MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Snowden, Manning and WikiLeaks are all gifts to democracy and transparency. Without them and the countless whistleblowers that the Obama administration is harassing and prosecuting, we would not know the extent to which the US government has become despotic in its assertion of empire through any means possible.
What is in the open is damning enough: we have a president who personally approves a hit list of people chosen to be assassinated, as if he were ordering his courses on a menu.
But what a wide range of whistleblowers has exposed -- extending far beyond the names that have reached worldwide recognition -- reveals that the US government has engaged in corporate espionage, spied on allied world leaders (including their personal cellphones and e-mail), used terrorism as an excuse to advance marketplace dominance through worldwide military policing and control of governments, built up cases against protesters for exercising their First Amendment rights, and oh so much more.
Journalist and author David Cay Johnston wrote in a recent Newsweek article:
[Glenn] Greenwald told me in Rio de Janeiro that governments should be open, the lives of their people private, but NSA surveillance (and other snooping) has turned that on its head. And he said then and in his exchanges with [former New York Times Editor Bill] Keller that too many journalists are too cozy with government, defending official secrecy more than personal privacy.
Contrary to his 2008 campaign promises, President Obama has not proven to be a champion of open government; instead, he has turned out to be the most determined enemy of unauthorized leaks in American history.
Just nine days after he took office, I revealed in Columbia Journalism Review the Obama transparency problems that, five years later, we have all come to learn. Obamaâ€™s administration has been worse than George W. Bushâ€™s, which in turn was worse than Bill Clintonâ€™s. Obama makes me long for the days of Ronald Reagan, where officials respected that journalists served a legitimate function, even as they snarled at questions they wished had not been asked.
Whistleblowers remove the fig leaf of the "war on terror" being used as an excuse for the expansion of empire and corporate subterfuge, courtesy of the US government. The most recent leaks on US spying on the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has caught the Obama intelligence community in a flummoxed state of transparently dishonest babble and disingenuous double talk.
Johnston chastises mainstream media journalists who disdain whistleblowers (unless they are ones who provide "sanctioned" classified leaks from the government that give the news organization an exclusive story):
[The mainstream journalists who justify a crackdown on whistleblowers] should ask themselves why they believe the government should go after leakers. Why do they assume that the current law is the best public policy? Is it really in the public interest to prosecute Snowden, who obviously committed a crime? Is his conduct criminal in nature? Or was it in pursuit of making sure the U.S., and the liberties of the American people, endures?
Those in the government who have a personal and institutional interest in hiding the truth that our civil liberties are being violated for reasons that are primarily other than preventing terrorism want whistleblowers to be locked up because they embarrass the administration, they ruin lucrative careers, and they level the playing field for the global corporate marketplace -- not to mention that they expose US military operations and civilian deaths that are political and not protective in nature.
Johnston makes an interesting proposal:
The U.S. should enact a public interest defense. Leakers could still face prosecution, but they could try to persuade a jury that their acts were justified in defense of the republic. After all, the government is not a power unto itself, but derives its consent from the people.
Or why prosecute them at all when those who are doing the national interests of the US most harm are left running the government, continuing to run a "Big Brother" intelligence network that is unrestrained, and silencing those courageous individuals who believe a democracy thrives in the revealing sunlight of exposed truths?
Buzzflash and Truthout donâ€™t take corporate funding - that means weâ€™re accountable to our readers, not big business or billionaire sponsors. Please support our work by making a tax-deductible donation today - just click here to donate.
(Photo: Imaginary Museum Projects)