One of the most recent additions to Berlin’s unofficial political exile club is Kiwi activist, citizen journalist and blogger Suzie Dawson (better known as @endarken).
On 4th July she was interviewed at length by the ‘Occupy America Social Network’s podcast about her recent articles about Edward Snowden, alongside many other topical and interesting issues.
If you want to listen to it, the full podcast is available here. (Easier to download & playback than to stream). If you prefer to read what was said, a preliminary transcript of the 63-minute interview is provided below.
Host: Terry Bain (@TWBainusW / Terry’s Official Website )
Guest: Suzie Dawson (@Suzi3D / Suzie’s Official Website )
HOST: Hi and welcome back to another edition of Occupy America Social Network and this is Episode 42, this is Occupy Independence Forever! Which is a quote from the 2nd American President John Adams. That was his quote – this is our Independence Day, and I’m really delighted to be talking to somebody who can give us a more broad picture – Suzie, can you introduce yourself please?
GUEST: Sure. Thanks so much Terry for having me on the show. My name is Suzie Dawson, I’m a citizen journalist from Occupy Auckland Media Team in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m also a blogger on a variety of independent platforms and an old friend of you, through the wonders of the internet!
HOST: Great talking to you. I want to go ahead, we’ve got a billion things to try to cover and not much time. You’ve got three stories that I think that people will get a kick out of, our listeners and we’ll start off with probably the most important one – help us out here, with Mr. Snowden.
GUEST: There’s been so much happening with Snowden recently, I’m looking forward to talking about that. Also I just want to quickly say Happy Independence Day because I know it is 4th July for you, and also your 4th July show. I saw an awesome tweet go out yesterday, a photo, a Stand With Snowden pic featuring Jesselyn Radack, Edward Snowden’s lawyer; William Binney; Thomas Drake; Laura Poitras, Diani Barreto and James Bamford. That really inspired me too because recently – I’m in Berlin – I got to meet some of those people, on June 7th at the #qvdemocracy event here, I got to meet Jess Radack, Sarah Harrison, Thomas Drake and Diani Barreto which was an amazing experience because these are people I’ve written about and kept a close eye on for years but to actually get to see them in the flesh and get some really good vibes from them was amazing.
HOST: I’ve never actually had the chance to talk to them; I have reservations and we’ve talked about this before; I have a quote from Mr. Snowden and it goes to the heart of why I’m having trouble finding a way of being able to use his information. Do you have that quote?
GUEST: It was Bloomberg, right?
HOST: Bloomberg, yes. It was a Snowden quote, hopefully, or they may have misquoted him.
GUEST: I don’t have the quote in front of me unfortunately, but I think what you’re talking about is where he was saying that the journalists who he passed the information to, actually run it past certain government representatives before they release it.
HOST: Yes, basically to paraphrase, he only released it to ‘responsible journalists’ – and I’m not sure you and I would be classified as responsible journalists! And the second point was, in coordination with government stakeholders. And again, if the government stakeholders were acting responsibly, we wouldn’t be needing whistleblowers! Help us out here – how do we use the information – what’s the middle line here?
GUEST: I totally agree with you, however, on the other side, I think that Snowden is kind of damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, because there’s really two positions that are diametrically opposed. The one position is that, he’s trying to do the responsible thing; he’s trying to make sure that no ones life or limb is endangered by the release of this information. He wants to show that there’s some process to guarantee that. But the other option would be to dump it all to Wikileaks and have it all come out at once. I think the way he’s doing it now has the positive side of appealing to more of the mainstream as being a responsible tactic in releasing the information, but then there’s the downside which is the critics who are saying ‘it’s not coming out fast enough’ and as you say, are these government representatives actually responsible enough to be making decisions about, or having input about, whether or not the information should be released? But then if he had just dumped it all through Wikileaks it would flip to the other side – people would say ‘oh that’s irresponsible to just give it all to Wikileaks, it’s irresponsible to dump it all out in one go’ but then some people would say ‘no it’s really great, because now it’s all in the public domain’ so I kind of feel like no matter what way he had gone about releasing this information, there was going to be some sector of people that is upset with him.
HOST: I totally agree, and also what we’re going to address here shortly is some of the psychological warfare being used to discredit him, which is pretty obvious. But there is one other thing on the slow-motion release which I wanted to touch on – which was a former show guest, Stanley Cohen, kept requesting information because he had defendants who needed that information, if there was anything on it. It’s a little late for Mr. Cohen to work on it because right now he is also a political prisoner. Where’s the balance on this too? We’re about 5 minutes out of the first 20 minutes, can you touch on that?
GUEST: I think it was primarily a resource issue. First Look Media wasn’t an established organisation when Snowden leaked the information to the journalists. They’ve had to build this media organisation to get these releases out, and in doing so that’s allowed them to circumvent, or to not have to be entirely dependent upon the mainstream outlets, like the New York Times or whoever else, who seemed to be interested in some big stories at the beginning, and to be fair have been more recently, but were clearly not going to consistently report on every document that was released. So I think they did the right thing in building a new media organisation from the ground up. I think a lot more reporting has come out as a result and I think that puts pressure on the mainstream media internationally to do more reporting on the releases. But I don’t think they ever had the resources at the outset to be able to just pull information out for specific individuals or for specific purposes. At the end of the day, he handed over documents, not necessarily a searchable database. I think that is something that’s beginning to happen now – what was .pdf images and image files eventually will be searchable text and then perhaps people will be able to sort through that information a lot more easily but unfortunately I don’t think it was viable for that to happen from the outset.
