A Revelation About America in Moscow
What Our Soldiers Fight For
An Unlikely Meeting
The day after Thanksgiving of 2015, the occupant of Room 1001 of Moscow's Ritz-Carlton Hotel played host to a strange and unlikely meeting. Long time actor John Cusack hosted a rare convocation that included three fellow Americans who before that day, had never crossed paths.
Cusack's guest list included first and foremost, infamous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who in 2013, while working as an analyst for the NSA, uncovered and exposed the agency for illegally spying on American citizens. Also in attendance was award winning novelist and political activist Susanna Arundhati Roy and another former whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Department of Defense while working their as a strategist during the Nixon Administration.
In 1967, while working for the RAND Corporation, Ellsberg was part of a top secret study on US Military strategies in Vietnam, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he illegally copied the 7,000 page study and handed it over to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Two years later, he gave it to the New York Times, the Washington Post and over a dozen other national newspapers.
It would take an initial mistrial and a decision by the US Supreme Court before Ellsberg finally went on trial in January of 1973. He was charged with twelve felony counts which carried a potential sentence of 115 years in prison. However, the case was dismissed on the grounds that White House officials had violated over a dozen federal laws which led to several convictions of White House staff members. In the end, the Pentagon Papers would play a significant part in the impeachment of President Nixon.
The only woman Cusack invited to the meeting was Susanna Roy, who in 1997 wrote the award winning novel "The God of Small Things". Critically acclaimed over the years, she's been a consistent writer of political nonfiction while being widely recognized as a champion for human rights.
In 2001, she wrote The Algebra of Infinite Justice, followed by Power Politics in 2004, and her most recent, in 2011 she authored Public Power in the Age of Empire which again won her public praise and wide-spread support. Roy's outspoken advocacy for the fair treatment of Australia's Aborigine people has made huge strides in helping make a difference. In 2002, Roy was awarded the Lannan Cultural Freedom Award, and in 2004 she was honored with the Sydney Peace Prize for being a leader in the promotion and attainment of human rights.
According to Cusack, when he first met Edward Snowden, he was a little surprised by the 32 year old's small and thin appearance. He also noticed how relaxed and worry-free he seemed to be, especially considering Snowden's status as a wanted fugitive. Once everyone had arrived and had been introduced to one another, Cusack and Roy sat on the bed with Snowden, while Ellsberg sat in a chair nearby, astutely occupied with a very real story coming from a man without a country.
The three were highly engaged with all eyes and ears concentrated on Snowden. The conversation revealed an extremely intelligent man who knew how to articulate his thoughts very well. At the same time, he also came across as very lighthearted, a combination which made Snowden a very believable and likable guy.
For 6 hours Cusack and his guests listened to Snowden tell an incredibly revealing story about a US government that was guilty of breaking countless federal laws, not to mention the accusations against his colleagues for demonstrating personal behaviors nothing less than shocking and sadistically unethical.
Despite the nature of what he was saying, to his credit, Snowden remained polite throughout the conversation. His manners and easy going laugh helped make a seemingly serious occasion a lot less intense than one would normally expect. It was a conversation that would not only last the entire day, but also boldly and very openly painted a picture of an incredibly secretive government, intent on knowing everything there is to know about each and every American citizen. As Snowden would put it "they don't care about the Constitution or the laws by which they all swore an oath to uphold and defend". The entire room absorbed the story with a flaring intensity, hanging themselves on each and every word he was saying.
It was while working as a subcontractor for the National Security Agency that Edward Snowden began collecting top-secret documents which proved that the NSA had been using domestic surveillance practices for years. After illegally gathering countless files, Snowden fled to China where he began leaking the documents to the media, many of which were incredibly sensitive, detailing invasive spying practices that targeted all American citizens.
Subsequently, Snowden was charged with several felony counts under the Espionage Act. Most US citizens see him as a patriot and a hero for uncovering what many had suspected for quite some time. They appreciate Snowden for his selfless act of courage, understanding all he sacrificed as he was forced to leave everything behind. Eventually he made his way to Russia where he now lives in asylum. Living everyday with the thought of a U.S. government who has vowed to do everything in their power to have him extradited back to the United States to face prosecution.
