There Are Leaks, and There Are Other Leaks

Obama Administration

Josh Marshall has a long and thoughtful post up about security leaks and leakers and what to do about them. In a nutshell, he does not condone leaks for the sake of leaks, or making sensitive information public just because one can. Such an act must be predicated on a belief that the entire U.S. foreign policy apparatus is thoroughly evil and must be destroyed. On the other hand, if the leak exposes some particular course of wrongdoing, to force the government to change or abandon a specific policy, that’s an entirely different matter.

Diplomats and the military both require a certain amount of secrecy to function. It’s the nature of the beasts. Anyone demanding absolute transparency where national security and foreign affairs are concerned is not being rational. Someone sworn into that secrecy ought to think long and hard about breaking his oath. It should be a gut-wrenching decision undertaken only for the best reasons. Think Brutus in Julius CaesarNot that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Not that betraying Caesar was necessarily the right thing, but you get the drift.

Josh Marshall writes,

The Snowden case is less clear to me. … the public definitely has an interest in knowing just how we’re using surveillance technology and how we’re balancing risks versus privacy. The best critique of my whole position that I can think of is that I think debating the way we balance privacy and security is a good thing and I’m saying I’m against what is arguably the best way to trigger one of those debates.

But it’s more than that. Snowden is doing more than triggering a debate. I think it’s clear he’s trying to upend, damage – choose your verb – the US intelligence apparatus and policieis he opposes. The fact that what he’s doing is against the law speaks for itself. I don’t think anyone doubts that narrow point. But he’s not just opening the thing up for debate. He’s taking it upon himself to make certain things no longer possible, or much harder to do. To me that’s a betrayal. I think it’s easy to exaggerate how much damage these disclosures cause. But I don’t buy that there are no consequences. And it goes to the point I was making in an earlier post. Who gets to decide? The totality of the officeholders who’ve been elected democratically – for better or worse – to make these decisions? Or Edward Snowden, some young guy I’ve never heard of before who espouses a political philosophy I don’t agree with and is now seeking refuge abroad for breaking the law?

It’s been a great many years since I read Abe Fortas’s Concerning Dissent and Civil Disobedience, but as I remember one of his points is that if you’re going to break a law even for a righteous reason, you should be willing to take the punishment. It has to be that important to you, that you’re willing to go to jail for it. It has to be that important to the next person who considers breaking a law. This is a serious matter. Motivations must be selfless. If people think they’re going to be pardoned and lauded as heroes for an act of civil disobedience, it’s no longer a selfless act. The decision becomes too easy. It shouldn’t be easy. I’m not saying it’s always wrong; sometimes it’s right. But it shouldn’t be easy.

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40 Comments

  1. joanr16  •  Jun 12, 2013 @3:42 pm

    If you’re going to break a law even for a righteous reason, you should be willing to take the punishment.

    Amen, times ten. I can’t imagine Snowden writing a “Letter from Birmingham Jail” even if he lives to be a hundred; not even a “Reading Gaol” (if I remember my Oscar Wilde correctly).

    Where did the money- and attention-grubbing albino snake Assange end up? Ecuadorian embassy, wasn’t it? Maybe it has twin beds.

  2. Stephen Stralka  •  Jun 12, 2013 @3:53 pm

    I wish people would at least think about China before deciding if it’s necessary and proper for our government to be gathering and analyzing data on this kind of scale. It seems like all the justifications I’ve heard have had to do with tracking al Qaeda, but that to me is a red herring. Al Qaeda isn’t even worth talking about in the field of cybersecurity. They’re still basically a bunch of guys in caves, even if their caves do have internet access.

    On the other hand, it’s safe to assume that China can do anything the NSA can do, and is actively doing it. If the US has an interest in knowing what the Chinese are doing, and countering whatever mischief they might be getting up to, how are our security agencies supposed to do that if they don’t have the same capabilities?

    And of course it isn’t just China, either. It’s naive as all hell to think that shutting down the NSA and Booz Allen Hamilton is going to make your data secure. This is happening. The internet is full of spies. What is our government to do about it?