HOST: We’ve got about 13 minutes left in this first segment; if you would, please talk about the article that you did, that’s showing the obvious mainstream media – which is actually no longer the mainstream media because they’ve lied so much that people don’t trust them anymore – we are now the mainstream media! But obviously there’s some discrediting going on and please go into that – that was the dinosaur article, we’ll have a link up on it.
GUEST: On Contraspin, I published an article called ‘Debunking the Dinosaurs; Dismantling Snowden’s Detractors’ where I deconstructed a 15-point Twitter diatribe by Boston Globe and London Observer columnist Michael Cohen, who had pretty much ripped into Snowden and into Glenn Greenwald, for a number of reasons and I break these down in that article. Particularly of note, I discuss that what ultimately convinces me of Snowden’s authenticity isn’t his supporters – it’s not Glenn Greenwald, or Jess Radack or everyone else – I mean, they’re great, but that’s not what really proves to me his efficacy. What does prove it to me is the way that the establishment is attacking him, and the methods that they are using, because they are using the exact same deny, degrade, distract, disrupt, destroy playbook against him that his own revelations show are being used against every other activist. Everything I’ve experienced and seen happen to others over the last nearly four years, is precisely what is being done to Snowden. The same sock puppet accounts with the uniform negative narratives about him, the disparagements that they make. Then when you start to look at the cast of political characters that have been trotted out to discredit him, it’s Cheney, it’s Clinton, it’s Hayden, it’s current and past directors of this, that and the other government agency. Not only that but these are the people who were behind the disinformation about the Iraq War. These are literally the disinformation dinosaurs. The fact that the full weight of their departments is being used to discredit him and that the methodology is exactly the same as the discrediting of the Occupy movement, or pick any other movement, they’ve had the same thing happen to them, that is really telling. To me, it is so much more credible that they’re using that playbook against him the same as they do against us, than the obscure theory that’s out there that somehow Snowden is a CIA disinfo op and somehow President Putin is involved or complicit in it with the Americans; to me that just makes no sense. There’s been a very genuine attempt to starve out Russia economically through sanctions. There’s no way that the assaults on the Russian economy are part of some grand scheme to pretend that they’re at war with each other when they’re actually not. Those sanctions were used against Iraq and other countries long before they were used on Russia. It’s very clear to me also that Russia and China are seen by the U.S. as the greatest so-called threats to them in the cyberwar and that’s what the U.S.A. policy is really all about. So I don’t believe for one second that Russia and the U.S. are in bed together to try to put Snowden out as a disinfo op. It just makes no sense when you look at the facts.
HOST: There’s a historian by the name of… he wrote a book called ‘The Best Enemy Money Can Buy’ and we’ll have a link to it, in an online version that can be read. It comes down to, Wall Street is basically backing both sides. They make money off of both sides. It’s the economic view of history. We could do an entire show and should do an entire show on it later. We haven’t got time in the last 6 minutes we’ve got in this section but could you touch on – you’ve actually, because of going to Germany, you’ve got a feel for them personally and maybe you can help us try to sort out, how do we… at the same time we don’t trust them completely, but we should be able to work with the information. Is it a verifiable fact? How do we do this?
GUEST: I think it’s quite hard when you’re detached – whether it’s geographically detached, like I was in New Zealand, or as the average viewer is, but when they watch the videos or read the articles, it’s the same methods of transmitting information that the mainstream media use – video journalism and print journalism. So it’s quite easy to view it with the same critical eye that you would with the mainstream media, who clearly don’t tell the truth all the time if any of the time to be frank. But actually having met them in person, which I never expected to happen, there was no coordination surrounding that whatsoever, it just happened to occur for me. Meeting them in person, I realised that they really are just ordinary people. I just got amazing vibes from all of them. They talked to me very personally especially Thomas Drake, about his story and the things that happened to him and every single thing that he was telling me was matching up with everything I’d experienced in Auckland. Again, it’s the same methodology – the same tactics, the same playbook – that have been used against these people as have been used against all of us grassroots activists. So yet again that really hammered home for me that these are real people who are speaking out about their experiences, it is not scripted at all. And Ellsberg – you and I had had some discussion I think from something Doug Valentine had written about Daniel Ellsberg where he suspected that Ellsberg might have not been forthright about how the Pentagon Papers came to be released. I saw and stood right next to Daniel Ellsberg on several occasions on that day and I was really struck by the fact that this is a guy in his 80’s. This is not a guy who’s pre-retirement, who’s trotting out around the globe pushing a government line. This is someone who is in his 80’s and speaking out – his entire speech was anti-nuclear. To me, a government shill is not in his middle 80’s giving speeches about nuclear weapons. That’s just not what happens. If he was truly a government shill pushing a government agenda, in his 80’s he would be retired in his mansion on Cape Cod with his feet up on a lounge chair. There’s no way he would be out traveling and giving really important political speeches that directly contravene America’s nuclear interests, right? He’s literally talking about the inherent insanity of nuclear warfare no matter which country it is that’s perpetrating it. Anti-nuclear issues are really, really core, especially in New Zealand. We rejected the ANZUS treaty in the eighties because we wanted to create a nuclear-free zone. I know first-hand how contentious that kind of activism has been and how much heat was on those anti-nuclear activists. So the fact that Daniel Ellsberg has the wherewithal to be talking about issues that contentious at his advanced age I think also lends to his personal efficacy. I find it very difficult to believe that the U.S. government would send someone of his age around to do that. I don’t see where they stand to gain from it.