In Defense of Patriotism
Like many Americans, Snowden was inspired to work for the government following the events of 9/11. In his own words, Snowden said “I gave Bush the highest props for the job he was doing. I believed that sending our forces into Iraq was the right thing to do”. Snowden recalled how America was largely divided on the decision to invade Iraq. He also noted that it wasn't long after the invasion that it became apparent the claims against Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction were entirely untrue.
Snowden pointed out the intentional deception that went into every lie told by President Bush as well as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rummsfeld. "Every time they went on television and told the American people that they knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, they knew beforehand that they were lying". Considering how many times the American people were lied to, it's now obvious it was all just a smokescreen to gain public support for the war. It also gives overdue credit to those who disagreed with sending American forces into Iraq. At least those who were smart enough to know that they were being lied to.
Snowden now admits that he had it all wrong, although there’s no way he nor anyone else could’ve known the extent of the cover-up at the time. The lies and propaganda that were used to justify the invasion all fell back on the events of 9/11. The American people were caught in a conundrum of sorts; as they had no other choice but to accept the word of their leaders in Washington, and unfortunately their expectation of truth is what was used against them.
Snowden spent the first hour telling the group about how unusual it was working for the NSA while at the same time being a US citizen that was aware of the illegal activities that were going on around him. Every day for six years he watched it play out in real time, and every night as he drove home from work he would think about what the Agency was doing to Americans and the thought of it was horrifying because he knew what the outcome would be if nothing was done to stop it.
He knew that it was only a matter of time until he would have to take action. In the end, he put it all on the line for the sake of the American people, throwing away his career, his freedom, his citizenship as an American, and even more, he put his life on the line by becoming a whistleblower. In doing so, Snowden exposed the NSA's massive spy network which he claims had been programmed for surveillance to watch and listen to every last person in the United States.
In meeting with Snowden, Cusack described him as “an especially strong man who displays an almost corporeal sense of moral righteousness”. It’s Snowden’s moral compass that not only motivated him to blow the whistle, but also what inspired him to join the NSA in the first place. However, as Snowden put it, “it quickly went from being inclined to save us from Islamic terrorism to growing disillusioned by something so elusive, corrupt, and so incredibly dramatic, that despite my initial moral intentions,it all came down to making a personal sacrifice for what I knew was the right thing to do”. To the government Snowden will be remembered as a traitor and a wanted man. However, for most Americans, he will forever be regarded as a true patriot of high integrity who took action that required nothing less than moral courage.
What Do We Have To Lose By Doing Nothing?
A Revelation of Convincing Truth but Still Hard to Believe
The conversation between the four started around 10 a.m. and lasted throughout the day until they shook hands and bid each farewell around 4 o’clock that evening. Cusack asked most of the questions while Ellsberg and Roy sat quietly, astute and intense as though downloading every word into memory. However, the center of attention was on Snowden as he spoke about Washington’s ability to destroy countries and its inability to win a war. He questioned whether economic sanctions and the subsequent invasion of Iraq could be accurately called genocide.
He also spoke at length about the CIA and how they were fully aware of and preparing for a civil war within the United States. A war he says "will involve mass surveillance to control the entire US population". Furthermore, he explained how police officers across the entire nation were being trained for civil unrest and being given the authority to act more like a soldier in the army who "suppresses an urban insurrection".
Most importantly, Snowden spoke at length about his former employer, revealing that the NSA had been conducting mass surveillance on American citizens since George Bush Senior was president, possibly even longer. “If we do nothing, we sleepwalk into a total surveillance state" Snowden claimed as he described a United States that was quickly becoming a militarized police-state. He added that" our government has unlimited resources in its arsenal of weapons and intelligence that it can apply all the force it needs to in order to sustain any resistance from the public. They know the most intimate details about each and every American citizen that they target for surveillance". Snowden's explanation painted a very detailed picture of a sinister and dangerous National Security Agency who has an agenda which leads us all to what he referred to as “America's dark future" unless we stop it.