  3. Dan  •  Jun 12, 2013 @3:55 pm

    I’m not sure this guy is any better or worse than Mr. Wikileaks, and so I treat them as functionally equivalent until proven otherwise.

    Therefore, I’ll give this guy the same pass I give Mr. Wiki pending further compelling evidence.

    I do agree about civil disobedients being willing to stand behind their disobedience, with allowances for additional activities along the same vein.

  4. Ian  •  Jun 12, 2013 @4:06 pm

    That’s what’s bothering me about this whole thing, the way he is trying to run from the consequences. On the one hand, understandable, I wouldn’t want to go to jail either… On the other hand, I agree with you, if you feel strongly that you must break a law for moral reasons, you must also be willing to go to jail because you broke that law. That prevents people from breaking the law on a whim. When you make that kind of moral/ethical decision, you make the best choice you can but you have to be willing to face the consequences of that choice.

    -me

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Jun 12, 2013 @4:33 pm

    Not to make too much about it, but I think it’s important to note that this Snowden guy apparently donated twice to Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign in 2012, so he probably leans Randian(not the son – though that may come)/Libertarian.

    And, Libertarians are pretty much Manichean and vocal single/few issue voters – pot, privacy, and low taxes.

    May point is, how does it make any feckin’ sense whatsoever, to “outsource” our national security?

    Isn’t anyone even beginning to question the system where we privatize our national security out to corporations?

    Who vetted this guy?
    Who vetted the vetter?
    And, that vetter?

    How smart is it, to “outsource” national security to corporations – even ones base exclusively in America?

    Look, I don’t much trust government.
    But I trust corporations even less.

    A corporations sole interest, sole goal, is profit.
    Everything else is expendable, in the search for that profit.

    Not only that, but just look at this NSA mess.

    My takeaway, is that one unscrupulous person (or more), could literally capture information that could be used to bribe people in power, for personal gains. Or, use that information for the company, in order to move up.

    People like judges. “Your honor, we at MegaTeleRadioInternet Inc., see that you’ll be deciding that law suit against us. It would be a real shame if your wife found out that you…”

    People like Politicians. “SenaCongressperson ______________, we at SNICKER Inc., need that law passed that we wrote to you about. It would be a real shame if your wife found out that you…”

    And, what about companies that have ties with other countries – or, international companies.
    Want them handling our national security?

    Privatizing national security, is both feckin’ stupid, and feckin’ insane.
    So, naturally, it comes from Conservatives.

  6. muldoon  •  Jun 12, 2013 @4:44 pm

    Gulag’s concerns are the same as my concerns. Only he said it much better.

  7. uncledad  •  Jun 12, 2013 @4:51 pm

    “If people think they’re going to be pardoned and lauded as heroes for an act of civil disobedience, it’s no longer a selfless act”

    Agreed. I can’t get over how so many people are willing to call this guy a hero. We know very little about this fellow except he never finished high school, never finished the army and left his job with the NSA and violated his terms of employment to sell power point slides to Glenn Beck I mean Greenwald? I’ll reserve judgment until we know more but I’m leaning towards self-serving scoundrel.

  8. joanr16  •  Jun 12, 2013 @5:02 pm

    Glenn Beck I mean Greenwald?

    The lines are becoming very very fuzzy, aren’t they?

  9. Swami  •  Jun 12, 2013 @6:06 pm

    People like Politicians. “SenaCongressperson _Larry Craig_____________, we at SNICKER Inc., need that law passed that we wrote to you about. It would be a real shame if your wife found out that you…”

    Reminds me of how Elliot Spitzer got tagged.. The government claimed it was a suspicious activity report got him caught, but anybody familiar with banking knows that the amount of money he was moving, considering his wealth and his position, shouldn’t have even registered as suspicious. I’m not saying what he did was right, but to me he was clearly targeted.

  10. paradoctor  •  Jun 12, 2013 @6:08 pm

    Assange is already imprisoned, and writing to us, albeit from a cell of his own choosing. Manning was naive enough to mention his war-crime-exposure to an officer, and now stands before a kangaroo court. Snowden won’t escape consequences either; he said he knew that from the beginning. Assange and Snowden do not pass the Birmingham test in a formal sense, but they do so informally; as befits an era of the decay of the law.

