The saga of the Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower/ traitor was the last straw which prompted me to view President Obama in a more critical way. This expose` put the lie to President Barack Obama’s promises to manage a transparent government. For many, it has shaken their already fragile trust in their government. This is just one more example, of the government out-rightly deceiving their tax paying constituents. This is one reason, Americans in 2016, are so angry with establishment politics, to where they are revolting by supporting outsider presidential candidates.
Before the President Obama’s administration was swept into office in 2008, those whistle-blowers who were prosecuted under the Espionage Act, did pay the consequences, but nowhere near to what is being carried out today.
This policy has not become a republican talking point because for the most part, they agree with our president’s hard line approach towards all those who leak classified information to the press despite the circumstances.
I, disagree with the president’s policy regarding his hard line treatment towards whistle-blowers because ultimately, this stance has been shown to be counterproductive to the U.S. national interests. Certainly, it can be argued that it was NOT in the U.S. national interests, to have Edward Snowden flee the United States while he was in possession of classified data of great significance. What if he was not acting by himself? Our ability to garner this information was hampered because of media reports calling him a whistle-blower who shared important information that was being kept secret from the public.
It was because of the president’s muscle flexing by threatening to charge him under the Espionage Act for treason, that Edward Snowden was incentivized to escape to a country outside of the reach of U.S. law enforcement, along with the classified data. How did this meet the objective of protecting the U.S. national security interests? What was more important, acting tough or securing the classified data that Mr. Snowden had, before he left the country? If the U.S. points a gun at an individual, it better make sure that the aim is effective because otherwise, it leaves this person with no viable option but to run for his life.
Why could he not have been treated as a whistle-blower to begin with to keep his data within US territory? If an investigation uncovered other clues, evidence that proved that Mr. Snowden was party to espionage, then US officials could act, accordingly.
Prior to President Obama’s era, the sentencing of whistle blowers in similar situations to that of Mr. Snowden’s, was viewed as a balancing act between enacting sanctions sufficient to deter leaks of classified data to the media but not so stringent, as to be counter productive.
If a U.S. government whistle-blower has ostensibly shared the existence of classified information to a journalist of immense, far reaching value to America’s general population which reveals wrong doing by the U.S., this is different from your everyday leaker. If this person is arraigned under the Espionage Act and charged with treason, he would be facing anywhere from many years in prison to the death sentence. This is true even if he had tried to share this intel with numerous peoples, in an appropriate way over a long period of time, in order to correct a governmental wrongdoing. Under these set of circumstances, what choice does someone of conscience have to correct for a grievous wrong at the hands of their own government? They could kill themselves first, after having just forwarded their information to journalists with a reputation for writing these type of stories, or they could simply accept the consequences of a ruined life, or they could do what Edward Snowden did, when he fled the U.S. in 2013, so that he could be out of reach of the U.S. legal system.
The following data can be found in ProPublica:
“Including Daniel Ellsberg who in 1971 released the Vietnam era documents known as the Pentagon papers, the government has used the Espionage Act 10 times to prosecute government workers who shared classified information with journalists. President Barack Obama has resorted to the Espionage Act to charge and prosecute 7 out of the 10 times.” The earlier cases occurred over 45 years.
I found a chart of cases involving espionage charges, by Cora Currier in a 7/30/13 ProPublica post, “Charting Obama’s Crackdown on National Security Leaks.”
The following are dispositions of cases where U.S. citizens were prosecuted under the Espionage Act, beginning with Mr. Ellsberg in 1971 and prior to 2008, when Barack Obama became our U.S. President:
1971: Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo indicted
Analyst for the military and RAND
“Two analysts at the RAND Corporation, Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo, were indicted for leaking classified information about the Vietnam War—what came to be known as The Pentagon Papers. The case was dismissed in 1973 due to government misconduct.”
1985: Samuel Morison convicted
“Samuel Loring Morison, a civilian analyst with the Navy, was convicted of leaking classified satellite photographs to a British magazine. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison, and eventually pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001.”
August 2005: Lawrence Franklin indicted
State Department analyst
“Franklin, an analyst for the State Department, was charged with the leaking classified information about Iran to two lobbyists for AIPAC.”
January 2006: Lawrence Franklin convicted
In a 1/2/14 article published by “The Week,” the author, Peter Weber wrote the following report:
“The editorial boards of both the New York Times and the Guardian and Snowden’s other defenders, are right that the NSA leaker has almost single-handedly launched one of the biggest public re-assessments of how the U.S. should balance privacy against national security. His leaks showed, and other documents those leaks forced into declassification confirmed, that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress, NSA oversight isn’t as robust as people believed, and the NSA and its employees have really broad powers that they occasionally use in creepy ways here in the U.S.”
“But I doubt that is why the Obama administration is against cutting a deal with Snowden. Snowden didn’t just unveil NSA overreach in the U.S. — the moral high ground his boosters place him on — he also told the world how America’s biggest international spy agency works, where it operates, and some of the high-profile people it has targeted for surveillance.’
“Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post isn’t a big fan of Snowden. But she sets that aside to tackle the big questions: “Is Snowden’s massive theft justified by the degree of governmental intrusion he unveiled; the importance of the public discussion he provoked; the systemic shortcomings, if not outright failures, that both eroded adequate oversight and short-circuited the possibility of public debate absent his intervention?” She isn’t convinced:”
“Your assessment might be different…. The intelligence community is reaping the bitter rewards of its combined aversion to transparency and its addiction to employing available technology to maximum potential. Yet the existing oversight, while flawed, is not as feckless as Snowden portrays it, and the degree of intrusion on Americans’ privacy, while troubling, is not nearly as menacing as he sees it. In the government’s massive database is information about who I called and who they called in turn. Perhaps the government shouldn’t have it; surely, there should be more controls…”
“If the scope of Snowden’s theft and subsequent disclosures had been as limited, my scale might balance in the opposite direction. But the theft was massive. The injury to intelligence-gathering is of equal magnitude.” (Washington Post)
While Ms. Ruth Marcus and President Obama would never consider cutting a deal with Edward Snowden, I might, depending on how valuable the remaining intel is, that he still has. Incidentally, Ruth Marcus’ analysis of Edward Snowden could equally apply to the whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg who ended up serving no jail time.