Snowden Accepts Whistleblower Award

Though former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been indicted for leaking secrets about the U.S. government’s intrusive surveillance tactics, he was honored by a group of former U.S. intelligence officials as a courageous whistleblower during a Moscow ceremony, reports ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern who was there.

By Ray McGovern

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, from his asylum in Russia, accepted an award on Wednesday from a group of former U.S. intelligence officials expressing support for his decision to divulge secrets about the NSA’s electronic surveillance of Americans and people around the globe.

The award, named in honor of the late CIA analyst Sam Adams, was presented to Snowden at a ceremony in Moscow by previous recipients of the award bestowed by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII). The presenters included former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, former NSA official Thomas Drake, and former Justice Department official Jesselyn Radack, now with the Government Accountability Project. (Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern also took part.)

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Photo credit: The Guardian)

Snowden received the traditional Sam Adams Corner-Brighteneer Candlestick Holder, in symbolic recognition of his courage in shining light into dark places. Besides the presentation of the award, several hours were spent in informal conversation during which there was a wide consensus that, under present circumstances, Russia seemed the safest place for Snowden to be and that it was fortunate that Russia had rebuffed pressure to violate international law by turning him away.

Snowden showed himself not only to be in good health, but also in good spirits, and very much on top of world events, including the attacks on him personally. Shaking his head in disbelief, he acknowledged that he was aware that former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden, together with House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers, had hinted recently that he (Snowden) be put on the infamous “Kill List” for assassination.

In brief remarks from his visitors, Snowden was reassured — first and foremost — that he need no longer be worried that nothing significant would happen as a result of his decision to risk his future by revealing documentary proof that the U.S. government was playing fast and loose with the Constitutional rights of Americans.

Even amid the government shutdown, Establishment Washington and the normally docile “mainstream media” have not been able to deflect attention from the intrusive eavesdropping that makes a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Even Congress is showing signs of awaking from its torpor.

In the somnolent Senate, a few hardy souls have gone so far as to express displeasure at having been lied to by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Director Keith Alexander — Clapper having formally apologized for telling the Senate Intelligence Committee eavesdropping-related things that were, in his words, “clearly erroneous” and Alexander having told now-discredited whoppers about the effectiveness of NSA’s intrusive and unconstitutional methods in combating terrorism.

Coleen Rowley, the first winner of the Sam Adams Award (2002), cited some little-known history to remind Snowden that he is in good company as a whistleblower — and not only because of previous Sam Adams honorees. She noted that in 1773, Benjamin Franklin leaked confidential information by releasing letters written by then-Lt. Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Hutchinson to Thomas Whatley, an assistant to the British Prime Minister.

The letters suggested that it was impossible for the colonists to enjoy the same rights as subjects living in England and that “an abridgement of what are called English liberties” might be necessary. The content of the letters was so damaging to the British government that Benjamin Franklin was dismissed as colonial Postmaster General and had to endure an hour-long censure from British Solicitor General Alexander Wedderburn.

Who’s the Traitor?

Like Edward Snowden, Franklin was called a traitor for whistleblowing the truth about what the government was doing. As Franklin’s biographer H.W. Brands wrote: “For an hour and a half [Wedderburn] hurled invective at Franklin, branding him a liar, a thief, an outcast from the company of all honest men, an ingrate. … So slanderous was Wedderburn’s diatribe that no London paper would print it.”

Hat tip for this interesting bit of history to Tom Mullen and his Aug. 9 article in the Washington Times titled “Obama says Snowden no patriot. How would Ben Franklin’s leak be treated today?” Ms. Rowley also drew from Mullen’s comment:

“Tyrants slandering patriots is nothing new. History decided that Franklin was a patriot. It was not so kind to the Hutchinsons and Wedderburns. History will decide who the patriots were in the 21st century as well. It will not be concerned with health care programs or unemployment rates. More likely, it will be concerned with who attacked the fundamental principles of freedom and who risked everything to defend them.”

The award citation to Snowden read, in part, “Sam Adams Associates are proud to honor Mr. Snowden’s decision to heed his conscience and give priority to the Common Good over concerns about his own personal future. We are confident that others with similar moral fiber will follow his example in illuminating dark corners and exposing crimes that put our civil rights as free citizens in jeopardy.

“Heeding the dictates of conscience and patriotism, Mr. Snowden sacrificed his career and put his very life at risk, in order to expose what he called ‘turnkey tyranny.’ His whistleblowing has exposed a National Security Agency leadership captured by the intrusive capabilities offered by modern technology, with little if any thought to the strictures of law and Constitution. The documents he released show an NSA enabled, rather than restrained, by senior officials in all three branches of the U.S. government.

“Just as Private Manning and Julian Assange exposed criminality with documentary evidence, Mr. Snowden’s beacon of light has pierced a thick cloud of deception. And, again like them, he has been denied some of the freedoms that whistleblowers have every right to enjoy.

