The Motive Behind Whistle Blower Prosecutions

One of the more flamboyant aspects of the Bradley Manning arrest was
the claim that he had leaked to WikiLeaks 250,000 pages of "diplomatic
cables." Those were the documents which anonymous government officials
pointed to when telling The Daily Beast's Philip Shenon that the leaks "could do serious damage to national security."
Most commentary on the Manning case has tacitly assumed that the
leaking of "diplomatic cables"

One of the more flamboyant aspects of the Bradley Manning arrest was
the claim that he had leaked to WikiLeaks 250,000 pages of "diplomatic
cables." Those were the documents which anonymous government officials
pointed to when telling The Daily Beast's Philip Shenon that the leaks "could do serious damage to national security."
Most commentary on the Manning case has tacitly assumed that the
leaking of "diplomatic cables" would jeopardize national security
secrets. But a new BBC article today contains this quote from former UK intelligence analyst Crispin Black:

Diplomatic cables don't usually contain huge secrets but they do contain the unvarnished truth so in a sense they can be even more embarrassing than secrets.

As
usual, government concern over leaks is about avoiding embarrassment
and other accountability; national security harm is but the
fear-mongering excuse. Similarly, a new Washington Post article today
details the Obama DOJ's prosecution of NSA whistle blower Thomas Drake,
whose disclosures resulted in no claimed national security harm, but
rather, was evidence of "waste, mismanagement and a willingness to compromise Americans' privacy without enhancing security" (leaked
only after his use of the official channels resulted in nothing, as
usual). As is true for virtually every whistle blower prosecution or threatened prosecution, there is no actual national security harm identified from that leak. Other than when a covert agent's
identity is blown (as happened to Valerie Plame), has anyone ever heard
of any actual, concrete national security harm from any of the
high-profile leak cases, whether it be the illegal NSA eavesdropping
program, the network of CIA black sites, the release of the Apache
helicopter attack video, or the corruption and privacy infringements
revealed by Drake?

The Post today quotes
Obama DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller's justification for the
administration's escalated war on whistle blowers as follows: "We have
consistently said that leaks and mishandling of classified information
are matters that we take extremely seriously." There's no doubt that
they take such acts "extremely seriously," but what's the reason for
it? There's been no identified harm to national security from any of
these leaks.

What these leaks have actually
accomplished is to "embarrass" the Government by revealing what the
intelligence analyst quoted by the BBC calls "the unvarnished
truth" about the illegal, corrupt, and embarrassing acts it undertakes.
In all of these cases where the Obama DOJ is persecuting whistle
blowers, they're punishing the greatest sin there is -- exposure of
high-level government wrongdoing -- not harm to national security.
Amazingly, that was even the explicit rationale used by Obama when he and the Democratic Congress re-wrote FOIA to shield photographs of detainee abuse from court-ordered disclosure:
these photos would reflect poorly on the U.S. government and therefore
harm national security. And, of course, the administration's repeated,
Bush-replicating
invocation of the "state secrets" privilege has been justified with
vague appeals to National Security but actually motivated by a desire
to shield government crimes of detention, surveillance and
interrogation from disclosure and accountability.

Most
of what the U.S. Government does of any significance -- literally --
occurs behind a vast wall of secrecy, completely unknown to the
citizenry. While a small portion of that is legitimately classified,
these whistle blower prosecutions and other disclosure controversies
demonstrate that the vast majority of this secrecy is devoted to
avoiding embarrassment and accountability. It has nothing to do with
"national security" -- one of the all-justifying terms (along with
Terrorism) for what the Government does. Secrecy is the religion of
the political class, and the prime enabler of its corruption. That's
why whistle blowers are among the most hated heretics. They're one of
the very few classes of people able to shed a small amount of light on
what actually takes place.

The great irony is that
there is a perfect inverse relationship between the secrecy powers of
the Government (which rapidly increases) and the privacy rights of
citizens (which erodes just as rapidly). The
citizenry meekly acquiesces to the notion that it must sacrifice more
and more privacy to the Government in order to deter and expose
criminality, corruption and other dangerous acts of private citizens,
yet refuses to apply that same rationale to demand greater transparency
from the Government itself. The Government (and its private corporate partners) know
more and more about citizens, while citizens know less and less about
the actions of the government-corporate axis which governs them.

Read the full article at Salon.com