As the world awaits the likely harsh sentencing of Bradley Manning while the Edward Snowden/NSA controversy continues to consume the attention of professional media outlets and provoke the condemnation of US political leaders, it is curious as to why so much effort is being focused on the actual whistle blowers with little effort going toward addressing the very serious issues that inspired their actions. Above all, there has been virtually no effort to make it “safe” for others to come forward, so the American People and our representatives can start fixing the faults in our national security apparatus.
Instead of dealing with the exposed secrets and how these secrets were revealed, we largely see the condemnation of two Americans with some marginalized complaints by a handful of politicians. These two did technically break the law, but they also showed the American People what we needed to see. Just consider how ridiculous it is that President Obama went on the Tonight Show to call out the Russians for granting Snowden asylum while our Congressional leaders have certainly dropped the ball in regards to their oversight responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the US government’s overly aggressive reactions against the whistle blowers has been justified with the most generic, unverifiable charges possible, i.e. the actions of these two individuals undermines the need for secrecy and has endangered the lives of Americans. Although there is a degree of truth to these statements, it was the NSA, the military, and the rest of our national security apparatus that created the most significant security threat.
Obviously, the citizens of our allies would be angry when they eventually learned, which they would have, that the American government was thoroughly violating both their civil liberties and their right to privacy. (Clearly, so would the American People when found they out about the violations against their rights and the rights of others.) In turn, our national security officials and political leaders should have been well aware that foreign politicians would use such a discovery as political leverage to undermine US interests and justify similar and other destructive behavior on their behalf.
Meanwhile, it is important to recognize our enemies/friendemenies either knew what the US national security apparatus was doing or assumed it was doing it. Finally, the Peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, and every other country that the US is actively ”policing,” witnessed first-hand when American forces made mistakes and acted inappropriately, thus any damage done by Snowden and Manning was far less significant than what the US government was doing on its own. Moreover, it was the weak policies and a lack of control on the behalf of the military and the NSA that allowed these massive leaks. Consequently, the actions of these whistle blowers did more to help, because they afforded the American People a chance to right the wrongs of our runaway government.
Furthermore, our political and national security officials now welcome a national security debate after their misdoings have been revealed, but they still want people like Manning and Snowden thoroughly punished for their supposedly unacceptable actions. To legitimize their condemnation, these embarrassed elites cite the fact that the whistle blowers did not use “official channels,” among other seemingly sensible charges. Given that there are no truly secure and easily accessible channels, however, this criticism cannot be taken seriously. That said, perhaps, it is time to create those channels.
As such, the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch need to publicly develop and endorse protocols, independent organizations, and public channels for which undisclosed sources can legally submit documents for review from outside of the Executive Branch. Creating official channels for whistle blowers, which can be reviewed by the American People and certified by relevant private institutions, such as civil liberties groups, will not solve all of our secrecy problems, but done properly it can encourage whistle blowers to come forward in a responsible manner and discourage abuses by our national security apparatus.
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