HOST: That being said, Doug had raised a specific, assured point. I think when you checked into it, there was a good point that he was raising. At least that’s my understanding.
GUEST: Right, what he was saying is that Daniel Ellsberg was a CIA agent and not just a Department of Defense or Pentagon person. It was interesting because I instantly started to research that because I thought ‘I’m sure that’s not the case’. So I started to look into it and I actually found an Ellsberg interview where he talks about the government, in the wake of his release of the Pentagon Papers, as he described it, that the government tried to ‘Valerie Plame’ him. Valerie Plame of course being the CIA officer whose name was leaked, I think it was by Dick Cheney’s office wasn’t it? Back in the wake of the Iraq War? I think her husband had dissented in some way and to get back at him, they had leaked her name to reporters. So the fact that he used those words, that they had tried to Valerie Plame him, tells me that – yes he was a CIA officer, right? Cos Valerie Plame was a CIA officer. So if they tried to Valerie Plame him, what they were trying to do is to use the fact that he was a CIA officer to discredit his release of the Pentagon Papers. So, that again is a tactic that the same group of disinformation dinosaurs uses to discredit people. Then when you look at Snowden – Snowden also says he was in the CIA. So you have to ask yourself, does being a part of a military service then discredit you from ever speaking out or whistle-blowing? Clearly we are better off for the Pentagon Papers and clearly we are better off for the Snowden releases, so I don’t think them purely having been CIA officers is enough to discredit them and I think the fact that their own government is willing to expose them for being covert operatives seems very convenient to their government.
HOST: I think that’s a good point. I don’t think its realistic to expect that we’re going to have perfect individuals. We’ve all got a mixture of good and bad. But at the same time, to use the information… do you see any transparency? Is there any way that we can let individuals – again, Independence Forever- let independent people, give them enough data, that they can make their own judgment as to who’s telling the truth and what the truth is. What do you see there?
GUEST: I think there’s a lot more information in the public realm now than people realise. There’s a website called Cryptome.org – they keep a tally of Snowden’s leaked documents and they’re up to over 5,000 now. There’s 5,000 pages out there. Not 5,000 documents but 5,000 pages. I think that I found about a half dozen websites that are analysing those documents, outside of the mainstream media sphere obviously, they were also listed on Cryptome. So I think there is a huge amount of information out there but people only really see what comes from the big outlets. So if people really want to participate in analysing that information, I would urge them to go and read the documents. Read those 5,000 pages. Because you can be guaranteed that for every document, for every page, that CNN turn into one story, there’s probably ten stories in that document, but without the eyes to look at it and the hands to write about it, that information might never be found. So I think rather than criticise based on appearances, people need to actually jump in boots and all, see what’s there and circulate that information. Then they’re really in more of a position to criticise I think, if they’ve done that.
HOST: There’s one other crucial point here. Again, I’m not a trusting soul as you’ve picked up, I want to be able to verify. But at the same time I 100% support that, these are political prisoners and they’re doing more time and being punished more, than the war criminals who actually created this situation, for profit, that has led to these political prisoners having to take risks. So, how do we support freeing these guys? Amnesty, or whatever? It’s just not fair for them to do more time than the people who are responsible. The Bushes. The Obamas. The list goes on and on. And again, it’s not my list. These are again, independently verifiable, that there are experts saying, you’re breaking international law. What are your thoughts there?
GUEST: There are practical things that we can do, right, like we can go and donate to the legal defense funds. I know that Chelsea Manning was needing a sum of money quite recently to continue his legal case – HER legal case I should actually say. [So sorry, Chelsea.] Same with Snowden, same with others, they have legal costs, we can help and chip in with that. But I think that strategically what we need to do is to raise the political price on the government for persecuting whistleblowers. We need to raise the same kinds of movements in support of the whistleblowers that we see in working for other issues. But that said, I think Jesselyn Radack said that it’s a long game, it’s not a short game, in terms of actually freeing them. I think she’s right and when we look historically – look at Mandela, how many years he was in prison for. Obviously his is a different case for a number of reasons but still, I don’t think that Chelsea Manning is going to be released tomorrow or next week no matter what we do. But what we can do is raise the visibility for them and we can educate people and hopefully we can inspire a whole torrent of new whistleblowers and have more and more information coming out because I think the D.O.J. is a very slow-moving beast. It’s taken them years trying to investigate Wikileaks and then every time there’s a new leak they have to start from scratch on that, so I do think it’s possible for whistleblowers to move faster than the government if there’s enough of them and if they bring out enough information.
HOST: We’re at 21 minutes into the show, we really need to move, I guess, into the second segment. It was really good – I got a laugh out of it and this stuff is so scary that being able to laugh at it really helps: the Dick Pics. Could you tell us about the story you did on the Dick Pics.
