Advocacy letter

Letter to Obama to stop the prosecution of Snowden

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06 Aug 2013


This content is available in: Arabic, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian


Dear President Obama,

We are writing to you as free speech and media freedom organisations from around the world to express our strong concern over the response of the US government to the actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden. We urge you to take immediate action to protect whistleblowers and journalists. 

Edward Snowden’s recent disclosures have triggered a necessary and long-delayed public debate about the acceptable boundaries of surveillance in a democratic country, a debate that on 5 June you welcomed having. The revelations brought into question the legitimacy of the secretive process of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and closed Congressional intelligence committees as appropriate forums to determine the fundamental human rights of Americans and persons worldwide. The disclosures have clearly served the public interest, including by prompting similar debates in countries around the world.

We are, therefore, dismayed that criminal charges have been filed against Snowden, including those under the vague and overbroad Espionage Act of 1917. Statements by the State Department that Snowden is not a whistleblower simply because of the nature of the charges against him flatly contradict international standards on freedom of expression and information. Attempts to obstruct Snowden’s freedom of movement, his right to seek asylum, including the revocation of his passport, and other forms of retaliation also violate US obligations under international law.

Moreover, we are concerned that the charges against Snowden are not an isolated incident, and that there have been an unprecedented number of prosecutions against whistleblowers during your administration, as well as intrusive investigations to identify the sources of journalists reporting on matters that are in the public interest. This tendency of the US government towards obsessively controlling information flows and an aversion to public discourse is both undemocratic and unsustainable in the digital era.

Taken together, we find that these actions have set a dangerous precedent for the protection of whistleblowers and journalists worldwide. As you are aware, whistleblowers often face criminal charges when they reveal information that causes acute embarrassment to governments, to distract from the wrongdoing revealed. Similarly, journalists are also attacked for publishing the disclosed information. We are seriously concerned that governments will rely on the US example to justify attacks on whistleblowers and journalists who put themselves at significant risk to expose or report government wrongdoing, corruption, or other dangers to society.

The US has a long history of recognising the important role whistleblowers play in democracy, going back to Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Law, the False Claims Act. While the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 built upon these protections, they specifically exclude protections for public interest disclosures of national security or intelligence information. While the recent Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-19 on “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information” and Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protecting reporters’ privilege are both positive, as policy they are not binding law and provide no legal protection or remedy for whistleblowers or journalists seeking to defend information disclosures. Greater legal protections in this area are therefore needed.

We call on your administration to take the following actions:

  • Drop the charges with prejudice against Edward Snowden
  • Immediately reinstate Edward Snowden’s passport and cease attempts to obstruct his right to seek asylum in any country of his choice
  • Initiate an executive public consultation on the activities of the National Security Agency
  • Instruct the Justice Department to declassify and make public all orders issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, upon their completion
  • Commit to seeking the adoption through Congress of an extension of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and the reform of the Espionage Act to ensure there are appropriate and legally binding protections for whistleblowers disclosing national security and intelligence information
  • Continue to support the adoption by Congress of a strong and robust “media shield law” with narrow exemptions for national security information.

Yours sincerely,

  1. ARTICLE 19 (International)

  2. ACCUN - Tunisian Digital Culture (Tunisia)

  3. ActiveWatch (Romania)

  4. Afghanistan Journalists Center (Afghanistan)

  5. Africa Freedom of Information Centre (Uganda)

  6. Ain-O-Shalish Kendra (Bangladesh)

  7. Albanian Helsinki Committee (Albania)

  8. Albanian Media Institute (Albania)

  9. Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (Indonesia)

  10. Alliance National Timor Leste for International Tribunal (ANTI) (Timor Leste)

  11. Alternative Informatics Association (Turkey)

  12. ANDI - Communication and Rights (Brazil)

  13. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) (Asia)

  14. Asociacion por los Derechos Civiles (Argentina)

  15. Associação Brasileira de Centros de Inclusão Digital - ABCID (Brazil)

  16. Association "Yakadha" for democracy and Civil State (Tunisia)

  17. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (Egypt)

  18. Association for Progressive Communications (International)

  19. Association of Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement  (Ukraine)

  20. ATL MST/SIDA (Tunisia)

  21. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (Bahrain)

  22. Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (Kosovo)

  23. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) (India)

  24. Bolo Bhi (Pakistan)

  25. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)

  26. Burma Partnership (Burma)

  27. Bytes for All (Pakistan)

  28. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) (Cambodia)

  29. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (Canada)

