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‘We Need Whistle-Blowers’

June 11, 2013 by  

‘We Need Whistle-Blowers’

The United States is trying to extradite Edward Snowden, the former CIA assistant-turned-whistle-blower who outed the National Security Agency’s incredible, Orwellian surveillance dragnets of phone and computing data, from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, the disgraced Army private who handed WikiLeaks a trove of military communication data in the hope of exposing the hypocrisy of American war-making, is in court-martial proceedings. The government alleges Manning aided terrorists by making classified military information public.

Whatever their stated reasons for taking on the Feds, these two figures operated out of their own inscrutable motives; and we’ll never know the extent of their nobility or guile. The media, and those who consume media, will form widely divergent opinions about whistle-blowers like these two men.

Some will see them as abject criminals who knowingly committed treason against the United States by usurping its laws, even if their goals were honorable. Others will see them as heroes, men who realized that citizens have to act to “prune the tree” of government and that waiting for someone else to act is to grow ever more numb inside the slow boil toward tyranny.

But whoever the whistle-blowers are, and whatever their motives as individuals, consider the words of computer security guru Bruce Schneier: “We need whistle-blowers.”

Writing early Monday, just before Snowden’s identity became known, Schneier said the U.S. government:

…is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.

Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we’re living in a police state…

…Mark Klein, Thomas Drake, and William Binney have all been persecuted for exposing technical details of our surveillance state. Bradley Manning has been treated cruelly and inhumanly — and possibly tortured — for his more-indiscriminate leaking of State Department secrets.

The Obama Administration’s actions against the Associated Press, its persecution of Julian Assange, and its unprecedented prosecution of Manning on charges of “aiding the enemy” demonstrate how far it’s willing to go to intimidate whistle-blowers — as well as the journalists who talk to them.

But whistle-blowing is vital, even more broadly than in government spying. It’s necessary for good government, and to protect us from abuse of power… Whistle-blowing is the moral response to immoral activity by those in power.

In the end, government whistle-blowing isn’t about the person blowing the whistle; it’s about shining light on the government.

If that light turns out to reveal unConstitutional and extraConstitutional powers and abuses, along with a necessary system of secrets, distortions and lies to cover it up, then be grateful for those courageous enough — or crazy enough — to haul the truth into the public square.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • Gilly

    How can we be sure that our comments in this site are not being looked at by the CIA and with this real possibility brings the fear of expressing private opinions in our so called democratic countries of USA & Australia. This fear of our own government must be a form of oppression similar to those in the USSR and now China. What makes us any different except in colour, language or race when the general public start to become paranoid of its own elected government having the potential to intrude into our personal discussions ? I personally don’t worry about it and neither should other readers IMO. I have not yet bothered to read any of the 700,000 pages of publically available material released by Manning through WIKI leaks and I wonder how many countries have even bothered to put interpreters to decipher and translate any of the material considering none of the local media groups have bother to publish much if any of the interesting bits. Does this mean that all newspaper editors are really showing their sourced material to the CIA for approval before publishing anything? If this hypothesis might be correct then what makes our democracies better than the socialists? Are we really deluding ourselves into thinking we a democratically superior than others we are trying overthrow? These and many other questions we should be asking ourselves before we elect politicians who are too lazy to think for themselves and would rather leave these administrative decisions to the Intelligence Agencies who are meant to be their underlings or is it really that most of our politicians are intellectually inferior than those they employ? The politicians may have become the puppets of their departments who demand for more power and more tax money. IMO most of the released material was of no value and should never have been classified, but having said that who would really know if amongst some of that released material there might have been material which was laced with information the CIA might have wanted the readers to think was a real secret but in fact miss information to make readers believe it was reliable but not in fact so? How could anyone really be able to accept any of the information as correct and reliable? How do we know that Manning is not playing an act on behalf of the CIA to make it appear that he has released vital information when the opposite might be more the truth. We will never and can never know the truth according to those that know the absolute truth because national security is important to us all and because the enemy is within us these days not outside our borders so much and intelligence gathering has to be timely to be effective to protect us. I really don’t see a solution to this whole topic when we continue to stick our noses in other people’s countries and try to impose out will on their wrongly or rightly elected or otherwise dictatorial governments. What gives us the right to criticise others and go to wars which create more enermies and prolong the scenarios for more generations? Dr Rand should be your president and leader IMO.

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