GUEST: Who didn’t get a laugh out of the Dick Pics. I actually thought it was priceless. I’ve seen so many interviews by Snowden over the years and it was definitely a one of a kind interview and I knew as soon as I saw the John Oliver interview – the ‘Dick Pics’ interview as it’s known – that it was going to go viral. It was really clear to me straight away. I think there was 300,000 views when I saw it; by the time I’d finished my article there was a million views on it; there’s now seven and a half million views on it. He did the most brilliant thing right – which is that he found the one point that would engage every single human being on the planet. Because every single human being either has a dick, or they know someone who has a dick. So, everybody feels personally invested in this topic. While on one hand people bemoan and say, ‘oh it’s really sad that we have to stoop to genital humour in order to be able to engage everybody’, but then at the same time you saw in the interviews of the general public that this really did hit home for them. This is something they can relate to because yes, they send intimate photos to their partners, and no, they don’t want the NSA looking at, and/or circulating, and/or storing forever, their intimate photos! Unfortunately that’s exactly what has been happening – they HAVE been vacuuming up everybody’s intimate photos and they do have access to them, and as Snowden said they do have a chuckle about them and/or send them to Bob down the row and that horrifies people, it completely horrifies people. Because it personalises it. It’s no longer just about the terrorists overseas somewhere, it’s about my penis, or my husband’s penis, and oh my God the NSA have a picture of it!
HOST: It really also dovetails (?) with what we were just saying – it’s not realistic to expect that these people are perfect people. These sources may have things that they don’t want to be out there but in the interests of transparency, it’s going to have to be addressed. It will be addressed. What was really, I thought the best part of Snowden’s reaction to it, was how he reacted to it. I really got a kick out of how he was dealing with the interviewer, which was of course a sham, that wasn’t a for real, but that is so close to what mainstream media and disinformation is trying to do. Can you go into that a little bit?
GUEST: Yeah, I think he handled it really well. It was nice to see him in a deep blush at a certain point there but he really did handle it so well. He did well with the off-the-cuff comments and statements. I mean, obviously he’s not a comedian like John Oliver is, but he handled the comedic aspect really, really well. His answers were brilliant. The leading questions at the end, where they actually went into each individual program and how that could capture your Dick Pic, that was just absolutely classic. It took what was highly technical information and very specialised knowledge and made it very accessible to the viewing audience. I think that needed to happen, it was overdue for that to happen. Full props to Snowden as well for actually participating and appreciating what had occurred, not being mortified by it, not being embarrassed by it but actually embracing it. And also to Greenwald and others who subsequently promoted the video and the viral nature of it. I think that was really genius on their part, to embrace this. It was clearly a huge win for them.
HOST: There are several points in here, one of them is, this stuff is scary. This is warfare. Our government has declared war against us and it’s very difficult to be afraid of something that you can laugh at. So I think the humour side of this is extremely important here. You helped us out, you did an analysis of Doug Valentine, and of the Counterinsurgency interview that we did, and basically it’s the humour that helps you get through this. Cos we were talking, when somebody looks at the tweets from that time period, it’s like the crickets chirping. No one wants to touch this and I understand that but we’re not going to get out of here by ignoring it harder. What are your thoughts on this?
GUEST: I think it’s easier for people to deal with that type of information that have seen it in person on the ground because then it’s making sense of things that didn’t make sense to them when they were going through it, so there’s a relief aspect to it. For me, when I was reading through that Counterinsurgency stuff, I was like, ‘oh my God, this is the story of everything that has happened to us for the last four years’ and all these pieces are dropping into place and it’s making sense for me. But for when a non-activist reads this stuff, they’re shocked and dismayed and they just can’t believe – ‘surely this doesn’t happen, surely our government doesn’t do this, maybe they do this in Afghanistan, surely they don’t do this in Ferguson, or Auckland, or New York City’, you know? But of course they are, and they do…
HOST: Like they do in Fergu-stan.
GUEST: Yeah, really! But I think that comedy is something that engages people and people feel good about it. So they don’t feel scared, or doubtful, they’re not doubting whether something has actually occurred, they’re actually laughing and happy and they want to show it to their friends and they want to show it to their family. I think that was a really good object lesson, I think that maybe the Counterintelligence information that is coming out is more palatable to activists than it is to the general public but I think the John Oliver interview taught us a lot about how we can get wider circulation of these issues to the general public in a way that is meaningful to them.
HOST: It’s absolutely vital that it gets out to there too. I’m really not seeing, even out of journalists – like The Intercept – I don’t see The Intercept really addressing this and we’ve got to have their help. We’ve got to have them. I don’t see them being there. Any day, now, guys!
GUEST: They’re addressing it, but they’re addressing the nitty gritty, right? They’re addressing the precise tactics of JTRIG, which is the precise unit from GCHQ that is perpetrating a lot of, at least, the online side of it. So they’re dealing with documents that are detailing the specifics of what is being done, so it’s really at a micro level. Really, operational information around targeting activists personally. So, again, that’s really key information for activists. I read that stuff and I’m like ‘oh my God, that happened to me, and that happened to this other person on my media team, and that happened to another activist that I know’ and I can relate personal situations to everything that I’m seeing in those documents, which is yet another reason I know that they are legit. However, I think, again, for non-activists, it’s harder for them to connect with that and I see what you’re saying, which is that we need the bigger picture. People need to understand the bigger picture, that this is an actual strategy that is played out at a very high level and at an international level because this is being done in New Zealand, it’s being done in the U.K. It’s being done in America. God only knows where else it’s being done, I’m sure it’s being done in Canada. Obviously all of the Five Eyes at a minimum and probably dozens more, maybe even a hundred countries in the world are having the same tactics used on it. So I think that, you’re right that The Intercept isn’t covering it at a big level, at a generic level, but then if they did they would be criticised for – how are you sourcing that? People would want them to prove the nitty gritty in order to be able to provide a bigger picture. So I think it’s a catch-22 right, where if they cover the big picture, people are going to say ‘it’s conspiracy theory’. But if they cover the nitty gritty then people are going to say ‘it’s too technical and we don’t really understand it’ and whatnot. I think it’s about more than just The Intercept. I think the responsibility lies with all of us to circulate information in the way that we can, to the people that we can. The tendency to sit back and be like ‘oh why hasn’t Greenwald done this, why hasn’t Snowden done that’ – look at what they have done. How much do you expect from these guys, seriously? They can be an expert in one thing or two things or three things or five things – but I see people saying ‘why aren’t they 9/11 truthers? Why aren’t they blah blah blah blah blah…’ – and it’s like, you can’t actually list every problem that the world has and expect Greenwald and Snowden to solve it.