  30. Cartoonists Rights Network International (International)

  31. Catalan PEN (Spain)

  32. Center for Development and Democratization of Institutions (Albania)

  33. Center for Independent Journalism (Romania)

  34. Center for National and International Studies (Azerbaijan)

  35. Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)

  36. Centre for Independent Journalism (Malaysia)

  37. Centre for Internet and Society (India)

  38. Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada)

  39. Centre for Participatory Research and Development (Bangladesh)

  40. Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública (Uruguay)

  41. Centro de Cultura Luiz Freire (Brazil)

  42. Centro de Estudos da Mídia Alternativa Barão de Itararé (Brazil)

  43. Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (CERIGUA) (Guatemala)

  44. Centro Internacional de Estudios Superiores de Comunicación para América Latina (CIESPAL) (Ecuador)

  45. Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (Mexico)

  46. ChangeMaker (Bangladesh)

  47. Christian Media Network (South Korea)

  48. Civil Coalition for the Defence of Freedom of Expression (Tunisia)

  49. COAST (Bangladesh)

  50. Computer professionals for peace and social responsibility (FIfF) (Germany)

  51. Derechos Digitales (Chile)

  52. Digitalcourage e.V. (Germany)

  53. Electronic Frontier Finland (Finland)

  54. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) (USA)

  55. English PEN (UK)

  56. Equity BD (Bangladesh)

  57. Finnish PEN (Finland)

  58. Föreningen för Digitala Fri- och Rättigheter (Sweden)

  59. Foro de Periodismo Argentino (Argentina)

  60. Foundation for Regional Initiatives (Ukraine)

  61. Freedom of information and expression - Marroco (Morocco)

  62. Freedom of the Press Foundation (USA)

  63. Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (Foundation for Press Freedom) (Colombia)

  64. Gambia Press Union

  65. German PEN Centre (Germany)

  66. Globe International Center (Mongolia)

  67. Government Accountability Project (GAP) (USA)

  68. GPOPAI - Grupo de Pesquisa em Políticas Públicas para o Acesso à Informação da Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil)

  69. Grupo Medios y Sociedad (GMS) (Uruguay)

  70. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly - Vanadzor (Armenia)

  71. Helsinki committee of Armenia (Armenia)

  72. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)

  73. Hong Kong Journalists Association (Hong Kong)

  74. Human Rights Center (Uganda)

  75. Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan)

  76. Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan)

  77. Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania)

  78. Human Rights Network for Journalists (Uganda)

  79. Imparsial- The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Indonesia)

  80. Independent Journalism Center (Moldova)

  81. Index on Censorship (UK)

  82. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) (Indonesia)

  83. Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Turkey)

  84. INSEC- Informal Sector Service Center (Nepal)

  85. Institute for Contemporary Social and Political Studies (Slovenia)

  86. Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information (Indonesia)

  87. Institute of Mass Information (Ukraine)

  88. Instituto Bem-Estar Brasil (Brazil)

  89. International Youth Human Rights Movement (Russia)

  90. Intervozes (Brazil)

  91. IPHR - International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)

  92. Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense Association  (Iraq)

  93. IT-Politisk Forening (Denmark)

  94. Judicial System Monitoring Program (JSMP) (Timor Leste)

  95. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (Kazakhstan)

  96. KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) (Indonesia)

  97. KRF Public Alternative (Ukraine)

  98. La Quadrature du Net (France)

  99. Law and Society Trust (LST) (Sri Lanka)

100. Law, Internet and Society Nucleous - University of São Paulo (Brazil)

101. MADA Center (Palestine)

102. Mass Media Defence Centre (Russia)

103. Media Defence - Southeast Asia (MDSEA)   (Asia)

104. Media Institute of Southern Africa (South Africa)

105. Media Rights Agenda (Nigeria)

106. Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia)

107. Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia)

108. National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) (Somalia)

109. National Union of Tunisian Journalists SNJT (Tunisia)

110. New Zealand PEN Centre (New Zealand)

111. Nigeria Union of Journalists

112. Norwegian PEN (Norway)

113. Notabene (Tajikistan)

114. Odhikar (Bangladesh)

115. Open Rights Group (UK)

116. Pakistan Press Foundation (Pakistan)

117. Panoptykon Foundation (Poland)

118. Panos Eastern Africa (East Africa)

119. Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (Nigeria)