    There’s also the pragmatic question of the Man’s ruthlessness. There’s no point in sacrificing oneself on the altar of silence. Besides, King was eventually assassinated, which tends, alas, to weaken Fortas’s thesis.

    Snowden was indeed unelected; so were the companies our privacy was outsourced to. His leaks will have consequences; so would his not having leaked. I have little doubt that his character is not perfect; I have even less doubt that the character of his bosses is even worse. (Snowden did not lie to Congress; Clapper did.)

    The motives and character of leakers does not matter to you and I; the information leaked does.

  11. Dan  •  Jun 12, 2013 @6:51 pm

    C U:

    The vetting process is tens or hundreds of thousands of people backlogged, thanks in no small part to the outsourcing of critical national security functions to guns for hire. Their cost appears to be 3x or more higher than in-house.

    Again, the media is dropping the ball on the true scandals.

    Gotta admit, the Republicans’ wholecloth-creation of scandals is uncovering acctual scandals they had no idea were there, which, in a very real sense, is a good thing.

  12. uncledad  •  Jun 12, 2013 @7:39 pm

    “Manning was naive enough to mention his war-crime-exposure to an officer, and now stands before a kangaroo court”

    When you call a Court-martial a kangaroo court you’ve swerved way off the road. Manning was a soldier that violated his oath a Courts-martial is the only option for him, what do you propose the military do with him?

  13. paradoctor  •  Jun 12, 2013 @9:28 pm

    But it’s not a normal court-martial. His defense team has been muzzled.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/11/bradley-mannings-trial-is-no-more-than-a-judicial-lynching/

  14. uncledad  •  Jun 12, 2013 @10:04 pm

    “But it’s not a normal court-martial”

    Forgive me if I’m not convinced by a blog post at RAW Story. If you read that whole story Mr. Hedges makes the same error as most foaming journalists are making this week (Led by FAUX NEWS), he conflates the Manning story with the NSA revelations, FAUX is conflating the IRS “scandal with the NSA story. The NSA story is less than a week old; I would submit none of us really know what has happened, or what was being done.

    Bradley Manning is getting what he deserves a military trial, it aint the same as a civilian court. It does not have near as stringent protections for the accused, that’s just the way it is. When you’re in the military you do not have any civil rights, you relinquish them when you take the oath of enlistment “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me” nothing in there about right or wrong.

  15. Swami  •  Jun 12, 2013 @11:50 pm

    “Manning was naive enough to mention his war-crime-exposure to an officer, and now stands before a kangaroo court”

    I agree, paradoctor. But I’d take it a little bit further in saying that manning was naïve enough to believe in justice and truth in a world where corrupt power alone rules supreme. I feel for the kid. His mistake was answering to his conscience rather than his survival instinct…and for that he’s going to pay with life.

  16. Swami  •  Jun 13, 2013 @12:15 am

    OT…Did anybody see that Glenn Beck comedy routine where he lost his voice? He amazes me sometimes with the stuff he can come up with. He’s got the art of being pathetic down to a science. As much as he’s able to confound me with feelings of anger and repulsion, I’ve got to credit him with being original in his antics.

  17. paradoctor  •  Jun 13, 2013 @12:21 am

    uncledad: Point taken. I withdraw “kangaroo”, with apologies for inaccuracy.

    (Note to self: Hedges has more heart than head.)

    Nonetheless, military justice is to justice as military music is to music. For instance, the matter of just following orders. The judges at Nuremberg disagreed. Perhaps it was winner’s justice, but Manning believed them.

    He also believed that there are such things as war crimes, which he had evidence of. The military knew; their victims knew; the nation’s enemies knew; but we who paid tax money for those crimes did not know. He told us, and for that he is on military trial.

    So Manning passes the Birmingham test, in a formal sense. He didn’t plan to, but there he is anyhow. The other two are also taking their lumps, more on purpose but less formally.

    None of them told us anything we didn’t already suspect; but this is not about what we suspect, but what we accept. Their crime was removing everybody’s excuse.