Snowden spoke intently about a government that has every advantage over the people. A government that knows everything about us, while we know very little, if anything about them. "They are extremely secretive, privileged, and consider themselves to be above everyday citizens". He spoke of a body of government officials who see themselves as the separate or elite class who will be the ones left standing when its all said and done.
Snowden also told a very troubling story of how politicians and members of the agency often make jokes and laugh, as they anticipate and hope for the day when they can finally use force against the American people. Snowden claims that for the most part, members of the agency dislike the people of the United States. Although unproven, Snowden also alleges that a majority of politicians, along with members of the CIA and NSA want nothing more than for another 9/11 type event to happen, that way, they can fully implement every measure of suppression that will almost eliminate our freedom. "It's what they want" Snowden proclaimed as he affirmed this startling revelation.
Cusack, Roy and Ellsberg were taken back by all of it. All three showed signs of frustration and shock, each with their own degree of disbelief. However, they were all convinced that Snowden was a man who's word you could trust. "Not once did he speak out of context" Cusack stated. "You could just tell that he knows what he was talking about. You have no choice but to trust what he's saying because he's got the official documents that back up every word he's telling us". Cusack's comment on why he trusted Snowden's story was followed by a quick smile as he turned around and almost in a defeated voice stated "there’s no room for an argument when someone's telling you the truth”. He seemed frustrated as he rejoined the group.
Both Snowden and Cusack's words had made complete sense. The truth really was at the heart of the matter. A truth that is both frightening and inspiring as we all felt a need to do something, anything that would help reverse this horrible reality from going any further. It's a truth that you would think would sound an awakening, motivating a call to action with the American people. For a while there were demonstrators and a small movement began which called for justice and change. Despite President Obama's promise to put a stop to the NSA's illegal activities, not only did nothing change, he actually increased the NSA's funding and gave them more latitude to continue their spying capabilities.
The public awakening was quickly defeated, as Americans have no chance against a fully equipped military which is at the disposal of a government made up of elected officials that we voted into office. From there the cycle continues. Every 2 to 4 years we elect these people into power. People who we know literally nothing about. We have no idea who they are, or where they live, we really don't even know what they do, and we sure as hell don’t know who their friends are.
Yet, they have every resource at their disposal that gives them the ability to know all of that about us, not to mention all that they know about your family members, your friends, your friends friends and anyone else you may have accidentally dialed a wrong number at one point. "That's the degree of their ambition" Snowden charged as he spoke of what the future holds for America if things don't change". Snowden promised us that if change is to happen, action would have to be taken very soon and if not, we would certainly loose the window of opportunity forever.
Contingencies Against Homegrown Terrorism
After a morning that revealed widespread corruption by the US government, Cusack seemed different. According to Roy, he wasn't defeated, but the same energy he had when Snowden first began to speak had been replaced with a quiet disposition that made him appear disheartened. However, sad or not, Cusack still had a question for Snowden, asking him whether the NSA was "simply feigning annoyance" at Snowden’s whistleblowing, or was it that they were so smug as individuals that they were really quite satisfied with Snowden leaking the documents? Cusack's question implied that the NSA had planned for the day someone like Snowden would come along and expose them, but that they were willing to accept such exposure becuase it would earn them a reputation for being the new all seeing, all knowing government agency.
Snowden chuckled to himself first before telling Cusack that the "US government doesn't do anything without a contingency plan. They never go in half cocked. Their always planning a way to keep themselves two steps ahead of any collateral damage, which includes sheltering themselves from any possible prosecution for their crimes". Snowden assured the group that the NSA would have planned for the situation just in case someone like him came along. He also said such a contingency would certainly involve some benefit that would come from their secrets being revealed.
He went on to further elaborate upon the NSA's perceived benefits, or what Snowden referred to as "the advantages" they would consider if their secret spy network was ever revealed. He claimed that more than anything, NSA officials want to keep the people submissive, fearful and intimidated. "The NSA loves it when a target knows they are being watched. They get a kick out watching someone that is always looking over their shoulder, plus it makes the target that much easier to manage”. His accusations portrayed an agency that views the entire American population as prey, and themselves as predator.