120. PEN Canada (Canada)

121. PEN Center USA (USA)

122. PEN International (International)

123. PEN International's Swiss Romand Center (Switzerland)

124. PEN Melbourne (Australia)

125. PEN Palestine (Palestine)

126. PEN Turkey Centre (Turkey)

127. People in Need (Czech Republic)

128. People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (Center for Whistleblowers Support)  (South Korea)

129. People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) (India)

130. Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (PIDHDD) (Ecuador)

131. Portuguese PEN Centre (Portugal)

132. Press Union and Audiovisual of Djibouti (SPAD) (Djibouti)

133. Privacy International (International)

134. Pro Media (Macedonia)

135. Public Association "Journalists" (Kyrgyzstan)

136. Reporters Without Borders (France)

137. Russian PEN (Russia)

138. Samoa Observer (Samoa)

139. Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) (Canada)

140. San Miguel PEN center (Mexico)

141. Scottish PEN (UK)

142. SonTusDatos (Mexico)

143. South African PEN Centre (South Africa)

144. South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (Europe)

145. SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia) (Malaysia)

146. Swiss German PEN Center  (Switzerland)

147. Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) (Taiwan)

148. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition (Tanzania)

149. The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (Azerbaijan)

150. Think Centre (Singapore)

151. Tunis Centre for Freedom of the Press (Tunisia)

152. Tunisian  engineers  council  (Tunisia)

153. Tunisian Association of Women Lawyer (Tunisia)

154. Tunisian Union of Free Radios STRL (Tunisia)

155. Uganda Journalists Union (Uganda)

156. Union of Independent Newspapers (Tunisia)

157. Vrijschrift (Netherlands)

158. West African Journalists Association (West Africa)

159. World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) (International)

160. Associação Nacional para o Software Livre (Portugal)



Präsident Barack Obama

Das Weiße Haus

Washington, DC

Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika


Generalstaatsanwalt Eric Holder

Außenminister John Kerry

August 2013

Sehr geehrter Präsident Obama,

wir schreiben Ihnen als Organisationen, die sich weltweit für die Freiheit des Wortes und der Medien einsetzen, um unsere große Sorge auszudrücken, die wir im Hinblick auf die Reaktion der US- Regierung gegenüber den Handlungen des Whistleblowers Edward Snowden empfinden. Wir fordern Sie dazu auf, umgehend Maßnahmen zum Schutz von Whistleblowern und Journalisten zu ergreifen. 

Edward Snowdens jüngste Enthüllungen haben eine dringend notwendige und längst überfällige öffentliche Debatte über die akzeptablen Grenzen der Überwachung in einem demokratischen Staat entfacht; eine Debatte, deren Aufkommen Sie am 5. Juni begrüßt haben. Die Enthüllungen stellten die Legitimation der geheimen Verfahren des Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court und  der geheimen Congressional intelligence committees als geeignete Foren, um die fundamentalen Menschenrechte von Amerikanern und Menschen auf der ganzen Welt zu bestimmen, in Frage. Die Enthüllungen dienen ohne Zweifel dem öffentlichen Interesse, einschließlich der Tatsache, dass sie den Anstoß für ähnliche Debatten in Ländern rund um den Globus liefern.

Wir sind deshalb darüber bestürzt, dass Anklage gegen Snowden erhoben wurde, die sich teilweise auf das vage und überholte Spionagegesetz von 1917 stützt.

Aussagen des Außenministeriums, dass Snowden schlicht aufgrund der Art der erhobenen Anklagepunkte kein Whistleblower sei, widersprechen eindeutig internationalen Standards der freien Information und Meinungsäußerung. Versuche, Snowdens Bewegungsfreiheit einzuschränken, sein Recht auf die Beantragung von Asyl zu behindern, einschließlich der Annullierung seines Reisepasses und andere Formen von Vergeltungsmaßnahmen, verletzen ebenfalls Pflichten der Vereinigten Staaten, die sich aus internationalem Recht ergeben.

Außerdem sind wir besorgt, dass die Anklage gegen Snowden keinen Einzelfall darstellt, sondern  dass es in Ihrer Amtszeit eine beispiellose Zahl von Verfolgungen von Whistleblowern gibt, sowie intensive Untersuchungen, deren Ziel die Entlarvung der Quellen von Journalisten ist, die über Angelegenheiten von öffentlichem Interesse berichten. Diese Tendenz der US-Regierung, Informationsflüsse obsessiv zu kontrollieren, und die Aversion gegen öffentliche Diskurse sind undemokratisch und unhaltbar im digitalen Zeitalter.