  18. maha  •  Jun 13, 2013 @7:09 am

    paradoctor — are you saying that the U.S. military is just as evil and unprincipled as the Schutzstaffel? All military is alike, and it’s all bad, in other words? Do you want to think that over, or is that your final position?

    Some military music is pretty good, btw. I am fond of Sousa marches.

  19. paradoctor  •  Jun 13, 2013 @1:37 am

    swami: corrupt power is not supreme. But on the other hand justice might take awhile. In the meantime we had best be as innocent as doves but as wise as serpents. Manning failed the second test; those he revealed, the first.

  20. Philo Vaihinger  •  Jun 13, 2013 @6:12 am

    Leaving it to journos to decide whether its best to publish is like leaving it to the mine companies to balance workplace safety for miners against their own profit and come up with the right answer.

    No liberal in his right mind thinks the public should trust private corporations or individuals to properly defer to the public interest without regulation backed by the threat off legal punishment.

    Except the press, an industry we are supposed to trust with unregulated power to publish, subject to their own decision and no one else’s.

    And who says we should make that exception?

    Journo’s, pundits, and other pressmen.

  21. maha  •  Jun 13, 2013 @6:58 am

    No liberal in his right mind thinks the public should trust private corporations or individuals to properly defer to the public interest without regulation backed by the threat off legal punishment.

    If you were to pay closer attention, you might notice nobody here is suggesting we should trust private corporations or news media, either. But as long as you understand you’re preaching to the choir, go ahead.

    But this post is about civil disobedience, not about the surveillance programs themselves. In the case of civil disobedience, there is no publicly sanctioned procedure that anyone can “trust.” If someone makes a moral decision to break a law for principled reasons, they are by definition going outside the system. And then the chips are going to fall where they fall. It’s a messy business.

    You may believe that Snowden’s leaking was righteous, and maybe it was, but that’s not what we’re discussing. What we’re discussing is, what happens when another guy does the same thing, and you don’t agree with his motives or his results? What if he damages something you think was good and needed. For example, let’s say someone in the ATF is taking it on himself to leak enforcement actions against wingnut firearms hoarders and domestic terrorists, because Second Amendment freedom. Are you going to make him a hero, too? Or are you going to apply one set of rules for people you like and another for people you don’t?

    In short, try to teach your knee to not jerk so fast.

  22. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jun 13, 2013 @10:07 am

    There are two points I’d make about Snowden. First, I don’t see how he made it harder to do the things the government is doing. People will talk; that doesn’t stop anything. Laws might be passed – so? That might make it harder to do certain things – but those things would be illegal. I really don’t get where Josh Marshall is going; it sounds like a mindless appeal to emotion. “He’s made it harder for the government to do….” what, exactly? Stuff that Congress might make illegal if the public pressures them?

    Second: I agree in principle that civil disobedience should include the willingness to surrender to civil authorities. If I want to protest, I expect I might be arrested for trespass or some such. But we now live in a society where there’s little concern for the injustice of incarceration, and where Snowden could easily be facing a life sentence. If he was facing one year, or five years, I could see suggesting he’s a coward for not being willing to stand his ground. It’s just, if we say “don’t expose an abuse of power unless you’re willing to go to jail for life” then we’ll never see people exposing abuses of power.

  23. maha  •  Jun 13, 2013 @12:09 pm

    if we say “don’t expose an abuse of power unless you’re willing to go to jail for life” then we’ll never see people exposing abuses of power.

    Oh, please, it’s not always “for life.” How long was Martin Luther King in the Birmingham jail? When your arguments rest on hyperbole, you’ve lost the argument.

    What you’re not thinking through is that, essentially, an act of civil disobedience from within government is one person deciding he has the moral standing to overrule the normal functions of democratic government — Of the People, By the People, For the People — all by himself. And under some circumstances that may be so. Maybe there is a usurpation of power that needs to be exposed. But it’s also the case that a lot of people with small minds and big agendas might choose to unilaterally sabotage and overrule stuff that most of us want, or reveal something that really does hurt national security. Or cost people their lives. Is that OK with you?

