26/06/2013 03:35 BST | Updated 25/08/2013 06:12 BST

Defend the Right to Privacy, Defend Edward Snowden

To some people, US whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor but to me he is a human rights hero. At great personal risk, motivated by idealism and democratic values, he has exposed the mass invasion of privacy worldwide by US and UK spy agencies.

These spy operations were activated without the knowledge or consent of the public or elected politicians, and without any adequate safeguards against abuses.

If Snowden was an Iranian who had exposed global state snooping by Tehran, he would have been praised for his courage by the US government for revealing wrong-doing. Instead, he's being hounded by Washington and threatened with decades in jail.

If apprehended, he will be at risk of the same inhuman, degrading ill-treatment that was meted out to Bradley Manning for nine months. He'll probably be detained for years without trial, as happened to Manning.

It is arguable that the mass snooping revealed by Snowden violates the Bill of Rights of the US constitution, the UK's Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights - all three of which have strong protections against invasions of privacy and state intrusion.

He stands in the patriotic tradition of the founders of the US republic: for an honest, open and accountable government by the people, of the people and for the people.

Snowden's expose has already prompted considerable public disquiet; leading many to rally to his defence. An official White House petition in support of Snowden has gathered over 120,000 signatures.

Another petition has been signed by over 30,000 people.

The signers see Snowden as having performed a great public service. They're right. Thanks to him we now know the truth: that the UK and US are spying on millions of innocent people all over the world.

What's been revealed are the vast monitoring powers of the secret state. They threaten privacy and civil liberties.

To his immense credit, Snowden has asserted our right to know what our governments are doing in our name. He has made public what London and Washington wanted to keep hidden from us, the people.

There is much irony in the case that the US authorities have assembled against Snowden. He was involved in secretive US spy operations. He's now facing charges of revealing the existence of these covert operations. Washington wants to prosecute a spy for spying. It's bizarre; almost Kafkaesque.

The US allegations against Snowden are nonsense. He has not passed state secrets to an enemy nation. He exposed the existence of a secretive US spy system - not the details of that system.

Personal financial gain and a desire to harm the US are not his motives. He hasn't been secretive. Unlike the undercover modus operandi of the US National Security Agency and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), he was open and transparent about what he did and why.

Snowden's real 'crime' is revealing US wrong-doing and causing the US administration huge embarrassment. That's all.

The right to privacy is a fundamental human right. No state - whether the UK, Iran, US, Russia or North Korea - has the right to subject innocent citizens to blanket surveillance.

If eavesdropping and interception are necessary to protect the public from terrorism, it must be targeted and proportionate. The public must consent and there should be independent oversight to protect the population against abuses.

Neither the US nor the UK spy systems meet these safeguard criterion.

A strong, secret state with blanket snooping powers is a menace to liberty and human rights.

Edward Snowden has defended our right to privacy and the principle of transparent, accountable government.

We must now defend his right to blow the whistle on the unwarranted and unmandated mass invasion of privacy by the US government and its British allies. Please sign the petition.

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