by Diane V. McLoughlin, writer, peace activist
main website: mcloughlinpost.com
Re: Glen Greenwald's, 'What the whistle-blower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ'; Salon, Apr. 16, 2010
Glen Greenwald is a superb journalist watchdog of government wrongdoing. In the above-noted article, Greenwald reports on the Obama Department of Justice's indictment against former Bush-era National Security Agency employee, and possible whistle-blower, Thomas Drake. (Greenwald recommends this for more NSA background.)
Greenwald points out that the Bush DoJ never went so far as to prosecute whistle-blowers - although it threatened to do so a few times; but the Obama DoJ is, and - agree totally with Greenwald - how interesting the choice of whom to pursue: Thomas Drake, who allegedly wanted you to know some things - things such as the fact that the NSA could choose not to collect domestic data on Americans while still doing its job of collecting intelligence, but that it seems that both the Bush team before, and the Obama team now, opt to defy constitutional protections, instead.
Still with Glen all the way, here: 'It's not hyperbole to say that Bush's decision to use the NSA to spy domestically on American citizens was one of the most significant stories of this generation. It was long recognized that turning the NSA inward was one of the greatest dangers to freedom...'.
No problem with Glen's take on the whole thing, except - for two bits thrown in, in the middle.
I am not sure I agree with the several assumptions and conclusions embodied in the set of statements that Greenwald makes in the following:
'It's true that leaking classified information is a crime. That's what makes whistleblowers like Drake so courageous. That's why Daniel Ellsberg -- who literally risked his liberty in an effort to help end the Vietnam War -- is one of the 20th Century's genuine American heroes. And if political-related crimes were punished equally, one could accept whistle-blower prosecutions even while questioning the motives behind them and the priorities they reflect. But that's not the situation that prevails.'
First, I disagree with the blanket assertion that it is always illegal to be a whistle-blower on illegal activities of the state; activities that the state attempts to hide by classifying the activities as 'state secrets' or 'classified' information.
Let's say the state, or, more precisely, high-up actors of the state are acting illegally. The problem, obviously, is that high-up state actors are in positions of power to abuse power on the one hand; who may harass whistle-blowers to attempt to silence them on the other. That does not make what they do legal, anymore than it makes whistle-blowing to try to protect the People from abuse illegal.
However, what it does mean is that there are no guarantees that the state is going to do the legal thing or the right thing; it does not mean that a critical mass of responsible individuals within the halls of power will do the responsible, the legal or the right thing and stand by you, either - this is the critical and problematic point.
Yes, whistle-blowers are courageous, but it is not because what they choose to do is always necessarily illegal; it is that the state has the ultimate power to abuse its power to try to shut you up, and/or to make your life a living hell.
It follows that we do not accept as given that there must be a quid pro quo trade-off of accepting punishment of the right-doing whistle-blower, if only we could simultaneously get punishment of the wrong-doing state actor - like the virgins-in-volcanoes superstitious belief that we get only if we give.
Bending over backwards, begging for right to prevail and for state officials and politicians to be prosecuted for high crimes (rather than demanding it) - even if it means sacrificing the best amongst us, the whistle-blowers who risk everything for us? For what?! Sorry. It don't wash with me.
But in Twitter parlance still sending out lots of love Glen Greenwald's way - journalist without peer, shining knight of the round table, defender of liberties par excellence.
Public Notice: If any ambitious, top-drawer lawyers out there happen upon this, Thomas Drake is reportedly tapped out and has had to have a public defender appointed for his defense.