    That’s why I am saying that such acts, even if history judges them to be righteous, should not be easy. Again, this is one person making an individual decision that might impact all of us. I want that person to sweat bullets over his decision. I want him to experience that dark night of the soul and come to grips with the possibility that he might be punished for what he’s about to do. Then if he still thinks he is doing the right thing, OK. More power to him. But it shouldn’t be easy.

    You might remember the name Valerie Plame. Awhile back a lot of us were angry that Dick the Dick and various of his minions leaked Valerie Plame’s status as an intelligence officer in order to punish her husband. If it hadn’t been Dick, but some lower-level drone who leaked her name for what he thought were valid reasons, would that have been OK with you?

  24. uncledad  •  Jun 13, 2013 @10:44 am

    “Some military music is pretty good, btw. I am fond of Sousa marches”

    OK then. I do not want to come off as some sort of cheerleader for the military, I am not. In fact I still remember my last day in the ARMY as the best day in the whole world. A good percentage of the folks I met in the ARMY were first class losers, thieves, degenerates. The sex abuse revelations coming to light now do not surprise me in the least. I think when you have an all-volunteer force and a crappy economy you get some people with less than honorable intentions. But I definitely would compare it to the Schutzstaffel, at least not the Battalion I was in!

  25. uncledad  •  Jun 13, 2013 @10:46 am

    But I definitely would NOT compare it to the Schutzstaffel, at least not the Battalion I was in!

    Key word left out!

  26. paradoctor  •  Jun 13, 2013 @10:58 am

    maha: Not necessarily all alike all the time; but the potential is always there, so watch out. Take a look at Manning’s videos and judge for yourself. It is for enabling us to judge for ourselves that Manning is on military trial.

  27. maha  •  Jun 13, 2013 @11:39 am

    the potential is always there, so watch out.

    Of course, there is no limit to potential, but I’m not talking about potential but actuality. The U.S. military is a big, messy organization with a lot of moving parts and many flaws, but on the whole it still answers to civilian authority, meaning us, and is not yet a tool for fascist oppression. Manning was in the military and subject to military authority, which I’m pretty sure is the way things have been done since George Washington’s time. Frankly, in earlier times he would probably have been executed already. So get over it.

  28. Bill Bush  •  Jun 13, 2013 @11:36 am

    I’m not concerned about where Snowdon is right now, because I know where he would be if he had stayed in the US. The part I’m working on is trying to balance what has been exposed against what has been kept hidden. I don’t think the exposure is the only thing that has happened.

    The outsourcing of intelligence work will very likely end up just as well-done as the Halliburton/KBR management of much of the Iraq war, if the past is any predictor.

    The carelessness with which this mountain of information is handled is already obvious, and I hope that gets strong review.

    The politicians who deny knowledge are just liars. No other expalnation holds water. The politicians would have stomped on Obama if he had dismantled ANY of the security programs he inherited, just as this will be called his fault. I wish I had some faith that it would be handled in the interest of the nation.

  29. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jun 13, 2013 @1:00 pm

    Herm. Maha, this is obviously more deeply felt by you than by me, so I want to be careful about discussing this.

    If we find that Snowden is facing, say, 20 years or more, when charges are filed, would you agree that this would be an awfully high bar to clear if there *is* (at least) questionable behavior going on? Because if not… well, we’re just not going to be able to agree on anything, and it’s time to drop it.

    I do agree that a person certainly shouldn’t assume that the punishment will be a life sentence – but I do feel that it’s likely that they will file charges for Snowden that could bring one. If I’m wrong, well, I’m wrong. I was not intentionally engaging in hyperbole.

    And I will say it again, to be clear: when there is a reasonable penalty to pay, I think a person should be willing to pay it. My fear is that Snowden won’t face a reasonable penalty, and that he had reason to expect unreasonable penalties.

    Finally: the Plame case angers me because the worst, the absolute worst, it could have been was a bit of nepotism, a wife getting a husband a free trip to Niger. (I once googled “Niger tourism” for giggles. I didn’t get a very attractive set of search results.) In Snowden’s case, I can see someone thinking that we, the people, deserve to know that this is being done. So I really can’t equate them – maybe that’s a failing of my imagination.

