One of the “causes” which has been running around the frustrati blogs for a while is the Manning case. He painted as a “hero” and a “whistleblower” by them. That his “whistleblowing” was not so much a principled decision to expose wrongdoing, as it was a screwed-up idiot who decided to “get even” by doing an unfiltered dump of classified documents, gets glossed over or waved aside. More recently there is the Snowden case, where the initial revelations of a massive government spying operation on its own citizens turned out to be … not quite all that.
When you look at what ended up being reported out of Manning’s document dump, the number of “war crimes,” even stretching the definition at that, turned out to be a small number of the documents. A great many others that were published were field personnel and diplomats passing along background information, impressions, and suggestions. The release of which was highly embarrassing and damaging to diplomatic relations with several countries. One might also point out, retroactive continuity efforts aside, that when Manning did his document dump, not only did he not have any idea of what was actually in it, his rationale wasn’t a “principled decision” to “expose war crimes.”
The truth is that there’s always been a balancing act between openness and secrecy. We, as a country and a society need to have secrets and confidentiality. Let’s look at the Manning documents as an example. A lot of the damage to diplomacy was caused by the revelation of what State Department field personnel were transmitting to headquarters. Opinions, information picked up on the street, things said in confidence, or suggestions. Just the sort of “background information” we would expect to find, and yes, kept confidential. Why? Because we (the public) don’t need to know that official X in a country has strange tastes, that the government in country Y is isn’t quite as firm on something as their rhetoric would lead you to believe, or that some government official there is on his (or her) way out fairly soon. On the other hand, the people making national policy or dealing with that particular country find it “useful.” Apparently so did the Taliban.
Snowden has, since the original “leak,” been releasing classified information regarding intelligence operations against other countries, apparently stole laptops containing classified information – which are now copied by the Chinese – and has let it be known that he took the job to purposely steal these things. Which he has since been on a tour to try to find a place to stay.
My tolerance for Edward Snowden has run out.
The former contractor with the National Security Agency who divulged classified secrets about domestic surveillance programs has undertaken what can only be depicted as the global hypocrisy tour. A man outraged by American surveillance and who advocates free expression toodles happily to Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China? Then off to Moscow? Then tries for Ecuador (and, in some accounts, Cuba)?
And along the way, Eddie decided to toss out classified information about foreign-intelligence surveillance by the United States in other countries. For the Chinese, he was quite a spigot of secrets
Their defenders keep harping on “transparency,” that the government shouldn’t be keeping secrets, and that the public has a “right to know.” The thing is that they seem to be quite irritated if their secrets, actions, or behavior is made public, even when they themselves have put it out there for everyone to find. It’s really a tabloid mentality, where they want to know all the latest details about someone else.
But they’re being lionized as “whistleblowers.” Not because they made a principled decision to expose specific wrongdoing, just because they decided for whatever reason, to dump a bunch of documents which they had no idea whether it exposed anything wrong (Manning), or turned out to be not actual wrong-doing by the government (Snowden.) Which is not what whistleblowers do.
They keep using that word. “I do not think it means what you think it means.”