Whistleblowers and Politics; When is a Hero a Traitor and Vice Versa?

Click the image to play The Guardian interview

What makes one whistleblower a hero and another a traitor?

Let’s start by asking Obama’s detractors, especially those who ceaselessly characterize the size and overreach of “big government” as a threat to our democracy. How do you see Snowden? Is he a hero?

It doesn’t seem like a real stretch to assume that you’re happy on some level with what’s happening. Snowden’s leaks, after all, would seem perfectly timed to bolster the GOP’s insatiable appetite for embarrassing scandals that distract, obstruct, and disrupt any and everything Obama wants to accomplish in his second term. 

Without Snowden (and particularly for those with short memories), we wouldn’t know what we know now about the scope of the NSA’s domestic spying. Surely Snowden’s actions warrant some sort of commendation for bravery and courage, don’t they?

(For those with short memories, Truman established the NSA in 1952 and W signed the first orders we know about to authorize domestic spying by the NSA on October 4, 2001.)

If he is a hero, how do conservatives square that with how Bradley Manning has been treated?

Without Manning, we don’t know what we know now about what our government and military were doing in the Middle East and elsewhere. Is it only criminal to reveal secrets about the government when the GOP is running things? Are we supposed to implicitly and explicitly trust Republicans and the military but not the Democrats or the NSA?

Same sort of questions but from the opposite angle for liberals and all of Obama’s defenders.

Why isn’t Snowden a traitor and a criminal?

His heart might be in the right place, his intentions may have been good and righteous, and you may even see his actions as noble, but what about the act itself and the threats (real or imagined) his leaks create for national security? Isn’t leaking classified information at least criminal and maybe even treasonous? Can his intentions alone justify his actions? Do the ends justify the means?

Are all whistleblowers heroes? Can our government realistically function on our behalf on the global stage if they don’t spy and can’t have secrets?

Are we supposed to trust the government to, “…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” in a vacuum devoid of intelligence and information about what anyone is doing?

Snowden, like Manning, has literally put his life at stake. I, for one, am hoping that things turn out for Snowden to resemble Ellsberg more than Manning. The treatment of Bradley Manning will be another irreversible and permanent stain on the history of our country right next to drone strikes, torture, and the lies that took us into Iraq.

The Obama administration has already earned a reputation for secrecy and intolerance for whistleblowers. I suspect things are only going to get worse before they get better for citizens who want a more equitable balance between privacy, liberty, and security.

I also think it will be really interesting to see how the questions surrounding whistleblowing and domestic spying are incorporated into the 2014 campaign platforms on both sides.

Will the GOP try to have it both ways by applauding Snowden while condemning Manning?

Will there be a single Democrat with enough courage to condemn Obama for not doing more to protect our privacy?

We don’t have long to wait.


NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sorts of things’ – video, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video

10 Famous/Infamous Whistleblowers, Politico, http://www.politico.com/gallery/2013/06/10-famous-infamous-whistleblowers/001091-015374.html

Timeline of NSA Domestic Spying, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/timeline


Author: Peaceful Patriot

Proud middle class husband, father, and progressive liberal. Registered Non-Partisan but have much more in common with Democrats than Republicans. Consider Libertarians to be immature and underdeveloped in their understanding of reality. An atheist who doesn't care what you believe so long as you stop pretending the Founding Fathers intended for you to legislatively force your beliefs on everyone else. Laughs out loud in mocking disdain at the abject lunacy of birthers, climate science deniers, and hard core tea partiers. If that offends you, too bad. You're not rational and have no place at the adult table.

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