From an Alternet article by Steven Rosenfeld:
Whistleblowers are not spies or traitors, as the Bush and Obama administration’s lawyers have alleged. They are patriotic and often conservative Americans who work inside the government and with military contractors, and who find unacceptable—and often life-threatening—or illegal behavior goes unheeded when they report it through the traditional chain of command. They worry about doing nothing and feel compelled to go to the press, even if they suspect they may lose their jobs. What they don’t realize is that their lives will never quite be the same again, because they underestimate the years of government persecution that follows. [T]he whistleblower [is] a special kind of American hero—one whose importance is easily forgotten in today’s infotainment-drenched media. Since the Vietnam War in the 1960s, whistleblowers have been part of many history-changing events: questioning the war in Vietnam by releasing the Pentagon Papers on military’s failings; exposing the Watergate burglary that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation; exposing the illegal nationwide domestic spying program by the George W. Bush administration after 9/11; revealing the military’s failure to replace Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan with better bomb-deflecting vehicles, leading to hundreds of deaths and maimings . . .
This statement proves that most media outlets have been slandering Bradley Manning. He is an extremely intelligent and courageous man with a real conscience. He is heroic in every sense of the word, as discussed in detail by Glenn Greenwald.
Manning is absolutely right when he said today that the documents he leaked “are some of the most significant documents of our time”. They revealed a multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by the world’s most powerful factions. Journalists and even some government officials have repeatedly concluded that any actual national security harm from his leaks is minimal if it exists at all. To this day, the documents Manning just admitted having leaked play a prominent role in the ability of journalists around the world to inform their readers about vital events. The leaks led to all sorts of journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.
This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.
If you are wondering why Manning’s trial is not being freely broadcast, that’s a good question.
Before going further, a question: What should a person of good conscience do when he or she discovers that the government is repeatedly lying, and that people are dying, getting maimed and becoming homeless because of those lies? What would we say about someone who had the capability of exposing this ongoing dangerous conduct but did nothing? Wouldn’t we call those kinds of people “cowards,” “accomplices,” or “immoral”? What do we normally call someone who risks his or her own life for the benefit of others? We call them heroes, even if what they are doing breaks formal laws. Since when are people allowed to do nothing in the face of evil just because those in power put a law on the books to scare them or muzzle them?
Here are a few excerpts, in Manning’s own words, of what he did and why:
[More . . . ]
Journalist Nick Turse investigated Vietnam war crimes files, thousands of them. As he explained to Bill Moyers, there is much America did in Vietnam that it should be ashamed of. Why dredge up the past? First, Vietnam is within the lifetimes of many people currently alive. Second, a powerful lesson illustrated by Turse is that in the absence of accurately reported information our government excels at hiding the truth and painting rosy pictures. This is a very important lesson pertaining to Iraq and Afghanistan. We always have spotty and hyper-censored media coverage concerning the conduct of our troops. What have our troops been doing? The assumption should be that in the absence of vigorous and accurate reporting, things have been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan that could not possibly withstand the light of day. That is certainly what happened in Vietnam, which was a concocted war, just like Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans need to quit pretending that they are getting accurate information from their government in the absence of any trustworthy verifying source of information. In the absence of trustworthy information, we need to assume that war is a theater for war crimes and make believe.
How many decades will we need to wait before the truth comes out about the wars of “freedom” we are fighting in the Middle East? How many decades will pass before historians declare that these needless wars were conducted in shameful ways. How long before Americans realize that our biggest wars are wars to clamp down on information waged by our government against the people of the U.S.? Here are a few excerpts from the Turse interview by Bill Moyers:
All the atrocities that [John] Kerry mentions by name [before Congress] I found evidence of all of those types of crimes represented in the records of this Vietnam War Crimes Working Group in the government’s own files. So at the same time that– you know, that Kerry and the veterans that he was referring to there were being smeared as fake veterans or as liars, the military had all these records that proved that these were just the very crimes that were going on in Vietnam.