Snowden spoke freely for a while as Ellsberg and Roy listened with intently. Meanwhile, Cusack was more engaged, letting the group know how he felt through short outbursts that confirmed his anger and disbelief. Snowden warned that the NSA, DHS and the CIA were largely responsible for the ways local and state police departments had been trained since just after 9/11. "Not only have they helped arm them like soldiers, but they have also falsified data that police departments use to determine what measures they need to take to combat crime and terrorism". Snowden stated that although we weren't yet living in a police state, all it would take to make such a thing happen would be another 9/11 type event. "I realize I shouldn’t put it this way… but white, middle-class, educated people in America are not living in a police state… However, black poor people have been living in one for quite some time". He asserted that the repression starts with African-Americans, Middle Easterners and anyone who is associated with Islam, and keeps going from there.
The documents Snowden has supports his claims the NSA concentrates more on Blacks and Muslims than any other group. However, that's not to say that everyone in America isn't a potential target. It's not just by the NSA either, but by the Department of Homeland Security and strangely enough, FEMA as well. All three agencies have officials committed to tracking everyone's movements to determine if they fit the criteria to be labeled a "potential domestic terrorist".
What Makes an American a Possible Domestic Terrorist
Cusack, Ellsberg and Roy were all very interested to know what the criteria was that would determine how someone could be labeled a threat and a domestic terrorist. Snowden’s response confirmed reports on alternative news media websites since 2012. Signed by President Obama, the 144-page document outlines the specifications to be used in order to target someone as a possible domestic terrorist. If an American citizen is placed on that list, they are watched and monitored by the Department of Homeland Security, the NSA, the FBI and FEMA.
The things that could potentially land someone on the list were both shocking and unbelievable, revealing that our government uses seemingly harmless, even everyday routine normal behaviors to label citizens as a possible domestic terrorist.
To become a target, all you need to be is a conservative or libertarian, or perhaps you're a Christian or a gun owner who has a basement stockpiled with food and water. If so, you could very well be on their list. If you happen to oppose abortion, if you think a globalized economy is a bad thing or if Communism isn't quite to your liking, then you put yourself at risk of being a prime candidate for NSA surveillance.
Other so called suspicious activities you might want to refrain from are being opposed to illegal immigration, not trusting the United Nations, or thinking the United States is headed towards a One World Government. If you believe in conspiracy theories, and they find out about it, your beliefs will likely put you on the hot list. A list that includes the likes of the Shoe Bomber or even the Uni-Bomber Ted Kaczynski.
To be considered a possible domestic terrorist, according to the official 144-page document, any one of the following reasons gives the NSA, Homeland Security, the FBI and FEMA the right to put you under surveillance.
- If you are an Evangelical Christian
- If you believe in “end times” prophecies
- If you talk about “individual liberties”
- If you advocate Constitutional rights
- Members of the Family Research Council
- Members of the American Family Association
- Members of the Federation for American Immigration Reform
- Anyone that is opposed to Agenda 21
- If you belong to a sovereign citizen movement
- Anyone that “is frustrated with progressive or liberal ideologies”
- Those that possess survival techniques.
- Anyone who is “a Veteran”
Snowden's revelation came with a warning: “One more 9/11, and I believe we will have hundreds of thousands of people held without trial in American detention camps. Middle Easterners and Muslims will be put in detention camps or deported. After 9/11, we had thousands of people arrested without charges… But I’m talking about the future. I’m talking the level of the Japanese in the second world war… I’m talking of hundreds of thousands in camps or deported. I think the surveillance is very relevant to that. They will know who to put away – the data is already collected.”
The conversation carried on into the late afternoon, covering everything from war and political greed, to the false flag of terrorism. He spoke about the US, it’s flag, and the meaning of patriotism. He talked about public opinion and the concept of morality and how fickle it could be, and how easily it is manipulated by the media.
Reaction and Response
It was by chance that these four Americans, who care about their country would meet in all places, Moscow Russia. At the end of the conversation, John Cusack spoke of his own family traditions and how he came from a lineage of musicians, writers, actors, and athletes who have also refused to buy into the pile of crap that our government expects us to believe. "It doesn't matter how intelligently beautiful you package crap, at the end of the day it's still a pile of shit" Cusack so eloquently stated.