    But I do agree with you that leaking secrets *is* a serious business and shouldn’t be free of consequences. I wouldn’t shed any tears if Snowden ended up in jail for five, or maybe even ten, years. I just think, rightly or wrongly, that he’ll end up facing worse consequences.

  30. maha  •  Jun 13, 2013 @3:30 pm

    If we find that Snowden is facing, say, 20 years or more, when charges are filed, would you agree that this would be an awfully high bar to clear if there *is* (at least) questionable behavior going on?

    This is too hypothetical to address. One, I suspect there is a lot to the Snowden story we haven’t heard yet; and two, I have no idea what kind of jail time he might eventually face, and neither do you, and neither did he. From what I know so far, I’m not sure he leaked anything sensitive enough to make it worthwhile for the feds to chase him down. But we’ll see.

    Finally: the Plame case angers me because the worst, the absolute worst, it could have been was a bit of nepotism, a wife getting a husband a free trip to Niger.

    No, the absolute worst was that outing Plame as an agent did real damage to ongoing intelligence efforts and possibly put other agents she had worked with in the past in danger. And my point is that what if, instead of Dick Cheney’s boys, some lower-level minion who supported the Iraq War decided to out Plame to try to silence Wilson, out of a sense of patriotic duty? What I am saying is that individuals need to be strongly discouraged from leaking information, even if they believe it is the right thing to do, because the “right thing” to one person may be very wrong to most of the rest of us.

    In Snowden’s case, I can see someone thinking that we, the people, deserve to know that this is being done. So I really can’t equate them – maybe that’s a failing of my imagination.

    One more time — I’m not saying no one should ever leak anything, ever, and neither did Josh Marshall. Sometimes leaks do a lot of good. But even in those cases it doesn’t mean that the leaker ought to get off with a pat on the head.

    Update: Seriously, if you are unfamiliar with Concerning Dissent and Civil Disobedience by Abe Fortas, get a copy and read it. Back in the day it was a requirement, but I guess the young folks don’t know about it. See also an earlier essay by Henry David Thoreau on civil disobedience, in which he said something to the effect that prison was the only honorable place for a just man. Nobody gets immunity from lawful arrest, even if their cause is righteous.

  31. Stephen Stralka  •  Jun 13, 2013 @3:10 pm

    Of course the potential for abuse is always there, but it’s not as if that potential is unique to the Pentagon. There are all kinds of agencies and organizations out there that can and do abuse their power, and they’re not all under the control of the US government. And some of them are quite powerful indeed. There are real threats out there, and the Defense department does actually defend us on at least some occasions.

  32. joanr16  •  Jun 13, 2013 @3:43 pm

    the Plame case angers me because the worst, the absolute worst, it could have been was a bit of nepotism, a wife getting a husband a free trip to Niger.

    LHW, you appear to be mis-remembering this case to a great degree. Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, returned from his trip to Niger and wrote a scathing op-ed in the New York Times that revealed the Bush Administration’s call to war in Iraq to be a fabrication. (That call to war centered on uranium that Saddam Hussein allegedly had obtained from Niger; Wilson found that story to be false.)

    In retaliation, the Bush administration through its flying monkeys, the right-wing noise machine, publicly revealed Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative. This was a specific, targeted “leak” meant purely to hurt someone because her husband had hurt the Bush administration’s justification to invade Iraq.

  33. Swami  •  Jun 13, 2013 @4:39 pm

    It’s sort of like the old Turkish proverb…Who do you complain to when your wife is sleeping with the sheriff?

  34. erinyes  •  Jun 13, 2013 @5:33 pm

    Swami, the answer is obvious. The Sheriff’s wife.
    I’m thinking Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer, who said NO to consctiption and did his time. Some hated him for it, others loved him, but he stood his ground and took his lumps.

  35. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jun 13, 2013 @6:58 pm

    No, the absolute worst was that outing Plame as an agent did real damage to ongoing intelligence efforts and possibly put other agents she had worked with in the past in danger.

    Maha – did you really not understand that I meant “the absolute worst action *by the government* that might have been exposed by outing Valerie Plame would be nepotism/favoritism, because that was the only accusation they could level at her”?

