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How the US gave more than asylum to a foreign whistleblower

So senator Lindsey Graham (R-Crazy) is so upset at the possibility of Russia giving asylum to Edward Snowden that he wants the US to boycott the Winter Olympics if they do so. One can only imagine how ballistic he will get if one of the smaller Latin American countries that have offered Snowden asylum (Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua) make good on their promise. Will he call for an invasion?

But via Adrian Chen, I learned about Michel Christoph Meili who in 1997 was charged with violating Swiss law by leaking documents from the megabank HBS that the Swiss authorities had taken possession of and had labeled as ‘classified’. He came with his family to the US to escape prosecution from the Swiss authorities.

Not only did the US not return him to Switzerland to face charges, but they passed a special law granting him and his family immediate permanent residency in the US.

Congress determined that although Meili did “not meet the necessary criteria for permanent residency under any existing categories” under U.S. law, that Meili nevertheless deserved sanctuary in the United States. Therefore Congress passed a special law, Private Law 105-1 that granted Meili, his wife, and his children permanent residency in the United States “[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law.”

Senator Charles Grassley, who said of Edward Snowden, “I believe that whatever the law requires, just like anybody that breaks the law, [Snowden] needs to be prosecuted” and that “I suppose it gets down to – did he break a law? – I think it’s pretty obvious he did”, was saying something quite different back in 1997.

The situation we have here with Mr. Meili, albeit everything that he has brought to our attention has worldwide implications, but a person like him acted out of bravery, or maybe the bravery comes after he has acted because he has had to withstand the mental torture of what has gone on since then. But it reminds me of a lot of things that happen in our own Government, and I realize his is a private sector situation, but I like to think that we keep our Federal Government honest when we have people in our Government who, when something is wrong, will be willing to come forward and say what is wrong.

We speak of these people in our Government as whistleblowers. Maybe, originally, that was to denigrate them, but as far as I am concerned the word “whistleblower” is a description of somebody who wants to seek the truth, who wants to make sure that all of the facts and circumstances are known so that a wrong can be corrected.

Ah, those were the days. But silly me, there I go again, expecting our political leaders to act on principle and not on self-serving expediency.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    Prof. Singham just doesn’t understand. Snowden is not a whistleblower, he’s a traitor. That would be the position of Grassley and Graham anyway.

  2. jamessweet says

    Senator Charles Grassley, who said of Edward Snowden, “I believe that whatever the law requires, just like anybody that breaks the law, [Snowden] needs to be prosecuted” and that “I suppose it gets down to – did he break a law? – I think it’s pretty obvious he did”, was saying something quite different back in 1997.

    I guess somebody’s never heard of “prosecutorial discretion”?

    As I have said previously in comments on this blog (and gotten flamed a bit for it from a few folks, though not from level heads like Mano) it’s pretty freakin’ obvious that Snowden broke the law. That the actions he was disclosing were also arguably illegal does not change that reality: It may make Snowden’s actions moral (as I happen to believe*) but it doesn’t change their legal status.

    But to argue that every legal infraction must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law is insane. It is trivial to think of examples where the manifestly moral action requires violating the law, and where any prosecutor who chose to bring a case would be deemed unhinged at best, and maliciously evil at worst. Suppose I see someone who has passed out on railroad tracks and a train is approaching, though it will be some minutes before it arrives — plenty of time to save the person’s life. In order to drag them off the tracks, I have to step on the rails. In the aftermath, should I be ticketed for violating the local Ways and Means statute?

    That’s just stupid. Yes, Snowden broke the law. That does not end the debate on whether he should be prosecuted. To pretend that it does is just dodging the argument altogether.

    * Disclaimer: As I’ve also said previously, I’m a little mixed on Snowden’s revelations of state-on-state spying. I don’t know if those leaks were the right thing to do or not… but the state-on-citizen spying, I have absolutely no question that he did the right thing in leaking it.

  3. Acolyte of Sagan says

    But silly me, there I go again, expecting our political leaders to act on principle and not on self-serving expediency.

    Just a little consistency from them would be a start.
    But then again, as sic 1 pointed out, Snowden is seen as a traitor and therefore an enemy of the United States (maybe Will Smith can play him in the film?).

  4. says

    Senator Charles Grassley, who said of Edward Snowden, “I believe that whatever the law requires, just like anybody that breaks the law, [Snowden] needs to be prosecuted”

    So he’s pushing for Obama, Holder, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Clapper, etc to be prosecuted? I didn’t hear about him doing that…

  5. bmiller says

    Of course THESE days, when the U.S. government acts in collusion with the U.K. to protect the international criminal conspiracy that is money center banking, Meili would probably get the full drone strike treatment!

  6. bmiller says

    Dittos for Marcus. I thought the exact same thoughts. But then, as we all know, the laws don’t apply to our sociopathic elites. Laws are only for the little people.

  7. slc1 says

    I didn’t state it well. Snowden is considered a traitor by the folks like Grassley and Graham and their ilk in the Congress. It is also probably the position of the administration. I agree with Ranum that it should be adjudicated in a court of law. Somehow I doubt that, in the event the government gets its hands on Snowden that there will ever be a trial.

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