[An army medic named Jamie Henry] saw these things. And when he first spoke up about brutality his life was threatened by fellow unit members. And even his friends came to him and said, “Look, you have to keep your mouth shut or you’re going to get shot in the back during a firefight and no one’s going to be the wiser.” So Jamie did keep his mouth shut, but he kept his eyes open. And he kept cataloguing everything he saw.
And this culminated in– it was February 8th, 1968. And his unit moved into a small hamlet. And his commanding officer, a West Point trained captain– ordered all the civilians there rounded up. It was about 19 civilians, women and children. And Jamie was taking a break, smoking a cigarette. And over the radio he heard this captain give an order. And it was to kill anything that moves.
And Jamie heard this. And he jumped up. And he went to go try and intervene. But he was just seconds late. He showed up just as five men arrayed around these civilians, opened up on full automatic with their M-16 rifles, and shot them all dead. And Jamie told me that 30 seconds after this took place, he vowed that he would make this public.
And he made it, you know, his duty to do so. As soon as he got home from Vietnam, he sought out an Army lawyer. And he told them everything that he saw. And this Army lawyer told him that he needed to keep quiet, because there were a million ways that the Army could make him disappear. He went to spoke to an Army criminal investigator. But that man threatened him. He went and sought out a civilian lawyer who told him to get some political backing.
He wrote to two congressman. Neither of them returned his letters. Then he started speaking out. He went on the radio. He went to public forums. And even the winter soldier investigation He spoke out there. But he could never get any traction. And finally, you know, it was years later that Jamie just gave up. And you know, he decided that he just had to move on with his life.
Ex-CIA Agent, Whistleblower John Kiriakou Sentenced to Prison While Torturers He Exposed Walk Free. The story is at Democracy Now.
“Julian Assange says he has obtained a leaked copy of the script for “The Fifth Estate,” a DreamWorks film about the maverick computer expert and his famed secret-busting site. In a speech before the Oxford Union debating society earlier this week, Assange said his unauthorized sneak peek has left him convinced the film is a hit piece.”
Glenn Greenwald makes a strong case that the government was intentionally making an example out of Swartz in order to assert corporatocratic control over the Internet. Government information belongs to the government and big business
But the abuses here extend far beyond the statutes in question. There is, as I wrote about on Saturday when news of Swartz’s suicide spread, a general effort to punish with particular harshness anyone who challenges the authority of government and corporations to maintain strict control over the internet and the information that flows on it. Swartz’s persecution was clearly waged by the government as a battle in the broader war for control over the internet. As Swartz’s friend, the NYU professor and Harvard researcher Danah Boyd, described in her superb analysis:
“When the federal government went after him – and MIT sheepishly played along – they weren’t treating him as a person who may or may not have done something stupid. He was an example. And the reason they threw the book at him wasn’t to teach him a lesson, but to make a point to the entire Cambridge hacker community that they were p0wned. It was a threat that had nothing to do with justice and everything to do with a broader battle over systemic power.
The government bullying of Aaron Swartz is one of many government abuses that all fit into a pattern, as Greenwald notes:
The grotesque abuse of Bradley Manning. The dangerous efforts to criminalize WikiLeaks’ journalism. The severe overkill that drives the effort to apprehend and punish minor protests by Anonymous teenagers while ignoring far more serious cyber-threats aimed at government critics. The Obama administration’s unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers. And now the obscene abuse of power applied to Swartz.
Why the focus on the Internet?
[T]he abuse of state power, the systematic violation of civil liberties, is about creating a Climate of Fear, one that is geared toward entrenching the power and position of elites by intimidating the rest of society from meaningful challenges and dissent. There is a particular overzealousness when it comes to internet activism because the internet is one of the few weapons – perhaps the only one – that can be effectively harnessed to galvanize movements and challenge the prevailing order.