Wir sind der Meinung, dass diese Handlungen einen gefährlichen Präzedenzfall in der Frage des Schutzes von Whistleblowern und Journalisten weltweit geschaffen haben. Wie Ihnen bewusst ist, sehen sich Whistleblower häufig Anklagen gegenüber, wenn sie Informationen an die Öffentlichkeit geben, die Regierungen in akute Verlegenheit bringen – wodurch vom aufgedeckten Fehlverhalten abgelenkt wird. In ähnlicher Weise werden Journalisten für die Veröffentlichung der enthüllten Informationen angegriffen. Wir sind in ernster Sorge, dass Regierungen sich auf das US-Beispiel berufen werden, um Angriffe auf Whistleblower und Journalisten zu rechtfertigen, die sich selbst einem erheblichen Risiko ausgesetzt haben, um das Fehlverhalten von Regierungen, Korruption und andere Gefahren für die Gesellschaft zu aufzudecken.

Die USA besitzen eine lange Tradition, die wichtige Rolle, die Whistleblower in Demokratien spielen, anzuerkennen, beginnend mit einem Gesetz Abraham Lincolns von 1863, dem False Claims Act. Obwohl der Whistleblower Protection Act von 2009 auf der Grundlage dieser Schutzmaßnahmen entwickelt wurde, schließt er Enthüllungen von Informationen der nationalen Sicherheit oder des Geheimdienstes aus diesem Schutz aus, selbst wenn diese von öffentlichem Interesse sind. Obschon die kürzlich veröffentlichte Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-19 zum “Schutz von Whistleblowern mit Zugang zu Geheiminformationen” und Generalstaatsanwalt Eric Holders Anleitung zum Schutz der Privilegien von Reportern positiv zu bewerten sind, stellen sie kein bindendes Gesetz und somit keinen juristischen Schutz  dar für Whistleblower und Journalisten, die Enthüllung von Informationen zu verteidigen suchen. Stärkere juristische Schutzmaßnahmen werden daher in diesem Bereich benötigt.

Wir fordern Ihre Regierung dazu auf, folgende Schritte zu unternehmen:

  • Lassen Sie alle Anklagepunkte gegen Edward Snowden rechtskräftig fallen
  • Stellen Sie die Gültigkeit von Edward Snowdens Reisepass unverzüglich wieder her und beenden Sie die Versuche, sein Recht auf die Beantragung von Asyl in einem Land seiner Wahl zu behindern
  • Initiieren Sie eine öffentliche Anhörung wegen der Aktivitäten der National Security Agency (NSA)
  • Beauftragen Sie das Justizministerium, alle Anweisungen des Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act freizugeben und zu veröffentlichen.
  • Verpflichten Sie den Kongress, den  Whistleblower Protection Act zu erweitern und eine Reform des Spionagegesetzes anzustreben, um sicherzustellen, dass es angemessene und juristisch bindende Schutzmaßnahmen für Whistleblower gibt, die Informationen der nationalen Sicherheit und des Geheimdienstes enthüllen. 
  • Unterstützen Sie weiterhin die Anpassung eines starken und robusten “media shield law” durch den Kongress mit engen Ausnahmeregelungen für Informationen, die die nationale Sicherheit betreffen.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen,


Sayın Başkan Obama,

ABD hükümeti olarak Edward Snowden'in sızdırma eylemine verdiğiniz tepki karşısında büyük kaygı içindeyiz. Bunu ifade etmek üzere dünyanın her yanından konuşma ve medya özgürlüğü örgütleri olarak size yazıyoruz. Acilen sızdırıcıları ve gazetecileri koruyacak bir adım atmanızda ısrarcıyız.

Edward Snowden'in son ifşaatları, demokratik bir ülkede gözetim yapmanın makul sınırları üzerine çok gecikmiş ve çok gerekli bir tartışmayı tetikledi, ki 5 Haziran'da siz de bunu ifade ediyordunuz. İşbu ifşaatla, Amerikalıların ve dünyada var olan diğer kişilerin temel insan haklarının Dış İstihbarat Mahkemesi ve gizli Kongre istihbarat komitelerinde üstü örtülü bir şekilde tartışılmasının meşruiyeti şüphe uyandırdı. Belgeler dünyada ABD haricinde var olan diğer ülkelerde de benzeri tartışmalar yaratarak açıkça kamu faydasına hizmet etti.