After all those hours of talking, lying back on the bed and weeping for what the United States had turned into, Susanna Roy popped up and explained why she had been crying. “I was moved by what Edward said, as I feel deep in my heart that you have been the one to see this machine up close, and you recognized it for the evil that it was”. She went on to say that “you’re a man who was once on a first-name basis with the ones who controlled it and who coldly contemplated the idea of destroying the freedom that we send our sons and daughters to fight for. You risked everything and ended up paying for that risk with your citizenship”.
Roys words were heart felt as the entire group was moved by what she had said. After making the heartfelt statement, she got up off the bed and walked over to the window and stared at the Kremiln. Daniel Ellsberg spoke up as you could hear Roy quietly weeping in the background. "US history will someday be labeled as imperialistic if something is not done to stop these atrocities". Visibly frustrated, he stated "its been forty years since I went public with the Pentagon Papers, and still the same people are abusing their power, only this time they have some damned machine that does their dirty work for them”. Afterwords, he walked over to the window and put his hand on Roy's shoulder and calmly told her "everything's going to be alright" as they both stared out the window, looking at the Kremlin as the sun faded into early evening on that cold revealing Moscow day.
Snowden cleared his throat and walked over to the window, motioning for Ellsberg and Roy to come back to the group. As they walked across the room, Snowden stated “I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public. A public who deserves to live in a free democracy where there is a line between an elected government and the people, but that line is transparent so the people are not alienated and kept in the dark about their government's actions that intend to do more harm than good”. Snowden's words confirm our government to have an elitist perspective of themselves. They see themselves as an untouchable body of government officials that are above the law. Snowden was right, as was the entire room in their agreement with him when he said that change will only come from the actions of the American people. A US public that is left to defend the freedom that is inherently theirs. A birthright that has a responsibility worth defending.
When I first read about this story, and had a chance to think about all that it meant, it made me think about our failure. I question how our elected leaders can pledge an oath to uphold the Constitution, but then turn around and unzip their fly and piss on the very oath they swore to protect. Then again, I also question the possibility that Americans could ever live up to Snowden's expectations of change, no matter how impending they are or how close to that change we may have been at one time.
Now that democracy has been broken, is America’s greatness lost without any hope of being restored? Without the precepts of success derived from the founding principles of our Constitution, how will we ever continue what has made this country so great and what has kept us spiritually aligned with a higher moral standard for the past 240 years? Restoration to our former greatness it seems is nothing more than a pipe dream, a fragile concept that is to vanish by a simple whisper alone.
It seems we are destined for failure. Not because the people lacked good intentions, but for the ignorant and mindfully depraved motives of a few powerful men. Men who have ignored the depths of moral aptitude, blindly serving the best interests of something so sinister it would destroy all the good America ever was, and anything good that it could've ever been. Our failure will come in what is first lost in the freedoms of what we write, the art we create, the issues we fight for, seemingly eradicating the maverick perspective, leaving our citizenship benign and malcontent. Our failure will be at the expense of creativity and imagination. We will fail as we replace the idea of our flag and our nation with a lethal object of tyrannical security.
Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson forewarned of this day, patriotically advocating against big government and the power they should never be permitted to attain. We as citizens have willfully accepted our governments bad behavior mainly out of laziness and fear. Only now do we realize the mistake we have made in our failure to do something to change the situation.
The error of our ways has been costly. We have freely and without fight allowed these tyrants to suppress freedom, change the laws that steal our privacy and illegally eradicate our constitutional civil rights which our Founding Fathers embraced and then secured within the Amendments of our founding document. A document that American soldiers have always so bravely defended. We the people have watched and taken no action while selfless, moral and courageous men like Edward Snowden have shown us what it truly means to be an American. An American who now lives in Russia, fearing his government, yet still believes in the values and principles that he sacrificed his home, his life and his citizenship for. We will always owe him a debt of gratitude for what he has done, and if you feel differently then you should probably volunteer yourself to trade places with him.