HOST: That’s a good point…
GUEST: At the end of the day, people have to take responsibility for what they have a personal interest in and what issues they can contribute to.
HOST: I guess my own personal side of it is, if we don’t get some support on these issues, we’re going to disappear. It would be much more difficult for Greenwald to be disappeared, or defenestrated in the final spy game term. I don’t want to be defenestrated but if we don’t get the word out just a little bit faster, I’m not going to be around to see the end of this mess. I guess that’s my own selfish reason for saying ‘Hello? Could we pick up the pace a little bit guys?’ Do you see a way to try to accelerate this?
GUEST: I think safety comes in numbers and the more connected that we are to each other, the higher our chance of survival increases and therefore our ability to serve others and the cause increases. Having seen the transition for myself, from New Zealand, where I was very isolated. I had my media team but my media team all faced exactly the same problems as I was facing. At a very individual level, we were all targeted. We didn’t have the wider infrastructure to support us of other activists having gone through the same thing and come out the other end. Also, New Zealand is in a technology black hole so we are 10-15 years behind the rest of the world in technology, but we were being attacked with technology that is cutting-edge. Coming to Berlin where there are established structures for activists and there are places of refuge and safe-haven, and organisations, like, really well-established organisations that are well-resourced and really have their proverbial together, has just been amazing. The difference is incredible. Because you can begin to work free of that level of harassment that you face when you are more isolated. So I think that activists being isolated serves the government agenda because it allows them to be targeted and to be repressed. But the more that we coordinate and the more that we support each other, the harder it is for the governments to be able to get away with doing the kind of low-down dirty deeds to us that they are able to when we are isolated. So that for me has been the big lesson – that there is safety in numbers and there are support structures are out there, we have to find them and we have to help each other to find them. As for the general state of the world though, I feel the same way. I look at the water problems – I look at Shell drilling in the Arctic Ocean right this very day – and climate change, and everything else, and I’m just absolutely overwhelmed by it. Even Fukushima and the state of the oceans and the list just goes on and on and on and on. We are destroying this planet so rapidly and there are so many issues that if there isn’t systemic change we are ALL toast. The planet is toast. I have absolutely no doubt about that. But I do believe what you say and what you’ve told us, which is that eventually the system will cave in upon itself because it cannot sustain itself.
HOST: It always does. That is what the history is showing and that is something to try to keep a handle on. They’re losing; they’re going to lose; they always lose; but it would be nice if they would lose fast enough that I stay alive to get all the way through it. The three pillars, that we’re dealing with – the architect of that is Kilcullen and he’s from Australia. He’s quoted as saying, before they can even deploy all of these magical toys that they have and billions, maybe trillions of dollars worth of technology; before they can use any of that against us, they have to have control of information. Our control of information is specifically; we have to defend our ideology, what we believe in. We have to defend sanctuary; we have to be able to do this and be safe while we do it or at least, like you were saying, safety in numbers. There has to be safe places for us. And the third thing is – I forgot the third thing – ideology, sanctuary, and that’s right: motivation. How do we motivate ourselves? How do we continue to do this? And it’s probably a Freudian slip that I couldn’t remember the word motivation, because I want to quit! I’ve been doing this since the first week of Occupy. I’ve been scared to death since the first week of Occupy and I’m tired of being scared to death; I’m too old for this. I need to be fishing in a rocking chair!
GUEST: Well that’s a bit like what I was saying about Ellsberg, isn’t it? I mean, he should definitely be in retirement fishing in a rocking chair somewhere, but he’s trying to tell the world that nuclear weapons are insanity, and to stop the fighting. I don’t know that this is a fight that we ever can give up and retire from. I look at my older friends who came through the Springbok tour in ’81 in New Zealand and won some of the biggest political battles in the history of New Zealand activism – they’re still fighting today. Even from all the struggles they went through then – they had the same type of targeting, it was a different time, different level of technology, different resources set against them but they still went through hell. They were still individually targeted and having their lives dismantled but they won one of the biggest political battles of our time and they are still here beside us today fighting. I don’t think you ever really can retire from caring about the planet. I don’t think you ever retire from wanting life to continue for future generations. I do hear you though, I’ve definitely had what they call ‘activist burnout’ which is periods where you just don’t want to know anymore, you just need to think about yourself and regenerate a bit because it’s just too much pressure and too much stress but at the end of the day we’re guided by our conscience and my conscience always leads me back to the cause no matter what because when I see that injustice I cannot be silent and they count on our silence! That’s the whole point of what they do to us, they want to shame us and silence us. But when we are silent we become complicit. When we are silent we are protecting the perpetrators. So we have to speak out, because speaking out clears our conscience. It’s our only hope for the future, literally, and it reassigns the shame and the blame to where it belongs – which is not on us, but on those who do this and who profit from doing it.