İşte bu yüzden Snowden'e çeşitli suçlar isnat etmeniz, özellikle de 1917 tarihli ve anlaşılmaz genişlikteki Casusluk Yasası altında onu suçlamanız, canımızı oldukça sıkmaktadır. Dışişleri Bakanlığı'nın "Snowden sızdırıcı değil" açıklaması, sırf ona isnat ettiğiniz suçların doğası nedeniyle ifade ve bilgi özgürlüğünde uluslararası standartların açık bir ihlalidir. Snowden'in hareket özgürlüğünü, pasaportundan vazgeçmek pahasına iltica arama hakkını engellemeniz ve diğer tüm misilleme girişimleriniz ABD adına uluslararası gerekliliklerin ihlalidir.

Ayrıca Snowden'e yaptığınız suçlamaların tekil bir olay olmadığını, yönetiminiz altında daha önce hiç olmadığı kadar sızdırıcının tutuklandığını, hatta kamuoyunun önemsediği konularda yazan gazetecilerin kaynaklarını belirlemeye dönük tavizkâr soruşturmalar yaptığınızı görüyoruz. ABD hükümeti olarak bilgi akışlarını denetleme saplantınız ve kamuoyu söylemine duyduğunuz nefret, dijital çağda ne demokratiktir ne de sürdürülebilir bir eğilimdir.

Toparlayacak olursak, yaptığınız şeylerin dünyanın ABD dışındaki kısımlarında bulunan sızdırıcı ve gazetecilerin korunması açısından da tehlike yarattığına inanıyoruz. Biliyoruz ki sızdırıcılar hükümetlerin ayıplarını sergileyen bilgiler açıkladıklarında, çoğu zaman, dikkat dağıtarak bu ayıbı örtmeyi amaçlayan suç isnatlarıyla karşılaşırlar. Bunun gibi, gazeteciler de açıklanan bilgileri yayınladıkları için saldırıya uğrarlar. Esas büyük endişemiz, dünyada ABD haricinde var olan diğer hükümetlerin de ABD emsaliyle gerekçelendirerek, hükümet ayıplarını, yolsuzlukları ve o ülkeler açısından diğer ne tehlike varsa onları açığa çıkarmak uğruna belirgin hayati riskler almaktan geri durmayan sızdırıcılara ve gazetecilere saldırmalarıdır.

ABD'nin uzun tarihinde sızdırıcıların demokraside oynadıkları önemli rolün kabul edilmesi vardır, Abraham Lincoln'ün 1863 Yasası, Yalan İddia Yasası vardır. 2012 tarihinde çıkan Sızdırıcıları Koruma ve Güçlendirme Yasası bu tarihsel zırhların üzerine geçirilmiş de olsa, bu yeni yasa milli güvenlik ve istihbarata ilişkin bilgileri, kamuoyu zararına ve özel olarak hariç tutmakta. Yakın zamanda "Gizli Bilgilere Erişen Sızdırıcıların Korunması" üzerine Başkanlık Politika Direktifi/PPD-19 ve başsavcı Eric Holder'ın "gazetecileri ayrıcalıkları korunsun" gibi tavsiyeler olumluymuş gibiyse de, yasal bir bağlayıcılık taşımıyor ve bilgi ifşaatlarını korumak isteyen sızdırıcılar ve gazeteciler için hiçbir hukuki koruma sağlamıyor. Bu yüzden bu alanda daha kapsamlı yasal korumaya ihtiyaç var.

Tüm bu nedenlerle yönetiminizi şu eylemlerde bulunmaya çağırıyoruz:

Edward Snowden'e karşı önyargılı suçlamalarınızdan vazgeçin

Edward Snowden'in pasaportunu derhal yenileyin ve istediği ülkeye iltica etme hakkını engelleme girişimlerinden vaz geçin

  • Milli Güvenlik Ajansı'nın faaliyetleri konusunda kamusal bir danışma girişimi başlatın
  • Adalet Bakanlığı'nın Dış İstihbarat Gözetim Yasası altındaki bütün emirleri üzerindeki gizliliği kaldırın ve bunların tamamını açıklayın
  • Sızıntı Koruma ve Geliştirme Yasası'na Kongre aracılığıyla ekleme yaparak ve Casusluk Yasası'nı reforme ederek milli güvenlik ve istihbarat bilgisi açıklayan sızdırıcıların yasal anlamda yeterli ve makul koruma altına alınmasını sağlayın
  • Milli güvenlik bilgilerine dair dar kapsamlı istisnalar barındıran, güçlü ve sağlam bir "medya zırhı yasası" çıkmasını Kongre aracılığıyla destekleyin