signed the White House petition to immediately give Edward Snowden a “full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs” have just received the following response from the White House. Not only did it take over 2 years for the White House to respond, but they responded with a completely fact-free and inappropriate hard line non-answer. Dan Froomkin at the Intercept sums it up nicely.
A Response to Your Petition on Edward Snowden
Thanks for signing a petition about Edward Snowden. This is an issue that many Americans feel strongly about. Because his actions have had serious consequences for our national security, we took this matter to Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Here’s what she had to say:
“Since taking office, President Obama has worked with Congress to secure appropriate reforms that balance the protection of civil liberties with the ability of national security professionals to secure information vital to keep Americans safe.
As the President said in announcing recent intelligence reforms, “We have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals and our Constitution require.”
Instead of constructively addressing these issues, Mr. Snowden’s dangerous decision to steal and disclose classified information had severe consequences for the security of our country and the people who work day in and day out to protect it.
If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.
We live in a dangerous world. We continue to face grave security threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation that our intelligence community must have all the lawful tools it needs to address. The balance between our security and the civil liberties that our ideals and our Constitution require deserves robust debate and those who are willing to engage in it here at home.”
Jim Jacobs and I gave a webinar in January, 2015 entitled “Community-Based Digital Collection Development of Born-Digital Government Information” for the “Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian” webinar series. You can find our notes and slides at freegovinfo.info/fugitives. And now you can find our presentation on YouTube! Thanks to Lynda Kellam and the Help! webinar team for posting this and all of their presentations on their new YouTube channel.
I don’t know how the state of Georgia got to this convoluted way of thinking, but they’re suing Carl Malamud and public.resource.org for copyright infringement because he had the audacity to try and make states’ laws freely and publicly accessible. Go ahead and read the law suit and see for yourself how twisted their legal argument is.
Two years ago, we wrote about the state of Georgia ridiculously threatening to sue Carl Malamud and his site Public.Resource.org for copyright infringement… for publishing an official annotated copy of the state’s laws. This followed on a similar threat from the state of Oregon, which wisely backed down. Malamud has spent the last few years of his life doing wonderful and important work trying to make sure that the laws that we live by are actually available to the public. The specific issue here is that while the basic Georgia legal code is available to the public, the state charges a lot of money for the “Official Code of Georgia Annotated.” The distinction here is fairly important — but it’s worth noting that the courts will regularly rely on the annotations in the official code, which more or less makes them a part of the law itself. And then, the question is whether or not the law itself should be subject to copyright restrictions. Malamud has long argued no, while the state has obviously argued yes, probably blinded by the revenue from selling its official copy of the annotated code.
It took two years, but the state has now done the absolutely ridiculous thing of suing Malamud. It is about as ridiculous as you would expect again focusing on the highly questionable claim that the Official Code of Georgia Annotated is covered by federal copyright law — and that not only was Malamud (*gasp*) distributing it, but also… creating derivative works! Oh no! And, he’s such an evil person that he was encouraging others to do so as well!
I was fortunate to be able to attend the 2015 #CritlibSF Unconference, hosted at the University of San Francisco’s Gleeson Library in conjunction with the American Library Association’s Annual Conference last month. While the discussion predominantly, although by no means exclusively, focused on teaching and learning within the academic library context, the event and broader conversations within the #critlib community have given me a lot of food for thought as a government information librarian.
One of the themes in these discussions is how work within libraries can reinforce or oppose the power structures within society. It is stating the obvious that government is one of the most recognizable, and perhaps most pervasive, signs of power in our daily lives. Even an introductory narrative of government function engages with power as a concept, whether in the language of rights, democracy, or checks and balances. With the supposed consent of the governed, the government has the ability to affect (or, if you prefer, engage with) nearly every aspect of life.
Unimpeded and unmonitored access to government information is a core theme in ALA’s Key Principles of Government Information, and librarians have championed these rights for generations. Still, those of us who work with government information are frequently engaging with the firehose of content as it comes to us, however it comes to us. The publications collected and distributed through videochat18-roulettedepository programs are only a small subset of the content published by agencies to websites, databases, and social media, which is itself only a portion of their informational products. If public discourse can only take place in the context of the narratives and threads of information selected by the government and those in a position of authority as being worthy of capture, it could be less representative, less inclusive, and by extension less nuanced.