HOST: Again, the title of this show and the theme for this show is Independence Forever – the American 1776 Independence – and specifically the ideology is what’s contained in the Declaration of Independence and the architect of that was Benjamin Franklin and Ben Franklin was less than totally humourous but I they needed a good laugh too, I’m sure! Either we all hang together or we most certainly will hang separately and that’s where we’re at. That is the three things that they’re trying to defeat us on. We have to defend ideology, sanctuary, motivation. We have to defend there. They cannot win as long as we continue to defeat – or at least to defend. We don’t even have to defend successfully. We just have to continue to defend and with that little speech out of the way, we’ve got 20 minutes left in the show. We wanted to touch base on the third article that I really got a kick out of – on the Patriot Act. You wanted to do the show Occupy Patriots but right now up here the Ku Klux Klan has occupied the term patriot. Tom Payne – another member of the original Independence Forever group – talked about ‘summertime soldiers and sunshine patriots’, and I believe I just rewrote Tom Payne, my apologies, but talk to us about patriots. Again, this will be news to a lot of people to understand, this isn’t just an American thing. This is Five Eyes, for sure. Touch on Five Eyes. Most people don’t understand, even if we took out the NSA, at this point in the United States, there’s four more of them! So it’s going to have to be a worldwide movement to dismantle this. We’ve got 19 minutes left, let’s fix this in 19 minutes! Go!
GUEST: Well it’s the breakdown of national sovereignty really, is what is occurring, right, so the Five Eyes are operating as a single entity, as a single country, irrespective of the political constructs in each individual country. So, we have the general public who wait every 3 or 4 years to have their one vote for a political party that is supposed to represent them and is supposed to call the shots but lo and behold the shots are actually being called by the Five Eyes. Regardless of what political party gets into power. We see now with the TPP agreement that is being rolled out worldwide almost, that is again the breakdown of national sovereignty so now the laws will transcend borders and the laws are in the interests of corporations. They are not in the interests of voters or of the citizenry. We already have the military occupation of five countries, which is the Five Eyes. Now we have the corporate occupation of a bunch of countries. We have a massive movement in New Zealand called the #TPPANoWay movement (by It’s Our Future NZ) where we have had – it’s really gone mainstream – we’ve had tens of thousands of people in coordinated actions throughout cities and towns all through New Zealand marching against the TPP. Alongside cities and towns all over the world that have been marching as well. The Trade Minister in New Zealand, Tim Groser, recently described us as politically irrelevant, our movement, and yet said that we get way too much press, that we have a pervasive level of press. Well I can tell you that to get a pervasive level of press, you have to have a mammoth movement because the press play down the numbers, and they play down the movements, severely. So if you have a pervasive coverage in the press it means that you really have astronomical numbers of support behind you. But what he’s really showing is the political disdain for the will of the people. Even where you have the entire citizenry mobilised and in constant action against something that is occurring, the politicians just don’t care. They’re just putting their middle finger up. Because they know that the corporate agenda and the military agenda will advance completely regardless of what the voters do or say about it. So the entire political structure becomes this puppetry theatre. Which again ties us back to Counterinsurgency theory, right, or the strategy. Because that shows the political sphere as one column – one column to hold up the building – and it actually states that if that political column falls, if our movements got so big that we camped out at the Beehive in Wellington and took down the government, the security and the economic pillars, those structures, are strong enough to hold up the building regardless of whether the political stands, whether it remains. So basically the security forces; the police forces; the private investigators that are sub-contracted; the military itself; and the economic structures: the banks; the finance; the money-lenders, that keep industry turning every single day; those together can still hold up the system regardless of whether the political column falls. Which tells us that all of this action for political change and all of the election cycles and the promise of democracy and everything else, is completely irrelevant in the larger picture and they know it is irrelevant and they count on it being irrelevant. So they’re quite happy to shepherd activists into political campaigns, they’re quite happy to see us focus on an election cycle or on who we’re going to vote in this time or next time. What they’re not cool with is us circulating information about exactly this. Because that information is the foundation of the building. Once the well of information has been poisoned, from their perspective, poisoned against them – then they are in really big trouble. Because that’s the point at which everything can fall. That’s the Tunisia moment. That’s the moment where everything can change and so people really need to understand I think that we can’t win by appealing to politicians. We can’t win by appealing to legislators. That said, they will try and prolong their tenure in power by appeasing us in small ways if they feel that those ways are not critically important to their continuation. I think that the win against Section 215 of the Patriot Act, where that’s now been discontinued, the United States Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals found that it was in fact an illegal program, and that has since supposedly ceased – though I did hear something about it being restarted in the interim period until it’s finally shutdown – if nothing else, that was a symbolic win for us. Again, Jesselyn Radack, quoting her – she said that this is the first time that legislation has actually been revoked. Even if it’s just one piece or if it’s just one system. It’s the first time that there has been any step backwards since 9/11. Up until this point they’ve just been racing forward with more and more invasive anti-privacy legislation. So, this was definitely a symbolic victory, this was definitely a vindication for Snowden, there is no doubt about that. But it’s also a very small concession by a very powerful state and we need to push for a whole lot more than that if there’s going to be any significant change.