“Mr. Snowden was also aware of the cruel indignities to which other courageous officials had been subjected — whistleblowers like Sam Adams Award honorees (ex aequo in 2011) Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack — when they tried to go through government channels to report abuses. Mr. Snowden was able to outmaneuver those who, as events have shown, are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to curtail his freedom and quarrel with his revelations. We are gratified that he has found a place of sanctuary where his rights under international law are respected.

“Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a Sam Adams ‘Awardee Emeritus,’ has asserted that Mr. Snowden’s whistleblowing has given U.S. citizens the possibility to roll back an ‘executive coup against the Constitution.’ This is a mark of the seriousness and importance of what Mr. Snowden has done.

“Like other truth-tellers before him, Edward Snowden took seriously his solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. He was thus legally and morally obliged to let his fellow Americans know that their Fourth Amendment rights were being violated.

“The past few years have shown that courage is contagious. Thus, we expect that still others will now be emboldened to follow their consciences in blowing the whistle on other abuses of our liberties and in this way help stave off ‘turnkey tyranny.’

“Presented this 9th day of October 2013 by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.”

The Sam Adams associates also expressed gratitude for those who made this unusual gathering possible: Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer for Snowden and founder and head of The Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in Moscow; WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange (SAAII award winner in 2010); Sarah Harrison, also of WikiLeaks, who facilitated Mr. Snowden’s extrication from Hong Kong and has been a constant presence with him since; other Internet transparency and privacy activists rendering encouragement and support, and, of course, Mr. Snowden himself for agreeing to host the first such visit to express solidarity with him in Russia.

The Sam Adams Award, named in honor of the late CIA analyst Sam Adams, has been given in previous years to truth-tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance; former U.S. Army Sergeant at Abu Ghraib; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange of WikiLeaks; Thomas Drake, former senior NSA official; Jesselyn Radack, Director of National Security and Human Rights, Government Accountability Project; and Thomas Fingar, former Assistant Secretary of State and Director, National Intelligence Council.

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence was established in 2002 by colleagues and admirers of the late CIA intelligence analyst Sam Adams to recognize those who uphold his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. In honoring Adams’s memory, SAAII confers an award each year to someone in intelligence or related work who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth, no matter the consequences.

It was Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms. This was roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest Americans learn that claims of “progress” were bogus.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. As a CIA analyst colleague of Sam Adams, he witnessed first-hand the futility of Sam’s persistent attempts in 1967-68 to expose the chicanery of the most senior U.S. Army officers in Saigon in falsifying intelligence in order to conceal the fecklessness of U.S. involvement there. Sam went to a premature death, unable to escape deep regret that he stayed within official channels and let himself get diddled, rather than publicly expose the lies. Sam would be very proud of Edward Snowden.

20 comments for “Snowden Accepts Whistleblower Award

  1. noseyparkerunit
    October 15, 2013 at 16:29

    I would also add that Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjaman Franklin Bache (pronounced BEECH). a fierce opponent of the Alien and Sedition Acts which were enacted under John Adams, was likewise someone who leaked diplomatic messages, on numerous occasions, and was under arrest under Adams’ Sedition Act when he died. A great deal of this story is outlined in a book entitled “American Aurora”, a book about all these historical facts and many more, most of it based on historical facts from newspapers from the era. Since Bache did not live to tell the story having died while under indictment in 1798, the author of the book used various fictions to create a character who did tell the rest of the tale, mostly from newspapers of the era, from a character known as one William Duane, who married Bache’s widow.

    Were it not for Bache, it is very likely we would be living under a monarchy today, which the Federalists then (and now -who is running the NSA? -definitely did and possibly and some say probably still do.

    As the NY Times notes “Witches still reign”.

  2. zhaobaoabc
    October 14, 2013 at 09:19

    You have proven that you are qualified to write on this topic. The facts that you mention

    and the knowledge and understanding of these things clearly reveal that you have a lot of


  3. Tom
    October 12, 2013 at 18:26

    I’m not surprised by this, but I’ll say it anyway. The double standards of the MSM continue. One minute Ray McGovern is on CNN, Jon Stewart, and they love him. Then, when he’s just part of a story (ex., Edward Snowden), he’s just a “well-known activist”.

    I know Mr. McGovern’s talked about how the real press doesn’t exist anymore. But despite that, how does he deal with this constant two-faced attitude from many journalists?

  4. ken huck
    October 12, 2013 at 02:43

    Ray: we shared good times in Bonn/Munich ’79-81. I remember and admire Sam Adams for taking on the Westmoreland lie machine. I recall Sam standing at the urinal with a yellow legal-size pad pressed against the wall and crunching so-called “Body Count” numbers…at the urinal because he was being denied a desk…as he tried to wring sense from Westmoreland’s claims that the US was winning through attrition.

