We are currently watching three different but somewhat related events in the area of breaching national security secrets.
The first is the trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning, who released classified information about the war in Afghanistan to Wikileaks in 2010. He is currently being court-martialed, the verdict is due tomorrow. Pvt. Manning is 26 years old.
The second, of course, is the saga of Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who also released classified information about the NSA and it’s domestic spying operation to the British press. He is currently holed up in Sheremetyevo International Airport because his US passport was revoked by the State Department, and he can neither enter Russia nor leave. The US government has made him a generous offer of restricted travel documents that would allow him a one-way trip to the good old USA. Edward Snowden is 30 years old.
The third is the revelation, or should I say, accusation, that retired General James Cartwright was the source who revealed that the Stuxnet and Flame attacks against the Iranian nuclear weapons program was carried out by the United States and Israel under the code name “Operation Olympic Games.” He is age 63, and was the second highest ranking officer in the US military.
Now to the question I posed in the title: are these gentlemen traitors, as the government would have us believe, or are they whistleblowers, as they claim. This is a difficult issue to resolve, and I suspect that there will be many who believe them to be traitors. I am not one of those people.
In a “free” society, as we supposedly are here in the US, I believe these types of revelations are in fact an important part of the “free and open government that is responsive to the will of the people.” Should we be informed of the war crimes, misdeeds, and mistakes of our military operations in the Middle East? We sure as heck were during the Vietnam War. Anyone remember My Lai? So why is this time different?
The information that Edward Snowden released about the NSA merely confirmed what many of us pretty much believed to be true. Are these revelations so shocking or damaging, or even really secret?
Much has been made of the young age of these two men, as if their youth and relative inexperience means that they could not understand the gravity of their actions or the long range consequences. So what about the General? At 63, not exactly a spring chicken. Heck, he ran the operation that he exposed. Is there any possibility that he is “too young” to understand the danger in his revelation? I think not.
I think it is more likely that we have three men of principle here, who “let the cat out of the bag” because cats don’t belong in bags. Here in America we believe in the peoples’ right to know as embodied in the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of speech and the press. Do we not also have a right to know what our government is up to? For me, these men embody what is best about Americans – that we will not knuckle down to the rule of a tyrannical government, even when it turns out to be, perhaps, our own.
Godspeed to each of them. We need more like them.Share