HOST: Once again, we know according to the architect of the plan, that as long as people defend those three things – the ideology, the sanctuary, the motivation, they don’t even have to successfully defend it, they just have to defend it, that they cannot win. They never win. In fact, it’s designed, according to some really good historians, that it doesn’t make any difference from their point of view. If the bankers are making money by pitting one side against the other, they actually make more money by losing and then coming again with the next battle. We are back in Iraq – we never really left Iraq. Does New Zealand have people in Iraq too? Probably.
GUEST: Yeah – with New Zealand it’s always sold to us as ‘they’re just there for reconstruction’ or ‘they’re just there to help the people’ and you know, whatever else, and never mind that it’s actually our special forces getting sent in and whatnot. The situation in New Zealand right now is that we have a government that is a mini American government, in all regards. Our Prime Minister was a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of America. Not the Federal Reserve Bank of New Zealand – the Federal Reserve Bank of America.
HOST: Okay, now I’d missed that one and I’ve been following you for years now and I had missed that little point!
GUEST: Yes, John Key. He was a derivatives trader, for God’s sake.
HOST: Oh, wonderful! You’ve made my evening, once again.
GUEST: Exactly, you know. But going back yet again to the Counterinsurgency strategy – look at who is attacking the information base the most successfully at the moment: it’s Wikileaks. They are literally on fire recently, they’ve had back-to-back disclosures. They had the Saudi leaks come out and the stuff about France recently, with NSA spying on President Hollande and his two predecessors. Then, in the last 24 hours too, the leaks about Brazil. Wikileaks is circulating probably the only true and accurate history of the world, that we’ve ever seen. I often think about the Encyclopedia Britannica sets that salesmen used to come around and sell to people in the 70s and 80s. Wikileaks is now that living encyclopedia. Wikileaks is the largest trove of 100% true information that exists in the world and you’ve got to shout out Julian Assange for that. It was his birthday recently. The dude has spent his entire 40s fighting this epic huge battle against political repression, both personally and on behalf of everyone. I really think his work is under-recognised to be honest with you. Though I do see a lot more recognition now in the mainstream media and I was really happy to see, yesterday, CNN covering the Wikileaks releases, BBC covering the Wikileaks releases. Fast forward eight hours and there’s a disparaging spin put on it, but the fact they’re having to cover them at all tells you what a big deal this is and how far the information is penetrating.
HOST: It was definitely good enough but, I’d talked to you and I’d sent you links before but you’ve got like a gazillion irons in the fire and I’ll have to resend and there’ll be a link with this story, but there was a piece of disinformation, once again, put into Wikileaks – poison well theory again – it’s effective enough that they’re actually taking information warfare steps against it. That was with part of what Barrett Brown was involved in – Stratfor – a couple of journalists I know had to file retractions. A couple of people who would like to think they are journalists but aren’t journalists, never filed retractions. Again, a violation of transparency at this point. We’ve got to trust people – give them enough information, they can make the correct decision. Any thoughts about that, with 14 minutes left in the show?
GUEST: I’m just not surprised at all that that’s happened. I remember Jeremy Hammond putting out a statement about the extent to which the FBI had been involved in masterminding the Stratfor hack and I think that they lost control of that operation at the point at which Jeremy allegedly leaked that information to Wikileaks. So they could have done anything, that’s really what it comes down to and Stratfor itself is not the most trustworthy organisation in the world in my personal opinion, to say the very least. They have very close familial ties to what I can only describe as disinformation merchants that operate in the right-wing political radio sphere in New Zealand and I don’t trust them as far as I can kick them to be honest. So God only knows what was in here and God only knows where it came from. But I can tell you that, us information activists, we have people approach us with bullshit information. That’s something that happens. It’s deliberately done. They dress it as if its legitimate. They go to great lengths to present it as if it’s legitimate. But there’s always some nasty thing inside it, some nasty factor. Then once they’ve convinced you to use the information, they ‘out’ you for having used it. It’s entrapment – a form of entrapment. It’s very much deliberate on their part and is part of the methodology of discrediting activists so it’s something we constantly have to be on the look out for. I have no doubt they would have done the same thing to Wikileaks – they’ve probably been trying to do it for years. In fact it’s probably quite remarkable that with the number of documents Wikileaks has released, that there’s been so few instances of that
HOST: The old reporter rule used to be, if you can get a story, and you can confirm a story, then you ran the story and that’s back to transparency again. If it turns out that you’re wrong – hey – until we have perfect people to make perfect reporters, occasionally we’re going to get it wrong. When you do, you file a retraction and say okay, I had this wrong and here’s why I had it wrong. Because this snake in the bush over here handed me a big bow-tied wrapped turd and I fell for it. Then you do everything you can to try to illuminate that snake so that the next time he comes along it’s not quite so easy for him to just completely pass something off as true. We’ve got 5 or 6 minutes left.
