Gary Webb is the journalist who blew the whistle on the CIA during the Iran Contra scandal in the 1980's. In 2005, Webb reportedly "committed suicide" by shooting himself in the head twice. This all happened prior to Twitter and Livestream globalizing citizen journalism online. We live in a different world now.
The government monitors us, but they don't want anyone monitoring them. This Iron Curtain mentality may seem great to those of you wearing American flags without a care in the world, but the reality of that situation is grim. I've never committed a crime that matters, yet I've met field agents from the Secret Service and Special Forces. I don't carry weapons, yet have been surrounded by law enforcement specialists far and above your average patrol officer.
The reason I'm still alive and able to speak so publicly is because I'm the son of a retired NCO in military intelligence. I live with a police officer's family. I grew up with border patrol agents. I know all the rules, and I not only follow them, I recognize inconsistencies. The skill set that made me so successful working in the mortgage and insurance industries translated quite well into activism. I also learned a trick from Wendy Day, who also inspired me to learn more about Webb's story.
Advice to Stay Alive
Wendy is a veteran of the music industry. She played a role in creating a strong business foundation for some of hip-hop's most iconic stars and brands, including Cash Money Records, No Limit Records, Eminem, David Banner, and so many more. Wendy's business savvy and resourcefulness is one of the major reasons southern rap has remained on top of the Billboard charts for so long. She's worked with many of my heroes, including the late Tupac Shakur.
The advice she gave me when I considered whether or not to go public against Bank of America was something Louis Farrakhan told her when she was considering the very same decision in going public about Cash Money ripping her off. He told her the US takes measures to keep him alive simply because he's so vocal against them. It's not that everyone will look at them if he's killed, it's that they KNOW everyone will look at them if he's killed.
Edward Snowden went public for a reason. From the skewed angle the general public gets through the various media perspectives, it appears he's playing checkers. Snowden is playing chess though. There's a reason he is in Hong Kong. He's aware of their laws and legal system. The US would never strike Hong Kong with the military. It's the most important trade route in Southeast Asia. We couldn't block them economically. That would only hurt our global position. Hong Kong is more than capable of standing against the US. They can't kill him in Hong Kong. He made a smart decision to do everything from outside the country.
Snowden also went to the media for a reason. He's following the same strategy employed by Farrakhan, Day, and myself. Now that we all know he's a government leaker, they can't make him the victim of some random act of unrecorded violence. He's not trying to be famous. He's trying to survive, and he's doing a brilliant job at it thus far. His next step needs to be to get contracts with as many lawyers as possible. Once he does that, he will be able to maintain his freedom and continue living for the time being.
After the Storm Passes
Once this story dies down is the difficult part. Snowden has an uphill battle ahead of him. He's seen behind the curtain and now he's cut off from it. People who were once close friends and family can't be trusted anymore. You have to put your faith in strangers, which is difficult when you never know who is who. Being outside the US, he'll see a lot more drones than he's used to. China, the US, Russia, and many other nations would love to get a hold of him. I wouldn't put it above North Korea to have him executed or taken hostage just to start a war. His life won't be easy, and he may not have a home any longer. That's a tough one to deal with.
Snowden did this at a peculiar time, as Bradley Manning's trial started. Glenn Greenwald is friendly to Anonymous, Wikileaks, etc., supporting the cases involving Julian Assange, Manning, and Barrett Brown, among others. This ties him to a very strong foundation. When I leaked the bank info, I went to Anonymous during the PayPal boycott because I had to find a powerful flag to carry against BofA's. Snowden would know who Greenwald is and must be familiar with Anonymous, so he will have a lot of protection. The question is...what game is Snowden really playing?
Whose Side Is Snowden On?
Law enforcement has always had a fascination with the inner working of Anonymous. They continue forgetting that it's only an idea...and an idea can never be killed or imprisoned. From everything I see, Snowden is following the right steps to survive as a whistleblower. Where is his heart though? What's the angle we're not seeing? Did he blow the whistle for the reasons he stated, or is he another government attempt of infiltrating Anonymous?
While we wait for an answer, we're losing more and more freedoms. We now know the government is watching us. It's not about whether you're doing something right or wrong. It's about having privacy in your own home. It's about feeling safe within the walls of your home and whenever you leave it. Snowden showed us the government is watching us. Manning showed us what they'll do if we disobey. Our only power right now is in numbers. We need to find nonviolent ways to fight for our own freedoms. We're all carrying smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and laptops powerful enough to control the world. All it takes is a little knowledge...
Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer. He's a frequent contributor to Mainstreet, Lifehack, HardcoreDroid and an affiliate of Starbucks and Manduka. He documents his experiences working with Anonymous, practicing yoga, and fighting the banks on his blog.