    Re Snowden in Moscow. Doubt Russia will ever let him exit to a place where he could be arrested and questioned for the purpose of producing an official USG or UK damage assessment of his disclosures.

    • Ray McGovern
      October 14, 2013 at 23:50

      wow. good to hear from you, Ken. and THANKS for the vignette on our friend Sam Adams….it’s one for the books.

      pls get in touch. you can reach me at the email address on my Web site I think I am coming out your way late this week. Herzlichst! ray

  5. Hector Lopez
    October 11, 2013 at 20:13

    I wonder if Snowden has something about colonialism in Puerto Rico and the conspiracy to keep the latter under permanent colonial slavery and the negation of the People of Puerto Rico’s collective human rights(true self determination and independence) according to U.N. resolution 1415 (XV) for the self determination of people’s will to be free.

  6. gregorylkruse
    October 11, 2013 at 14:10

    This is very encouraging.

  7. Joe Carson
    October 11, 2013 at 12:51

    Jesslyn Radack, GAP, POGO, etc enable, if not collude with, government lawbreaking when it benefits their professional interests or business models, see

    I am willing to stake my 35 year, unblemished career, my professional engineering (PE) license, and my federal paycheck and pension on my claim that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is a 35 year-long lawbreaking fraud, and U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board is its 35 year-long lawbreaking enabler.

    The abuses Edward Snowden has risked and paid so much to expose are unimaginable absent this compounded federal agency lawbreaking. But Radack and GAP are basically like “firemen who moonlight as arsonists” – they praise Snowden as they enable the government lawbreaking that allowed the abuses he exposed. Shame on them.

  8. Jim-jams
    October 11, 2013 at 11:11

    I should like to add my congratulations to the award of the “Sam Adams’ Trophy to Mr. Snowden.
    He joins an illustrious group of heroes who have also made great sacrifices to try & warn us of secret Govt. crimes. I stand in awe of his moral courage, to have decided to sacrifice his easy comfortable life in order to warn us all. I just wish the Noble committee could show such moral principals.

  9. Vesuvius
    October 11, 2013 at 03:57

    Reading this about one hour before the Norwegian Nobel Committee is due to name the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, I am still hoping that Edward Snowden will be Winner of the Prize. And if not this year, he will be awarded in 2014.

  10. kimj
    October 11, 2013 at 03:17

    I have the up most respect for Edward Snowden, Brave Brave man he has given people hope and deserves this award. Good luck American Hero..

  11. Roberta McNair
    October 10, 2013 at 19:48

    I have long been uncomfortable with the term “patriot,” because the word has been so perverted as to give it to people like Oliver North, who to me epitomized the absolute worst in being an American. The people who brand themselves patriots so often are the ones who want to abridge or deny Constitutional rights to people who threaten with their narrow and often racist, sexist, and classist beliefs. Snowden and the other recipients of the Sam Adams award might be the ones to reclaim the word for those who actually believe in and act on constitutional principles. Thank you to you all.

    • gregorylkruse
      October 11, 2013 at 14:03

      Not to mention the obvious ancient sexism the word carries at least from the time of Abraham.

  12. EthanAllen1
    October 10, 2013 at 19:37

    Congradulations to Edward Snowden for recieving this well-deserved award from your peers. And thanks to Ray McGovern and Robert Parry for publishing this excellent account of the occasion. It does seem remiss, however, that Glenn Greenwald and his team is not given due acknowlegement.
    As Usual,

  13. Johan Sterk
    October 10, 2013 at 18:55

    Congratulations mr. Snowden and thank you very much for your sacrifice for freedom!

  14. Jym Allyn
    October 10, 2013 at 17:55

    Snowden is a patriot in the very best sense of the word.

  15. James "Jim" Michie
    October 10, 2013 at 16:54

    Congratulations, Patriot Edward Snowden, on receiving the Sam Adams Whistleblower Award. Extremely well deserved in the face of a U.S. president who twice falsely ran for election with the “commitment” to ensure “transparency in government,” but instead continues to wage an unrelenting war on both journalism and whistleblowers as a control freak!

  16. Bradford Whipple
    October 10, 2013 at 16:43

    If I had known of this gathering beforehand I would have renewed my Russia Visa and attempted to attend this event which rightfully places an honor with the honorable. I have followed Ray McGovern through most of his writings and have so far never see him back a bad choice. Thank him for this article.

  17. paul alexander
    October 10, 2013 at 15:56

    Very inspiring. Snowden and the Sam Adams awardees are heros and heroines, and a beacon to those of us who are so dismayed at the dire turning of events in our government.

    Thank you for your work, and please persevere. We support you, and respect and appreciate your efforts to safeguard our rights and liberties!

    Paul Alexander

  18. incontinent reader
    October 10, 2013 at 15:50

    Kudos to you all!

Comments are closed.