GUEST: I feel like that takes us back to the catch-22, it’s like a half dozen to one and six to the other. Either you really carefully vet every single document and you give the government a chance to present any contrary evidence or you just fact-check the hell out of it before you release it and then you’re releasing documents in this tiny slow drip-feed and everyone’s complaining about how many documents haven’t been analysed yet and that they’re not released to the public. Or you go the other way and just release the whole hog and hope like hell that it isn’t a poisoned well. So again, I think they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
HOST: Well, that’s what retractions are for, and real reporters file retractions. You’ll notice I keep using the term reporter. I am really down on the term journalist. I used to be paid to be a journalist. I’m not paid anymore, I’m paying to do this. I’m just reporting. So I think part of what we’re looking for here is to try to explain, how do we deal with this, as what you’ve said, an information activist – I still call it a reporter. It’s transparency.
GUEST: I love the term ‘citizen journalist’. I know other people don’t agree. But I love the term citizen journalist because for me it’s like, where I came from and who I do it for. The citizens. I was not a journalist. I did not go to journalism school. I did not get told “you must do a, b, c, d, e or you won’t have a pay check’. I did not go and work for a mainstream organisation. I do not do this because somebody pays me. I was a citizen experiencing things that the media were not reporting on and my responsibility is to other citizens. I am not responsible to a mainstream media organisation. There’s no editor or publisher on this entire planet that can stake a claim on me or that can tell me what I need to cover next or can substantially change my stories. I have my own publishing platforms, a whole variety of them in fact, and some other really amazing publishers, independent publishers, also support and promote my work and I’m lucky enough to have built a following over the last few years. But, to me, the citizen word is much more important than the journalist word, because everything I saw of journalists was just absolutely shocking.
I remember having an argument with a journalist where they wouldn’t take a quote from us because they wanted to take a quote from the councilman and they knew if they took a quote from us that the councilman wouldn’t give them a quote. I said ‘you know that they’re going to lie to you so why would you want a quote from them? You know that whatever quote they give you will be rubbish’ and they said ‘yes, but if we don’t, then we will lose access to them” and it’s like, well why do you want access to somebody that you know is going to lie to you? Because access is everything to them. I would rather have access to truth-tellers, and I’d rather have access to whistleblowers, and I’d rather have access to activists, than to have access to P.R. people, or Press Secretary of this, or whoever else, government officials or whatever. It’s just ridiculous and the fact that they get pandered to, actually enables their lies, it really does. If the media just said ‘we’re going with the truth and unless you give it to us we’ll be going to where it is’ then it would reform pretty quickly but instead the media participates in the P.R. veneer and I just think that’s disgraceful and completely contrary to the public interest.
HOST: I agree. We’ve got 2 minutes left. I think we’ve touched on some basic ways to work through this mess. Transparency. Trust individuals enough that if they’ve got good information they can make their own judgment. Leave us with some good news. Especially – you’re in Germany right now. What is the mood in Germany, in two minutes?
GUEST: I have a lot to talk to the German people about. I haven’t had a chance yet but I definitely will be getting there because what I see in Germany is a lot of how New Zealand used to be and it feels like there are a lot of things here that we already lost in New Zealand. So I have a lot of warnings for the German people about the critical need for them to preserve what they have here and to be aware of how many other places it has been lost. There is not the pervasive public surveillance here that there is in the Five Eyes countries however I do see surveillance networks in the transport systems and I think that’s how it starts. It starts in the transport systems then it spreads through to the commercial zones and the industrial zones then eventually ends up in the residential zones. In New Zealand it is now legal for the NZ SIS which is our equivalent of the FBI, to plant surveillance cameras inside residential homes, without a warrant, for a 24 hour period then to use the information gathered in support of obtaining a warrant. To me, it’s not an issue of Orwell is coming, or an Orwellian world is on it’s way – in New Zealand it has already arrived. They can film you in your house without a warrant. That is where countries like Germany could end up in the long term if they don’t really respect and fight to preserve the privacy that they do have now, as well as pushing back on expanding it. So I definitely have a lot of warnings for Germany.
I think on a happy note – well I don’t really have much to say on a happy note other than Happy Birthday Edward Snowden! I’ve been dying to say ‘Hari Huritau’ which is Happy Birthday in NZ Maori which is our indigenous language. I saw messages go to him from all around the world but I didn’t see anything speak to him in Maori so I thought I would get that out there.
HOST: Well I think that was a happy note, too. To me, New Zealand used the electoral process and made further forward progress than any place else I can see. Kim Dotcom, and the Maori – excuse me, I can’t remember off the top of my head what the party was –
GUEST: The Mana Movement of the People. Hone Harawira’s party, yes. That allied with Kim Dotcom.
HOST: You gave us hope. For anybody who was watching, you gave us hope.
GUEST: We fought hella hard, that’s what it came down to. We really gave it absolutely everything we had. We broke through to the mainstream. We got through to Mom and Pop New Zealanders. We even had mainstream programs having to cover our content five days a week. But at the end of the day it didn’t effect change. So we have to change our tactics now. If we can’t get change through the political system we have to be active outside of it. It’s the only option left to us.
HOST: On that note – I think we need to remember that COIN is always destined to fail. That’s what the research showed. You helped us with that research, with that analysis. I’m looking forward to more shows like this. It would be good to get an international view for Occupy America Social Network and I thank you Suzie. It was really great talking to you.
GUEST: Thank you so much for having me on, it’s just awesome.
HOST: Well, I end the show the same way each time. From the old Occupy movement, we had a saying – thanks for standing and that’s where I’m at right now. Thanks for standing and join us again for our next show.
GUEST: Thank you so much. Take care.