    If you didn’t understand – okay. I’m going to stop because obviously, I can’t say what I want to say, and have it be understood. Better to just stop.

    If you did understand, it’s definitely time to stop. I did extensive research on, and a fair bit of writing about, the Plame/Wilson situation on a pretty lousy blog I used to write.

  36. maha  •  Jun 13, 2013 @10:12 pm

    Maha – did you really not understand that I meant “the absolute worst action *by the government* that might have been exposed by outing Valerie Plame would be nepotism/favoritism, because that was the only accusation they could level at her”?

    You aren’t making sense. The favoritism thing is utterly irrelevant. Nobody cares about that. What was done — a leak by the government — was very damaging, not only to Plame and her husband but to other intelligence agents and operations. It would have been just as damaging if she had been outed as a covert agent by a lower-level employee as by the Veep’s office.

  37. paradoctor  •  Jun 13, 2013 @7:00 pm

    Maha: sure Snowden leaked something sensitive enough for the feds to chase him down; their massive violation of the 4th Amendment. But maybe it wasn’t a leak because it was legal – or to be precise, legalized – and also because we all sorta-kinda knew it was happening. Is leaking an open secret leaking? This seems less about secrecy than politesse. I grok prison for betrayal, but prison for embarrassment?

    I entirely appreciate that we are not in a complete police state at present. I would like us not to be in a complete police state in the future. Therefore eternal vigilance. Pull up even the smallest weed, before they cover the lawn. Alas, we’ve been lax; free speech zones, Gitmo, and now this.

    And if this means I come across, to our hard-working public servants, as unreasonable and demanding and harsh and suspicious, well that’s the boss’s privilege; it’s the servant who has to be reasonable and accommodating and mild and cheerful. So who’s the boss and who’s the servant? The people or the government?

    One more thing; do not worry that whistleblowers aren’t paying enough. If that is a problem then rest assured, the feds are on it.

  38. maha  •  Jun 13, 2013 @10:07 pm

    Maha: sure Snowden leaked something sensitive enough for the feds to chase him down; their massive violation of the 4th Amendment. But maybe it wasn’t a leak because it was legal – or to be precise, legalized – and also because we all sorta-kinda knew it was happening.

    Re-read bolded sentence, above. These programs were not all that secret. The scope of them was a surprise, but not the programs themselves.

  39. Doug  •  Jun 13, 2013 @8:34 pm

    Barbara – I’m glad you mentioned Thoreau. His essay was the basis for action by Ghandi – which inspired MLK. The uptake is – HDT refused to pay taxes to a government that sanctioned and embraced slavery knowing he would go to jail – AND HE DID!

    There’s a whole different discussion of how conservatives have tried to immunize any action if it was made ‘on moral grounds’.`

    Manning will do time – I disagree with how the federal government has imposed severe punishment before a trial with solitary confinement and draconian abuse barely within the limits of the law, but totally unnecessary.

    We get into rulings related to the Pentagon Papers – in that case the USSC generally ruled that the court could prosecute the leakers, but not others who gained access. If the government can jail journalists or decide what leaks can be published, we have put a complete segment of reporting under government control. That’s a cure ten times worse than the disease.

    Last observation – the punishment should fit the crime. It should be that the prosecution can ask for severe penalties for the reckless and dangerous release of information and it should be possible for the defense to argue that the information was disclosed for the greater good of the country – to expose an abuse which would not otherwise have been corrected. This would give a leaker incentive to be VERY selective – otherwise he allows the prosecution cause to request a harsher penalty. If the penalty is equal for all offenses, there will never be this discretion. It is in the interests of the government to pass a statute which makes this variable penalty the standard – because it should reduce the volume of information leakers disclose, which is in the government’s interest and provide the avenue of lesser penalties IF the leaker can convince the jury of a higher motive.

    Kudos to the commentators – this has been an interesting topic.

  40. antineocon  •  Jun 13, 2013 @9:58 pm

    The US goons are going to see him tortured and raped when they get their hands on him.

    Surrender, for the good? Get yourself caught only to have the public lose interest in two months regardless of whether you turn yourself in or not?